Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is a crime that involves compelling or coercing a person to provide labor or services, or to engage in commercial sex acts. The coercion can be subtle or overt, physical or psychological. Exploitation of a minor for commercial sex is human trafficking, regardless of whether any form of force, fraud, or coercion is used. Trigger warning: I'm about to tell you more about sex trafficking than you ever wanted to know.

Under Connecticut law, trafficking in persons is a stand-alone crime. A person is guilty of trafficking in persons when such person (1) knowingly compels or induces another person to engage in conduct involving sexual contact with one or more third persons, or provide labor or services that such person has a legal right to refrain from providing, by means of (A) the use of force against such other person or a third person, or by the threat of use of force against such other person or a third person, (B) fraud, or (C) coercion, as provided in section 53a-192; (2) (A) knowingly compels or induces another person to engage in conduct involving sexual contact with one or more third persons that constitutes sexual contact for which such third person may be charged with a criminal offense, and (B) such person who is compelled or induced to engage in such conduct is under eighteen years of age, or (3) otherwise knowingly commits an act that constitutes sex trafficking. For the purposes of this subsection, "sexual contact" means any contact with the intimate parts of another person and "sex trafficking" means the recruitment, harboring, transportation or provision of a person for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with another person in exchange for anything of value.

Connecticut's anti-trafficking law incorporates the existing definition of coercion, a crime committed when an actor makes a victim fear that if he or she does not comply with the actor's demands, the actor or another person will: 1. commit a crime; 2. accuse someone else of committing a crime; or 3. expose a secret that could subject anyone to hatred, contempt or ridicule or impair his or her credit or business reputation. Trafficking in persons is a class A felony, punishable by imprisonment for 10 to 25 years, fines of up to $20,000, or both. The law allows the court to impose a standing criminal protective order against anyone who commits trafficking in persons and the victim is under age 18. Under the law, in any prostitution offense, it is an affirmative defense that the actor was a trafficking victim.

Connecticut law also makes human trafficking a predicate crime under the Corrupt Organizations and Racketeering Activity Act (CORA). As such, warrantless wiretapping may be used in human trafficking investigations and a person or enterprise that engages in a pattern of trafficking is subject to prosecution under CORA. CORA violators are subject to imprisonment up to 20 years, fines up to $25,000, or both. Among other things, violators are also subject to the fines and penalties associated with the underlying crimes themselves. Violators must also forfeit to the state any property and interests acquired, maintained, or used in violation of the law.

In addition to punishing traffickers, Connecticut law mandates several state agencies to develop a coordinated response system to train, educate and assist in the hopes of curbing this scourge. In specific the law requires the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity and Opportunity, in conjunction with the state's Police Officer Standards and Training Council, to develop a training program on trafficking in persons for police departments, prosecutors and community organizations on request. Furthermore, consistent with the federal framework, Connecticut's human trafficking prevention strategy includes several provisions that: require consultation with government and other organizations in developing recommendations to strengthen state and local efforts to prevent human trafficking and provide services to victims; support work with hotel, motel, inn, and similar lodging operators to maintain a record keeping system and to ensure that their employees receive training on human trafficking when they are hired and provide ongoing awareness campaigns; mandate the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to work with state and national hotel and lodging associations to recommend educational and refresher training programs related to human trafficking; require publicly or privately-operated highway service plaza, hotels, motels, similar lodgings and businesses that offer materials for sale or promote performances for adult audiences to also post a notice, developed by the Chief Court Administrator, listing the state and federal anti-trafficking hotline numbers and available victim services; and mandate the State Department of Education to include human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in the comprehensive school health education component of the Healthy and Balanced Living Curriculum Framework.

Additionally, Connecticut law permits victims to sue their traffickers. They may seek either (1) actual damages or (2) statutory damages of up to $1,000 for each day they were coerced to work or engage in prostitution. If the victim prevails, the trafficker must also pay court costs and reasonable attorney's fees. And after a conviction for prostitution, the defendant may apply to the Superior Court to vacate the judgment on the basis that his or her participation in the offense was a result of being a human trafficking victim. If a child has a criminal record as a result of being a human trafficking victim, the court must order all related police and court records erased, and all references must be removed from all agency, official and institutional files.

