Survivor advocates come together to push out human traffickers

Baltimore, Md. (WMAR) -

Right now someone somewhere is a victim of human trafficking, and it’s happening right here in Baltimore.

Over the past ten years, Maryland has had one of the highest rates of human trafficking in the country.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline more than 800 people have been victims in the state since 2007.

On Thursday the first of many Human Trafficking Collaborative forums across Baltimore.

Moniquika Sutton is living proof that survivors are bent but not broken.

She currently works at HealthCare Access Maryland Homeless Services.

“I help the same exact population where I come from. I help people who are suffering with addiction. Human trafficking victims, domestic violence, people who are currently suffering with substance abuse. That is the most rewarding part of my day to be able to give back what someone once gave to me."

Now she leaves work and goes to her own home where her children are waiting for her.

“Don’t feel like you cannot ask for help because you can, and you deserve it.”

A packed room of survivors turned advocates and the people fighting with them to buck the trend.

Baltimore City Council Vice President Sharon Middleton organized tonight’s event in her district because she’s seen how bad it is first hand.

"I've actually seen vans pour out 10 15 women going on the street. I've heard stories of things happening along people's yards along Garrison Blvd.,” Garrison said.

Monique Smith, a survivor turned advocate said child targets as young as 12 are being targeted everywhere.

She said one of the most important things is reaching the victims and making them feel valued and empowered again.

"You have to basically identify when it's your turn,” Smith said. “You have to rescue yourself. A lot of times people are waiting. Young kids may have hope if they can advocate for themselves and say what do I need. Do I need to go back to school? Do I need to get a job? Who can I seek?"

There's a new collective called Baltimore City Human Trafficking Collaborative that brings all of the efforts in the city into one concentrated effort.

Baltimore City Councilman Kristerfer Burnett is the Co-Chair of the Baltimore City Human Trafficking Task Force.

"It's something that isn't really talked about but it's pervasive due to our proximity to DC and New York and we have casinos and sporting events,” Burnett said. “When you have a lot of money in an area you see a lot of trafficking up and down the beltway."

The message this group has for all the traffickers out there.  We’re coming for you.

 

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