Preble Street receives grant to fight sex trafficking

Preble Street will use a $400,000 federal grant to establish services for prostitution victims in Maine.

Daniella Cameron, supervisor of Preble Street Teen Services, said sex trafficking – usually involving homeless girls coerced by men into prostitution – isn’t something that the victims will talk about unless asked the right questions in the right way.

“So many people don’t realize it’s happening here. If you don’t see the signs, you aren’t going to notice that it’s happening,” Cameron said. “We started seeing girls who were coming into the Teen Center, reporting these horrible stories about being held against their will and being pimped out. It became much more clear that they were being victimized and exploited.”

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 [click here to read the full story on the Portland Press Herald website].