Last week's arrest of a Fairhaven man for human trafficking has brought the issue back into the forefront of the public consciousness, something Senator Mark Montigny of New Bedford says isn't always the case.

"People's first reaction, even to this day, is that it's going on somewhere else, in third world countries or behind-the-world societies," Montigny told WBSM's Chris McCarthy. "But the fact is, sexual trafficking and commercial exploitation non-sexual goes on every single day in Massachusetts."

Mark Clinton, 49, of Fairhaven, was arrested Thursday after Fairhaven Police and Massachusetts State Police executed search warrants at his Shirley Street home, and at three Ancient Chinese Wellness Centers he owned in Fairhaven, Sandwich and East Falmouth. Police found enough evidence in the searches to charge Clinton with one count of human trafficking.

Montigny said Clinton was arrested based on his human trafficking legislation that was passed into law in 2011, a law he said he is now working on updating.

"It took several years to see where the loopholes are, and what practices work best around the nation," he said. "The irony is, I've never been so frustrated with how long it took to pass a law that should have been passed the day it was written."

The law was the first anti-human trafficking bill in the nation when it was proposed, but Montigny said by the time it was passed into law and signed by the governor, it was one of the last to be enacted.

"The good news is that I kept expanding the bill based on how other states had experienced both the criminal side, because there are very significant criminal penalties," Montigny said. "But also, at the end of the day, these victims are something far more important. They're called survivors. That takes a lot more than just putting the devil in jail. That takes safe housing at times, health care, mental health. We learned from victims during the process."

Montigny said one victim told him living through human trafficking was a fate worse than death, as many women are raped and sold from the time they are children and can pass hands from one abuser to another 10 or 15 times.

"She said it's worse than death, because when you die, it's over," he said. "She said this was like going through death every day."

Montigny said it's not just about capturing and incarcerating the human traffickers, but making sure we show the proper support for the victims.

"We treat women as sinners and misdemeanor criminals when they prostitute themselves," Montigny said. "But we still glorify pimps in movies. The women aren't getting the empathy we should have for them, because it's usually someone who had a drug addiction and turned to prostitution out of desperation, or someone who was addicted by her trafficker, because then he had total control over her, if he didn't already."

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