Donna Bruce stood before a beauty class in Baltimore in 2011. She was in her late 30s and teaching around 20 students the physiology of hair, a passion of hers since she was young. What they didn’t know, or she didn’t think they knew, was her past. When she was a teenager, her mom trafficked her for drugs and money.
“She would set things up and call it a party,” Bruce said. “She was collecting drugs and dispensing me.” Later, the men from the parties took over, coercing her to have sex with others in return for drugs or money. So went her life for years, as she accumulated a criminal record — prostitution, drug possession, theft, indecent exposure.
One day in the beauty classroom two decades later, as she tried to make another life for herself, one of her students opened up Maryland’s criminal records database and began reading Bruce’s long list of charges and convictions.
“The student said I was a crackhead who has prostitution on her record out loud in front of everybody,” Bruce said. “It was the most humiliating thing.”
Bruce relapsed to her old addictions. She lost her job.
Although her mother had died and she had escaped her other traffickers, Bruce was learning that she would never really escape. Not while her criminal records were public for all to see.
Maryland is among the worst in the nation when it comes to criminal records relief for sex-trafficking survivors, according to a new study. One of its authors is Jessica Emerson, director of the Human Trafficking Prevention Project at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Out of 40 states and the District with some sex-trafficking statutes for adult survivors, Maryland ranks dead last. The other 10 states were not ranked because they either had no criminal records relief laws for sex-trafficking survivors or only laws for minor victims.
To read the full story by Catherine Rentz on The Washington Post: Click HereTags: Maryland
Category: Survivor Support