2015-03-06 / In the Know

Slavery? In Scarborough?

By John O’Malley
Special to the Leader

Did you know that modern day slavery exists? And would you be shocked to know that it is happening right here in Scarborough, Maine and surrounding communities throughout Maine?

The “oldest profession in the world” known as prostitution is still alive and flourishing with the exploitation and anonymity the Internet affords. For many people the thought of a prostitute is one of a woman that chooses to make money for herself by offering sexual acts for cash.

Some view it as a victimless crime as it is something this woman has decided to do on her own. The sad and shocking reality is, this is hardly ever the case.

First, we must understand that prostitution is better referred to as sex trafficking. It is not gender or age specific. There are pre-teen boys and girls being offered for sex right here in Maine. These young victims have been groomed for this lifestyle and are vulnerable to being led away into the life by a person they may refer to as their “boyfriend.”

This boyfriend/pimp then begins to separate them from their family and friends and what few belongings they have are taken and withheld from them. The simple things that give us our identity and that we take for granted like their IDs or driver’s license, money, phone and clothes are taken.

Next, with the promise of great things, money and even fame, they are taken to Boston, New York and other big cities where they are further separated from friends and family.

Now this once apparently caring individual, their pimp, becomes their only family and they are introduced to heroin and or other illicit drugs. Once addicted to these drugs, this, too, is withheld from them. Then comes the threat of violence should they not preform accordingly. They are rewarded for complying with just enough of the illicit drug to keep them from going through withdrawals. From time to time they are returned to Maine, including our own Scarborough, and allowed to visit with family or even see their children. But now they are in the life and the only person they have learned to trust is their boyfriend, the pimp.

These victims’ lives revolve around pre-paid phones and pre-paid credit cards that are supplied to them by the pimp. These are used in order to continue masking their identity and cover their tracks while conducting business and renting rooms. The numbers to the phones are posted on familiar and not-so-familiar web pages advertising sex and companionship for anywhere from $20 to $300 dollars an hour.

The money is taken in its entirety by the pimp. The pimps generally continue to deal drugs, but they see the drug dealing as something they have to continue to refill. The girls, on the other hand, are viewed as a renewable resource. The girls can be continually bought, traded and sold just like slaves, while drugs must be acquired time after time. Both are considered nothing more than a commodity to the pimp.

Law enforcement has had a difficult time slowing the growth of the human trafficking industry. We work hard to separate the victim from the pimp, but all too often it is the only life the victim knows and is afraid to take that step even when their own life is at stake. Sadly, when a victim does make that choice to come to law enforcement the only place we have for them is jail. The resources are not 100 percent in place to effectively remove one of these victims from that lifestyle. Clothing, food, shelter, education, rehab and lawful employment are just some of the immediate needs a victim will require.

Recently, the Saint Andre Home received a $400,000 grant from the Next Generation Fund to open Maine’s first residential safehouse that is dedicated solely to the survivors of human trafficking.

Saint Andre Home will be able to provide services for six to eight female survivors from the age of 18 to have a secure safe place to heal and receive treatment to start over. Donations to Saint Andre Home can be made through Project TLC. Further help can be directed to the Not Here Justice in Action Network at http://nothere.me.

Please don’t be fooled, this does happen here in Scarborough. On more than one occasion Scarborough Police Department has responded to help young females that have been abused and left behind. Sadly, in one instance a Scarborough resident was found to be the victim of a homicide in New York. Incidents at area hotels, motels, residences and traffic stops have led us to make contact with both victims and pimps.

It is imperative that the citizens and employers in Scarborough continue to be aware of their surroundings and make the police aware of people that seem suspicious. Even more important is to become and stay involved in your children’s lives. Know who and where their friends are and know their friends’ first and last names, not just a nickname. Ask questions and listen to the answers. If something just doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. You may never get a second chance.

If you would like more information on this issue please contact Sgt. John O’Malley at the Scarborough Police Department, 883-6361.

John O’Malley is a sergeant with the Scarborough Police Department.

Return to top