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Jake Leffew pm, May 15, Contributing Reporter. The Berlin Turnpike is a mile strip of road that passes through four small Connecticut cities. Nearly 40 motels, some with pay-by-the-hour rates, flank the highway, catering to the scores of truckers that pass through the state every day. Many travel through central Connecticut. In March, I spoke with workers and managers at 15 highway motels — 10 along the Berlin Turnpike and five in New Haven.
Most had heard that sex trafficking exists, but believed it to be a problem in other motels, not in theirs. In Connecticut, the number of domestic minor sex trafficking cases has grown dramatically over the past decade, in step with nationwide trends, according to statistics from Polaris Project — a nongovernmental organization that works to prevent forms of modern-day slavery — as well as federal and state officials.
The spike is putting pressure on the state to pass legislation and deliver justice for the most traumatized victims: child sex slaves. A law, effective since Oct. The law also requires all current lodging employees to be trained to notice the warning signs of sex trafficking by Oct. Since , when Connecticut became one of the first states to pass a trafficking in persons felony charge, the state has ramped up its anti-trafficking efforts through more legislation, increased awareness and expanded resources for victims.
Still, the state struggles to investigate these cases and convict traffickers. But due to the horrific psychological and emotional trauma that victims endure in the sex trafficking underworld, the children often do not cooperate or are unable to provide accurate evidence or testimony, making it significantly more difficult for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute traffickers.
The Connecticut House of Representatives is currently debating a grand jury reform bill that would expand the power of law enforcement in evidence acquisition. However, the psychological damage of being a child sex slave cuts deep and may be permanent. It can plunge the victim into a world of denial, abject acceptance, exaggeration or delusion. According to Jutta Joormann, Yale professor of psychology, there are coping mechanisms that can help victims adapt to their harsh realities. Our first interview, which was nearly two hours, was tape recorded with her permission.