BOSTON (WWLP) – More than 38,000 people fell victim to human trafficking in the last 10 years.
State lawmakers hope to better educate the public about human trafficking and pass policies that help victims find jobs and support.
More than 76,000 human trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2016, 88 of those cases were in Massachusetts.
Senate President Harriette Chandler says this number is likely far short of the actual number, as many cases go unreported.
“It’s happening everywhere, like even in your own backyard, it’s happening,” Jessica Sampson of Worcester told 22News.
State lawmakers hope to bring human trafficking out of the shadows, an issue that affects people of all ages and genders.
The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators held a briefing at the State House Thursday to better educate lawmakers and the public about human trafficking.
22News spoke with one survivor of sexual exploitation who now helps women find a safe haven from trafficking through an outreach program, called LIFT.
“There needs to be more programs like that, you know, there’s a lot of homelessness around this, like I said, and also the opioid epidemic,” Sampson said.
The state’s Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Council is developing strategies to support victims and hold offenders accountable.
“We’re also working with our municipal police departments to better prepare them with the questions to help individuals who are suffering from human trafficking and treating them for their conditions, not as a criminal,” Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito told 22News.
Lt. Governor Polito proclaimed January 11 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Lawmakers are also considering a bill that would decriminalize prostitution in Massachusetts.