Human trafficking is closer to home than we would like to think. It’s so close, that it happens in places just 30 minutes away from my own home in Connecticut.
The state known for its exceptional pizza is also one that harbors human trafficking. We don’t think about the underground practice of human trafficking, and unless we are aware, many of us think that it is just simply not a problem for nutmeggers.
In 2011, Connecticut received national attention for sex trafficking when Vanity Fair published an article highlighting the trafficking of two teen girls, along the Berlin Turnpike in 2003. One of the girls met her trafficker, Brian Forbes, through her aunt. She came from a broken home, and Forbes knew how to exploit her vulnerabilities. He knew that she was already hooked on heroin and fed her addiction even more. Months into the relationship, they recruited one of her friends, who was recently thrown out of her home after a fight with her mom. The friend was also addicted to heroin and on the day they picked her up, both girls’ lives would completely change.
They were were forced into prostitution, heavily hooked on drugs and beaten. They were trafficked to a Holiday Inn in West Hartford and forced to perform sexual acts with clientele, reported to be upper class or middle class white businessmen.
Months later, a man named Dennis Paris came into the picture and appeared to be, what the girls thought, a way out. According to the girls, he seemed like “a nice guy”, but he ended up continuing the cycle of abuse and exploitation in motels along the Berlin Turnpike. For a full year the they were trapped, and managed to escape when Paris hired a bondsman, who also prostituted girls, to arrest one of them. The other girl was freed when Paris himself was arrested in violation of his curfew.
Stories like this are heartbreaking and unfortunately, too common.
Just a few weeks ago, a headline broke about a Waterbury man who forced a Bridgeport teen into trafficking and a week after that, another story broke about a man who trafficked a teen to Milford. Trafficking and exploitation happens everywhere, and Connecticut is no exception.
As the Vanity Fair article points out, pimps and traffickers know how to prey on vulnerabilities: “Forbes was a master at singling out, on the high-school campus or at the shopping center, the vulnerable girl with abysmal self esteem… ‘he sensed what lines would be most effective on which girl.’”
Luckily, Connecticut has one of the best child welfare systems in the country, offering support for youth survivors of trafficking. Recently, Governor Daniel Malloy signed a new law that gives authorities access to more resources, and survivors greater access to health care, support and counseling services.
Connecticut is also home to the Love146 headquarters and Love146 volunteer Task Forces located throughout the state!