July 1, 2011
BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday passed an historic human trafficking bill that will expand protections for victims and give law enforcement new statutory powers to go after pimps and other predators.
The legislation, sponsored by Senator Mark Montigny of New Bedford, has been six years in the making. Its passage comes in the same week that the U.S. State Department added several new countries to its list of nations that have done little to curb this illicit enterprise.
In the United States itself, human trafficking, according to the Justice Department, is believed to be the fastest-growing crime in the country. Though the number of victims is not known, Massachusetts is not immune to its effects. In recent weeks, police have rescued two teenagers who were being held against their wills by pimps.
The Senate anti-trafficking bill passed Thursday differs from the House version passed in May in that it places more emphasis on the victim. Senator Mark Montigny says this emphasis is critical.
"The prosecution doesn’t work if you don’t support the victim because they are afraid. If you don’t give them the resources to keep them away from this criminal who has controlled their life through rape, through beatings, through drugs, in many case it is a scared run-away child who historically has been treated as a juvenile delinquent instead of a victim of statutory rape or a woman trafficked across international borders," Montigny said.
Massachusetts is one of five states that has not yet enacted an anti-human trafficking bill into law. This year — working with Senator Mark Montigny -- Attorney General Martha Coakley made the bill a priority.
And with his signature, Governor Deval Patrick is expected to make it the law of the land.
WGBH INVESTIGATES: HUMAN TRAFFICKING