Connecticut has been at the forefront of combatting sex and human trafficking for years. During my first term as DCF Commissioner, I had the privilege of testifying before Congress about best practices, helping to shape some of the aforementioned federal strategies outlined in The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014. Guided by committed therapists and social workers and in partnership with the judicial branch and the chairs of the Children's Committee at the legislature, we made great progress, allowing DCF to treat a child who has been identified as a victim of trafficking and provide child welfare services for that child, to provide training to law enforcement officials about the trafficking of minor children and to partner with the appropriate state's attorney to establish multidisciplinary teams to (1) review cases involving the trafficking of minor children and (2) coordinate prevention, intervention and treatment in each judicial district. Sadly, most jurisdictions around the country have taken a hands-off approach when it comes to child victims of sex trafficking under the theory that the traffickers are not persons responsible for the child's welfare, and so although the child may be uncared for, she is not uncared for by the person responsible for her welfare.

So, now that I lived up to my promise, let me tell you why I'm writing so feverishly about this today. Obviously, I have not forgotten the work I did, nor the satisfaction I garnered from seeing its fruition. Nor will I ever forget the faces of those victims we helped to rescue. But these are my memories that I do not need to publicly revisit. Rather, it is the latest arrest of an alleged serial killer that has prompted me. Those who have studied the subject tend to categorize serial killers into four major types according to motivation. The visionary type attributes his crimes to visions or voices directing the killing. The mission-oriented killer sees his goal as eliminating an identifiable group of people such as prostitutes or young women. The hedonistic type kills for the pleasure derived from the act of killing. Finally, the power/control-oriented type derives gratification from exerting control over a helpless victim. Each of these types and their crimes have distinguishing characteristics and books, movies and articles describing them abound. Again, I have my own experiences with serial killers, and I don't need to devote time, energy, or ink to elaborate.

It is how we have treated the victims collectively that compels me. For years, their deaths were ignored by all but their immediate families and a few driven police officers. By most others, if it was believed or assumed that the women had been involved in street prostitution, there was a "what can you expect" tone from some of the journalists, almost as though rape, murder and mutilation were occupational hazards for these women. This attitude also has hindered the police inquiry. There is no single profile of a trafficking victim or a victim of a serial killer. Victims of either can be anyone—regardless of race, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, education level or citizenship status.

But as is the case in many crimes of exploitation and abuse, human traffickers often prey upon members of marginalized communities and other vulnerable individuals, including children in the child welfare system or children who have been involved in the juvenile justice system; runaway and homeless youth; unaccompanied children; persons who do not have lawful immigration status in the United States; people of color; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex persons(LGBTQI+); persons with disabilities; and individuals with substance use disorder. Similarly, although there is no defining characteristic that all serial killer victims share, they too are increasingly vulnerable by virtue of their living situation and limited economic and educational opportunities. Victims can be hidden but often are in plain view, interact with people on a daily basis and work under less than desirable circumstances. Victims can be exploited for commercial sex in numerous contexts, including on the street, in illicit massage parlors, brothels or through escort services and online advertising. And as we've seen in the most recent Gilgo Beach killings, between 1996 and 2011 the remains of up to eighteen people were found in Gilgo Beach. All we knew for years was that most of the known victims were sex workers who advertised on Craigslist. And reporters who covered these killings often found that Long Island police would report at public meetings that everyone in the community could relax because the killer was just targeting sex workers. Not only did they display contempt for the victims, but in some instances, they joked about family members who tried to garner support in finding the killer being publicity hounds.

It's slightly different now. Police and media generally aren't openly ridiculing the victims, and there is a slight shift in sensibility, but the victims are still talked about in terms of how they made a living. The terminology has changed, and I think that's progress. And by the end of my tenure as DCF Commissioner, during my visits to hospitals and police departments to talk about sex trafficking, the signs of what to look for, the interventions to apply and the services to provide, I was no longer hearing: "how is she being trafficked (a 15-year old)? Wasn't she being paid?" But obviously, you don't need me to tell you that misogyny still exists.

Copyright 2023. ALM Global, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Originally published by Connecticut Law Tribune [], reprinted by permission.

Originally published August 14, 2023.

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