MILFORD, Mass. – Trembling, she wipes the smeared makeup from her cheeks. In a moment she’ll be dragged back down the hall and thrown into the dog kennel she is kept in, until the next time. She had a real name once, but it is long since forgotten. She doesn’t know if it’s the drugs forced into her or her subconscious trying to protect the little sanity she has left, but time has become fluid, with no days or nights, just vile act after vile act. With no hope for escape, she has accepted her new life as a slave in the market of human trafficking.
“Honestly I think these issues make all of us uncomfortable, we squirm a little on the inside when we think about a child being owned and sold,” Said Sgt. 1st Class Felicia A. Pinckney, Executive Noncommissioned Officer to the 6th Command Sergeant Major of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. “We find it difficult to look a homeless person in the eye because it upsets something within our human element.”
Pinckney along with 1st Lt. Tania Sang Carter, Community Outreach Program Manager at Joint Force Headquarters and Platoon Leader with the 101 Engineer Battalion decided that something needed to be done about human trafficking, especially in Massachusetts, one of five states that still lacked a law criminalizing the act of human trafficking.
“This past November, 2010. I was talking to Lieutenant Carter about what I had planned to do in the field of Human Trafficking and she told me about her passion for homeless youth,” said Pinckney. “Lieutenant Carter had already begun to gather data and research on the poverty levels in all of the Massachusetts communities.”
“We were talking about children one day, her (Pinckney) about human trafficking and me about homelessness,” said Carter. “We looked at each other and said, ‘What a great idea’, because ultimately a homeless child could become a victim of human trafficking.”
“The two issues of homelessness and human trafficking are always looked at separately,” said Pinckney. “We began research on both of the areas and have ascertained that homelessness and the instance of Child trafficking are closely related. That is when the Princes and Dolls Foundation was born.”
Utilizing the unique advantages that working at a military installation endows, Carter and Pinckney pulled together a team devoted to creating an organization to combat human trafficking, Carter said.
“It’s a group of Soldiers putting this foundation together,” said Carter. “We’re very excited about it.”
“I have always known that I wanted to do the type of work that would help American Children become their best people regardless of the circumstances they were born into,” said Pinckney. “Not until I began working as a counselor at Children’s Hospital Boston did I discover the tremendous difficulties a sexually trafficked child faced.”
“The average age of a sexually trafficked child in Massachusetts is 13 years old,” Pinckney said. “Additionally, we are talking about children, a population that only politically/socially has a voice if an adult does the speaking for them.”
“I just remember one of our children fighting so hard to get stronger mentally and finally meeting with success only to figure out that she would be going back into the same toxic environment that nearly devoured her in the first place,” Pinckney said.
The foundation is fueled by an innovative method that Pinckney designed.
“I developed the SPEAR Method for the Princes and Dolls foundation (Army people love acronyms) Shelter Partnerships Education Advocacy and Research: this is the Method that drives the foundation,” said Pinckney.
Pinckney and Carter have set high goals for the foundation, within five years they plan to open the first Princes and Dolls Academy, and in 10 years the academy will be developing its first international site, Pinckney said.
With such weighty goals it is inevitable that the team behind Princes and Dolls will have some hurdles to jump in furthering the foundation’s goals.
“Working full time and developing a foundation is a handful and because we are new everything is a ‘lesson learned’,” said Pinckney. “Yes there are obstacles, but we just roll with them, and learn from them.”
“The focus on Human trafficking is generally thought about in a ‘they’ context. People believe that human trafficking is an issue that other countries deal with,” said Pinckney. “They don’t think it happens here in America and they surely don’t believe that it happens in New England.”
“But recently tremendous strides have been made and the discussion is gaining a much louder voice. The Attorney General’s Office is working to pass comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation,” Pinckney said. “Which is great considering Massachusetts is one of only 5 states that does not have legislation on the books that focuses directly on traffickers.”
With a much higher volume of information about the issue of human trafficking in New England becoming available, an average person may be a little overwhelmed and not know where to start.
“I would say educate yourself on the issues of Modern day slavery. Follow the efforts on passing of the comprehensive Anti- trafficking Legislation,” said Pinckney. “Volunteer with some of the local organizations that focus on fostering the potential of our youth. And of course come hang out with us whenever we’re hosting an event.”
Editor’s Note: Princes and Dolls will be hosting a golf tournament at Stowe Acres on July 18th. More information can be found through www.princesanddolls.org