“Shifting Perceptions of Prostitution” – (Law now replacing “aggravated promotion of prostitution” with “sex trafficking”)
Here’s a great article on how prostitution laws and attitudes towards prostituted women are changing for the better!
[Bangor Daily News] — Victims of sex trafficking in Maine might call themselves prostitutes. Their pimps and those buying their sex might call them prostitutes. But if they are not prostituting themselves by choice, they are victims. Their pimps, who control their behavior, often with violence, threats and drugs, are the criminals.
On Thursday, Gov. Paul LePage held a ceremonial signing of a bill, LD 1159, sponsored by Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, that gives Maine its first sex trafficking law. By replacing “aggravated promotion of prostitution” with “sex trafficking” in Maine law, the legislation shows a shift in cultural understanding of the crime. By adding sex trafficking as a human trafficking offense, it makes resources available to survivors. The law also increases penalties for traffickers and allows for more flexibility in the sentencing of “johns.”
Now that Maine has the law, it will need the tools to enforce it. That means police, health care providers and district attorneys will have to think differently about what they are encountering in their distinct but connected professions.
Too often, for example, pimps are arrested or prosecuted for side matters — such as money laundering, drug deals or assault — that don’t cut to the heart of their most egregious offense. Or doctors might see patients with rapid repeat pregnancies or abortions, a high number of reported sex partners, general ill health and a high incidence of sexually transmitted infections. Instead of treating individual problems, they must put the pieces together, know how to ask the right questions and connect their patients to the best resources.
For a long time, police performed their duty to uphold the law and arrested those acting as prostitutes: Undercover officers pretended to be customers, solicited sex and then arrested the man or woman. But police have gradually shifted their perception and approach, and trafficking convictions have followed suit.
An analysis by the police department in Anaheim, Calif., for example, found that prostitution activity always returned no matter how many women were arrested. The women often came from similar backgrounds of neglect and abuse, and a majority told police selling themselves was their only way to survive. The police came to realize many of the women were being trafficked.
Anaheim police changed their strategy and began an effort to help women escape their dangerous situations and identify pimps as possible suspects. Instead of arresting the women, they began to take them off the street and bring them to a comfortable room at the police department where they could discuss the manipulation that led to their prostitution. They connected them with resources and pursued the traffickers with victims’ help.
From the project’s inception in August 2011, through Oct. 31, 2012, 38 pimps were arrested and charged; 20 were convicted. At that time, 18 awaited trial, and Anaheim police had rescued 52 human trafficking victims.
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