With its location along the I-95 corridor and proximity to major cities up and down the East Coast, the state of Maryland has been described as a hub of human trafficking. The University of Maryland Support, Advocacy, Freedom and Empowerment (SAFE) Center for Human Trafficking Survivors has been assisting sex and labor trafficking victims, some of the most vulnerable and invisible people in our communities.
An initiative of the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership: MPowering the State, the SAFE Center provides bilingual case management, mental health, legal, and other services, and has helped more than 50 human trafficking survivors since opening in May 2016. The SAFE Center serves adults and children who have been victims of sex or labor trafficking.
The SAFE Center also engages in research, policy development, and advocacy in this important area and plays a leadership role in the Prince George’s County and Montgomery County human trafficking task forces. Students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) are actively involved in the center and its research projects.
“A holistic approach is essential for human trafficking survivors to recover from the trauma, as they need more than legal assistance,” says center founder and director Susan Esserman, JD, a faculty member in the schools of social work and law at UMB and the School of Public Policy at UMCP.
Along with the Prince George’s County Police Department, the SAFE Center recently received a joint three-year grant totaling more than $1.3 million from the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime and the Bureau of Justice Assistance to enhance victim-centered and coordinated approaches to fighting human trafficking.