(NECN: Katelyn Tivnan) - A rally in Worcester on Friday raises awareness about human trafficking, a topic organizers said isn't abstract, but is a real problem right here at home.
“Just hearing the term ‘human trafficking,’ people think it’s something exotic going on elsewhere and don't realize it's happening right in front of them,” said Jayna Turchek of Human Rights and Disability in Worcester.
Human trafficking is the forced enslavement of people against their will for financial, sexual or personal gain.
Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said the problem hits closer to home than most people think.
“It’s a horrible cycle,” Early said. “We've recently had four arrests with so-called massage parlors.”
Those human trafficking arrests were made in central Mass. in just the last six months.
One of the massage parlors in question was located right in Worcester's Park Ave. section.
“The language barrier fear of the people who enslave them and the power they have over them keeps them from speaking out and seeking help, trying to get away,” Early said.
Worcester City Councilor Sarai Rivera shared her experiences working with victims of trafficking in Worcester, including one young girl who was promised a job and a new life but came to the U.S. to find a very different fate.
“She was enslaved and captured, and the only reason she was freed is because she was beaten so badly she was sent to the hospital,” Rivera said.
Rivera said education is key and credits the work of those doctors and nurses in the hospital for this young girl’s positive outcome.
“She was so petrified, she didn't speak for days,” Rivera said. “Now, she’s about to graduate from one of our public high schools here and is doing really, really well and has a bright future.”