Alicia Peters invited to be a guest panelist on ‘Maine Calling’

Alicia Peters, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology and affiliated faculty in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, was recently a guest panelist on Maine Public’s “Maine Calling” program.

Peters joined an expert panel including service providers, prosecutors and a survivor to discuss what human trafficking looks like in Maine and how to address it.

“There’s a lot of confusion and misunderstanding around what exactly human trafficking is,” Peters told host Jennifer Rooks. “Essentially it involves using force, coercion or deception to exploit a person for labor.”

A 2015 study for the Maine Sex Trafficking and Sex Exploitation Network estimated that 200 to 300 cases of human trafficking occur in Maine each year, but cases are hard to investigate, and experts believe they are under-reported.

“We’re not talking just about commercial sex,” Peters explained. “We’re talking about both commercial sex and any other kind of labor where there is an element of force and control. It can happen in any labor sector. There have been some really big cases involving forced work in agricultural settings and domestic work.”

Advocates for victims say there are documented cases in Maine involving people working in restaurants, the agricultural field and in domestic jobs.

Peters is the author of the book, Responding to Human Trafficking: Sex, Gender, and Culture in the Law, published in 2015.

Drawing from interviews with social workers, case managers, attorneys, investigators and government administrators as well as trafficked persons, the book examines the ways in which cultural perceptions of sexual exploitation and victimhood inform the drafting, interpretation and implementation of U.S. anti-trafficking law. It also sheds light on the complex and wide-ranging effects of the law on the victims it was designed to protect.

Peters is currently conducting an ethnographic study of the human trafficking response in northern New England.

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