Press Conference Statement Given November 17, 2013 by Penny Morrell:
Thank all of you for coming out today. I trust this press conference will help get the word out about a silent injustice and atrocity happening all over Maine.
Why are we here today? We’re here because the Legislative Council decided to kill Amy Volk’s (R-Scarborough) bill regarding victims of sex-trafficking in Maine. As most of you know it was a 6-4 decision along party lines blocking a bill that would help Maine women.
We’re here today to urge Senate President, Justin Alfond and House Speaker, Mark Eves to do the right thing on Nov. 22. We urge them to vote “yes” and allow Rep. Volk’s bill to come before the Legislature.
More broadly, we’re here today to draw attention to the heinous practice of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a very real problem, even in Maine. It’s a problem our lawmakers can no longer ignore.
Rep. Volk had worked on the bill with the Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting human trafficking. She said she was inspired to do something after a report by the organization ranked Maine in the bottom half of states for anti-trafficking laws. I have a copy of that report for anyone interested in taking a look at it.
The bill would have enabled courts to vacate prostitution charges from the criminal records of victims of sex trafficking. The protection, which is nearly identical to laws 14 other states have, is based on the rationale that the stigma of a prostitution conviction should not dog victims of sex trafficking for the rest of their lives when they had little to no control over their actions.
Concerned Women for America of Maine is ready and willing to work with other organizations on this important issue. Yesterday I stopped by the office of the Maine Women’s Lobby and spoke with Eliza Townsend about the bill and asked her to attend this press conference today. When a sex-trafficking bill came before the Maine Legislature last session and passed, the Maine Women’s Lobby was on the same side of the issue as Concerned Women for America of Maine. Eliza informed me that she was unable to attend because she had a press conference of her own in Portland so would not be in the area. However, she has spoken to Rep. Volk regarding her bill and wants to work with her to help victims of sex-trafficking while at the same time avoiding politics. She told me that she attended a meeting the night before and the things she heard were horrific. For instance, there are three things these victims need:
- New cell phone they can throw away the one the pimp furnishes as the only means of contacting them;
- A home;
- Soap and other cosmetics to feel clean.
It really is a problem in Maine, but few people are aware. I went online to the Polaris Project and found a list of needs reported there:
To Stay Safe and Free, Rescued Women and Children Need:
Safe living conditions
Basic care such as food, water, clothing
Opportunities to express & process trauma
Knowledge of Human Rights
But first and foremost, these victims need a way to erase the trauma and abuse they have endured from their record so they may move on with their lives and not be hampered by background checks while seeking employment. Maine can and must do more to help these victims of this heinous crime.
Thank you and I am happy to take any questions.