Westwood PD Joins DA Campaign Against Sexual Exploitation of Children
Four officers from the Westwood Police Department recently joined Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrisey as part of a campaign to combat commercial sexual exploitation of children.
The Norfolk Advocates for Children hosted a training session, titled "Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: Identification and Response," at the Bank of Canton auditorium on April 3, which welcomed the likes of Westwood police officers Kathryn McCarron, Maryellen Smith, Derrick Stokes and Det. Paul Toland.
"The Internet has taken what was, years ago, thought of as an urban problem and made it an everywhere problem," Morrisey said in a statement. "We need a coordinated, thoughtful effort to combat it and help these children. The most common age that girls are being drawn into the commercial sex trade and sold is now middle school."
A task force that launched from the training is looking to develop information and guidelines for how providers and law enforcement can identify girls who are being targeted, and how to respond to best protect and help the victims, while holding the abusers accountable, Morrisey said in a statement.
Moreover, the fact that Norfolk County prosecutors have not had many of these cases entering the courts is more a concern than a cause for re-assurance, Morrissey said.
“It is happening, the exploitation is happening, but out in the communities it is too often going undetected," he stated. "If it is not being reported to us or law enforcement, there is no opportunity to intervene; that is one of the obstacles we need to break down.”
Audrey Porter, a program associate, was targeted by a pimp as a young teenager and was exploited for 15 years before a medical crisis brought her to help, according to a statement from Morrisey's office.
“We are seeing your girls. We are seeing girls from a number of Norfolk County communities,” Lisa Goldblatt Grace said at the opening of the conference. Grace is the founding co-director of the “My Life My Choice” program in Boston, which provides outreach and intervention to target populations – like group homes, programs and schools – to help those children avoid the traps that pimps use to bring young girls into situations where they can be exploited.
Lisa Goldblatt Grace, the founding co-director of the “My Life My Choice” program in Boston, said at the opening of the conference: “We are seeing your girls. We are seeing girls from a number of Norfolk County communities. Prostitution has gone indoors. Girls are sold on web sites . . . girls are more invisible than ever before.”
Stated Morrisey: “We are at the kind of precipice today that we were at 30 years ago in how society, law enforcement, the courts and service providers viewed domestic violence, and how all of those attitudes had to be redrawn. We need a new framework and a new partnership across society to deal with the rampant commercial sexual exploitation of children. The Norfolk DA’s Office, Norfolk Advocates for Children and our community partners are dedicated to pushing that forward.”