Survivor statement at sentencing of Dorchester man convicted for sex trafficking of minors

Sometimes I think I’m torn by reality and my past. I just want to shut people out.

I feel a lack of trust in people-who is out to get me? Who really loves me? Who is trying to help me?

I had problems with alcohol and drugs before the crime, but my ability to cope with what happened to me has been severely impacted.  I use to think-what is really wrong with drugs what is wrong with not wanting to remember, what is wrong with not having to feel the pain. But then I only follow a deadly cycle of trying to forget rather than trying to live.

Somedays the memories overtake my mind. I remember being so tired of waking up endless nights in a hotel room far away from anyone or anything I knew. I remember clearly you lying there stretched out on the bed while we sit on the floor exhausted for no reason other than sucking the life and hope out myself and others. The only thing I knew was what was going to happen: once again my soul would be sold only to benefit the greed that overtook your life.

I would love to say I am not afraid, that I have moved on and live my life without my past haunting me, but it is not that way.

I relive things so clearly; I turn into that girl just trying to survive.

I feel impacted by my ability to make clear and good choices, I get wrapped up in “I CAN choose anything for I’m not under your control.”

I believe my family has to now learn to know a new Casey, for the impact of your control has changed me as a person, and the reality that I’ll always remember the memories has left me every day marked with shame, and the will I continue to seek to overcome this shame.

I believe it is not a stretch to say somewhere down the line you were failed. I believe you needed something as a child you were not able to get, or nobody stepped in to help you. It is written that when young men don’t have fathers they don’t learn to control their masculine impulses and some men in turn seek out masculine love and acceptance they often will find this in the streets or gangs.

It is not my responsibility what may or may not have happened to you. It is not my control to change anyone but myself.

Money is one of the worst forms of evil, where greed is fed and in this case lives are effected.

George Orwell wrote this quote “to survive it if often necessary to fight and to fight you have to dirty yourself”

But you Raymond Jeffrey’s chose to dirty someone else, a child, a young girl, a daughter, a mother, a sister, a friend. And personally this dirt is inside my head doesn’t wipe away easily.

My only hope other than living as a woman of worth, is that somewhere down the line you run into a young boy, and in this boy you see yourself, and you tell him that this life he is living is not right, that the expense outweighs any profit. Be the man you never had, tell him the things you wish you heard. And only in this I believe can you find redemption. You could possibly change how someone chooses to live, effect other lives; maybe he will be able to find respect for woman that you lacked. In turn this will save the girl who wants to go to college, but finds herself in a hotel room. The girl who is seeking to be loved, but is only used.  The parents who hope they will get their daughter back. The children that wonder if their mother will be there when they wake up.

- Casey Bernardini

Boston Globe article dated 5/20/2016

Hats off to the Waterville Police, the Augusta Police, and the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office - Nice Work!

(Commentary on the Augusta/Waterville prostitution sting as reported in the Kennebec Journal 9/18/15)

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Men who buy sex are not thinking about whether it is a free will exchange of sex for money or a forced, coerced or a fraudulence of a woman.  I was being trafficked, pimped, forced, and controlled, yet the buyers never knew. They saw me as a prostitute and I showed up like a prostitute, at age 12 to 15. That didn’t matter either.  Most men don’t worry if she’s a minor. As a matter of fact, many men seek minors. Buyers are simply seeking sex for money. They either call a number, get “hooked up”, or, like when I was on the street turning tricks, they cruise around a place known for prostitution until they find what they’re looking for. 

Buyers don’t see that it’s anything more than sex for money. McKee’s defendants in the Augusta/Waterville prostitution sting and the rest of the 19 buyers went looking to purchase sex, regardless of potentially buying a trafficked woman or a minor. There is no way a women or girl is going to say; “By the way, I’m being trafficked”. McKee goes on to say that he’s not confident operations like this are the way to address sex trafficking.

