October 22, 2013

Preble Street receives grant to fight sex trafficking

The social services agency has received $400,000 for an effort to help prostitution victims in Maine.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Dianne “dee” Clarke of Portland, a former victim of sex trafficking who now works as an advocate for other victims, poses for a photograph at the Teen Center on Cumberland Avenue in Portland on Monday.

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Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street: “We started hearing from our clients, mostly young women and girls, about horrific events in their lives, stories of being lured and coerced into prostitution, having no choice, being forced to trade their bodies for drugs and money.”

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

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Advocates for homeless teenagers, young women and people with disabilities in Maine say there are no definite statistics for how prevalent a problem sex trafficking – or buying and selling young women for prostitution – is here. Those numbers are unknown in part because no one had been studying sex trafficking as a problem in Maine until about two years ago. Sex trafficking is also done in secret, often with no written record, and perpetrated against young girls too ashamed or afraid to speak out.

Preble Street will begin receiving the first $200,000 installment of the two-year grant from the Department of Justice this fall to be used in part to hire a coordinator to pool the resources of agencies in southern Maine and develop a statewide network of housing and shelter options for victims of sex trafficking. The money will also be used to fund health and mental health programs for victims and legal assistance to vulnerable immigrants, as well as to file protective orders.

Efforts in Maine to identify the problem of trafficking began in 2011 with the formation of the Greater Portland Coalition Against Trafficking and Exploitation, a multiagency group that now has more than 60 people who meet monthly. Portland police are a key part of the group.

To draft the new proposed legislation, Volk worked with the Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization against human trafficking, after learning that Maine ranks among the states with weak anti-trafficking laws.

Scott Dolan can be reached at 791-6304 or at:sdolan@pressherald.comTwitter: @scottddolan
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Additional Photos

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Dianne “dee” Clarke of Portland, a former victim of sex trafficking, now works as an advocate for other victims.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


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