WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Law enforcement, victim service professionals, clinical therapists, service providers and community leaders gathered Monday for a conference focused on how to prevent human trafficking.
The day-long conference – hosted by the RI Human Trafficking Taskforce – highlighted a variety of trauma-informed, survivor-focused and multi-disciplinary approaches to investigating, treated and supporting victims of human trafficking.
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha, one of the first members of the RI Human Trafficking Taskforce, opened this year’s conference by discussing how human trafficking has changed over time.
“The human trafficking issue is not one that stops, it’s not stagnant. It doesn’t become something we do the same way all the time,” Neronha said. “When we started this, most of these cases were in hotels or motels… that’s where victims were found. Now, my understanding is we find them more in apartments and homes because the traffickers know that we have good contacts in the motels and hotels where this activity takes place.”
Neronha said it is important for law enforcement to continually adapt to these changes to keep up with the human trafficking industry.
Jasmine Grace Marino – a survivor of human trafficking and Massachusetts native – shared her story of survival during the conference, which included rape, prostitution, trafficking, domestic violence, drug addiction and homelessness.
After eight years of abuse and being trapped in the world of human trafficking, Marino was eventually able to escape. She said she’s been sober and off the streets since 2007.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, prostitution is the world’s oldest profession.’ And a lot of us in the anti-traffic movement would say, ‘No, it’s really the oldest oppression against women and children.’ No little girl dreams of becoming a prostitute,” Marino said.
Marino said her story highlights why it is important for law enforcement agencies to continue to work to end the practice.
“You have to realize that these women that you see that are adults that are stuck in this cycle of commercial sex trade and drug addiction and homelessness and abuse and all this, something happened along the way.”