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He asked if she had any pictures of herself and asked if she had any kids.
In fact, the number of survivors identified by the state trafficking task force nearly doubled from 2013 to 2014, which doesn’t so much as indicate a skyrocketing number of victims as it does the degree to which the ongoing crisis has been hidden in plain sight.
“The number of survivors coming in contact, in one way or another, with the victims’ services committee of the state human trafficking task force most likely is a fraction of the actual trafficking victims,” says Amelia Rubenstein, a researcher with the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work. Deborah Flory, who oversees the agency’s two-person Child Recovery Unit. Some of them will wait until a girl turns 18,” Heid adds.
“We are talking about 14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds who are being sexually assaulted, raped, up to 20 times a day,” says Amanda Rodriquez, a former Baltimore County prosecutor who now oversees the sex trafficking program at Turn Around, a nonprofit sexual assault/domestic violence intervention center with offices in Towson, Rosedale, and Baltimore City.
More than half of the 200 to 225 trafficking survivors Turn Around sees each year are minors.
He had also previously been indicted on rape, gun, and kidnapping charges involving a woman he’d met on an online dating chat line.
“I spent a lot of time with the young woman who had the courage to testify against him,” Rodriguez says. She talked about her dreams and her dreams for her son, and I got to know her as a human being.” In some ways, Rodriguez’s career switch is representative of a change in focus that she and other advocates envision toward a public health approach that supports survivors of trafficking and prostitution.
On the other, little has been done to establish consistent human trafficking training for law enforcement agencies, or assist survivors.
Shockingly, there remains no established statewide protocol for handling juvenile survivors, who, to the incredulity of advocates, can still be criminally charged with prostitution in the state of Maryland.
Ten months later, in early 2012, Wendy’s photograph popped up on Cpl. “She looked like any schoolgirl,” he says of the image of Wendy distributed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
He asked the Prince William Police Department if they minded if he looked into the case.