EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of stories exploring human trafficking in Massachusetts. The series will delve into the widespread commercial sex trade in our cities and suburbs, the online marketplaces where pimps and johns buy and sell sex, cases of modern-day slavery and victims’ tales of survival.
Often lured or forced into the commercial sex trade as young teens, women who manage to leave that life are confronted with a host of major obstacles.
“You’ve been taken out of school. You don’t have a diploma,” said Cheri Crider, who escaped from her sex traffickers 37 years ago and now works as the office manager at Amirah, a North Shore safe house for sex trafficking victims. “They take your IDs away and you can’t even prove you’re an American citizen. How are you going to go to school? How are you going to get a job? How are you going to rent an apartment? You have no job experience, so you have nothing to put on a resume. You have no references, because you’ve been taken away from all your family support. Those are huge obstacles for girls getting out.”
Victim advocates have tried in recent years to reshape the popular dialogue surrounding the commercial sex trade. Rejecting the thought that prostitution is a victimless crime, they say the overwhelming majority of sex workers are coerced or psychologically manipulated by a pimp or trafficker into selling their bodies.