“Cat” was a teenager when it started.
Her parents had kicked her out when she was 15. With no family and no place to go, she landed in Lewiston, surviving any way she could.
At 19, she thought she’d found a relationship and, finally, a home. Right up until her “boyfriend” allegedly demanded she have sex with other men for money to support them.
“It’s not something that I chose to go there and do,” she told a judge in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland last month during the sentencing of her boyfriend’s accomplice, a 32-year-old man who drove her and another girl to meet johns. “It wasn’t what I was expecting to happen.”
Thin, in glasses, her hair pulled tight into a ponytail, Cat still looked like a high-schooler.
“It’s heinous,” she said.
Five years ago, it would have been called prostitution, a crime as likely to land the woman in jail as her john or pimp.
Today, in Maine, it’s called sex trafficking.
And it’s getting attention.
“We would have thought it’s sad that these girls choose to be prostitutes, and they have sad lives, but they’re victimizing themselves,” said Meg Elam, Cumberland County’s deputy district attorney. “It’s a sad thing to do, and it’s against the law, but why should we get all bent out of shape about it? What we’re becoming more and more aware of is that the women who are entering into the commercial sex industry, according to federal statistics, enter that world between 13 and 14 years of age. … There are people who are treating them like property and selling them like a commodity.”
With that attention comes changes — changes in law, changes in perception, changes in how the people involved are treated.
Changes — police, prosecutors and victim advocates hope — for the better.
“Look at it through a lens of compassion and realize, you know what, I don’t know how she got to where she is, but obviously something’s wrong and broken,” said Jasmine Marino, who said her “boyfriend” sold her for sex in Maine for years. She has since become a victim advocate “because no little girl dreams of this becoming her life.”
For the full story, visit Sun Journal at www.sunjournal.com/news/lewiston-auburn/2014/08/23/bought-and-sold-sex-trafficking-maine/1573585#.
To reach a sexual assault advocate, call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 800-871-7741, TTY 888-458-5599. This free and confidential 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine. Calls are automatically routed to the closest sexual violence service provider.