“Address” the problem? Human sex trafficking happens day and night and the buyer is only interested in one thing -- paying for sex or whatever else they want (not all buyers want sex). When a trafficked women meets up with “a john”, no one is talking about being trafficked, forced, controlled, or acting from a position of exploitation. They are just agreeing to an illegal business transaction.  When I was out on the track, no one asked, and if they did, I’d say; “Hell no, Baby, there’s no pimp. I just need money for rent”, or whatever sounded believable. However, I was being trafficked. Like the men who showed up at the sting, they didn’t care. They were just hopeful sex buyers. 

There is a fine line between being sex trafficked and being exploited. In either case, sex is being sold whether the woman wants to or not. Too many women are seen as a prostitute or “sex worker by choice”, as someone who works when she wants.  This is far from the truth. There are many factors at play and different layers of force, fraud, coercion and manipulation that lead to the exploitation of women and youth. Just as for trafficked women, these unseen forces exist in the oppressed, manipulated lives of exploited women as well.

Law enforcement dealing directly with the streets see many women stuck in this life of turning tricks due to coercion, no choices, addiction, or a drug dealer. Many understand trafficking is real and that the spectrum of coercion is long. I applaud Waterville Police Chief Joseph. He nailed it when he said; “A lot of people kind of view this as a victimless crime. We don’t. Prostitutes are very alienated and exploited.” We must keep educating the public and sex buyers alike.  Buyers need to wake up: it’s all fake, it’s a trick and you’re being tricked! The public is also being tricked by hearing contradictory explanations of these women having choice.

I appreciate District Attorney Maeghan Maloney who said, “With prostitution, a woman is making that decision and is in charge of herself. With sex trafficking, we’re talking about targeting and recruiting vulnerable women and manipulating them to engage in sex. The difference is who is in control, who’s in charge.” So true, DA Maloney, but not all prostitutes have free will or are able to come and go. Manipulation and other unseen factors force so many Maine women into the life. We must not skip over the exploited women and associate them with the free choice prostitute/sex worker. Many women I know who are stuck right now, today, here in Maine, are not deemed trafficked by Maine law, but are truly coerced, forced, manipulated and exploited into prostitution.

The Augusta/Waterville sting stopped 21 men who could have easily aided in a woman being trafficked or exploited. Good job, Augusta and Waterville Police and the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office!

Who Are "The Forgotten Women"?

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Who are the forgotten women? They are my friends, my neighbors, and I love them. I see them. But for most Portlanders and many service providers and anti-sex trafficking organizations, they are invisible. It is as if they don’t exist. These women walk the streets of our city, sex buyers seek them out and they seek out sex buyers in order to meet their basic needs of housing, food, and a place to sleep. Some are addicted to substances. They are the women a breath away from the legal definition of trafficking. These women are being exploited daily, within their life of marginalization, stereotyping, oppression and a lack of being seen as worthy by our society. With this blog, I challenge everyone to study oppression and what it really means to be marginalized and judged in our society.

The forgotten women may have been sex trafficked in the past by a pimp, but today they cannot access needed services, so they continue to remain “on the track”. It is not a choice; it is a lack of opportunity, a lack of choice. They are on the track because they do not have access to anything else. For them, there is no path out of the life of exploitation, no opportunities to have a better life. Instead, they are invisible, forgotten about.

The similarities of trafficked women and forgotten women are many; both exploited, harmed and without choice. The difference is Maine’s sex trafficking law, which by specific definition, completely leaves out the forgotten women.  Most organizations providing services to sex trafficked women do not service the forgotten women, as they are only funded to assist women defined as sex trafficked by Maine law.  Women found as sex trafficked, receive valuable services including safe shelter, basic needs, substance abuse treatment, counseling, and case management. The forgotten women should be able to access the same valuable services as those defined as legally sex trafficked.

Who is listening to these forgotten women and advocating for them? Awareness and compassion for the forgotten women is the first step. From there, we can go on to hear their voices, understand their stories, empathize with their circumstances and be directed to offer them services that are driven by their needs, their symptoms, and their lack of choices, rather than their specific living situations.  They are my friends, my neighbors, and I love them. Please don’t forget them.