Cape Cod Organizations Take Part Human Trafficking Summit

HYANNIS – Attorney General Maura Healey hosted the office’s first Human Trafficking Summit recently and many Cape Cod agencies and organizations participated in the event.

Members of the Barnstable Police Department, the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office, the Plymouth District Attorney’s Office, and the Yarmouth Police Department took part in the two-day conference that provided attendees with tools and information to help address human trafficking in Massachusetts.

The summit, held during Human Trafficking Prevention Month, brought together more than 200 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and victim advocates who investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases, along with direct service providers from organizations across the state.

During her opening remarks to kick off the event, Healey highlighted how the summit provides an opportunity for attendees to build strong connections across jurisdictions and disciplines, develop new skills, share best practices, and meet partners across the state all dedicated to the same goal of combating human trafficking.

“Human trafficking knows no barriers,” said Healey.

“It’s in suburban, rural, and urban communities, and affects people of all walks of life. This summit brings together hundreds of professionals across our state who are working to combat this crime, build strong connections and discuss new approaches to this important work.”

After Healey’s remarks, Audrey Morrissey, associate director and National Survivor Leadership Director of ‘My Life My Choice’ delivered remarks.

The group is a survivor-led program fighting to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Morrissey has helped develop programs to protect vulnerable girls and co-authored an exploitation prevention curriculum that is used in 27 states.

“It is unprecedented in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to bring together so many law enforcement, district attorneys, and service providers,” Morrissey said.

“At ‘My Life My Choice’, we are so grateful for the Attorney General’s leadership, and as a survivor, I am so moved that folks are coming together to better serve victims of the commercial sex industry who still don’t know there is a way out.”

The summit opened with a panel on “Perspectives of Connecting with Survivors,” moderated by Lisa Goldblatt Grace, co-founder and director of ‘My Life My Choice,” and closed with a panel on “Moving Forward Together – Innovations that Advanced our Practice”, moderated by Amy Farrell, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern University.

Lt. Governor Karyn Polito spoke on the second day of the summit.

Polito serves as the Chair of the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence and has successfully worked to support effective implementation of key provisions of Chapter 260: “An Act Relative to Domestic Violence”, including the expansion of protections for victims of human trafficking.

“I am proud of the work that the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence has undertaken in its goal to combat human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation throughout the Commonwealth,” Polito said.

“The council’s efforts, including recently securing $1.5 million in federal grant funding to strengthen support for individuals and families, in tandem with this summit and our ongoing collaboration with the Attorney General’s Office, advocates, and stakeholders, is critical to the enhanced protections and continued resources for survivors.”

Through the Council, in 2016, Polito announced new polices to target human trafficking, which included the formation of a High-Risk Victims Unit within the Massachusetts State Police, and improve inter-agency coordination and communication between the State Police and the Department of Children and Families.

Additionally, as part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s reforms at DCF, sexual exploitation and trafficking are now reportable conditions regardless of whether the perpetrator is a caregiver.

Throughout the summit, various District Attorney’s Offices, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Attorney General’s Office, presented several human trafficking case studies, including cases involving minors, illegal massage businesses, and sex buyer stings.

Special sessions covered issues including promoting men’s accountability to end commercial sexual exploitation, labor trafficking, search warrants, and digital analysis in human trafficking cases, and the intersection of addiction and sexual exploitation.

Healey’s Human Trafficking Division focuses on policy, prevention, and prosecution and includes a team of specialized prosecutors, victim advocates, and State Police troopers who handle high impact, multi-jurisdictional human trafficking investigations and prosecutions across the state.

About Luke Leitner

Luke Leitner grew up in Watertown Massachusetts and now lives in West Yarmouth on the Cape. He has been a part of the news team in the News Center since the spring of 2019. He studied business communications at Western New England University.
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