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On the morning of March 28,a Portland woman was walking to work in Westbrook.

In reality, they were forcing the woman into a sex trafficking ring. To most, forcing or manipulating an unwilling, unknowing or underage person into having sex with strangers over and over for personal gain is unconscionable. But trafficking continues to happen among us.

Trying to understand what motivates traffickers, and how they learn to target, smooth talk and debase victims can help shed light on how to stop trafficking. Traffickers usually do what they do purely for the money, translating their deep understanding of how to manipulate and use people into personal gain. They go after runaways, people who are destitute, people with addiction, and those looking to have their basic needs of food, shelter and self-worth met. It is a very in-depth psychological understanding of people.

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The Portland victim was able to escape Gravely and Blanchard by asking for help at the front lobby of their hotel. Both men were later arrested on charges of assisting in the commercial trade of prostitution across state lines.

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Gravely was sentenced in to four years in federal prison, while Blanchard was sentenced to three years and 10 months. They are both currently serving their sentences in prison and declined interviews with the BDN. To catch the johns, police placed on the classifieds site Back.

Within five minutes, responses started pouring in and continued throughout the course of the day.

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Most sought sex during lunchtime or in the evening after work. Often pimps make their victims have sex eight or more times per day; the pimps keep almost all of the money. Unlike drugs, which can only be sold once, a sex trafficking victim can be sold over and over again, said Carey Nason, director of the long-term, sex trafficking victim support program called Hope Rising, located in Penobscot County. And while it is easy to identify a drug, it is a lot harder for a law enforcement officer to identify a sex trafficking victim, she said.

Blanchard and Gravely fit the demographics shared by many pimps and sex traffickers interviewed by researchers from the Washington D. The two men, who are both in their late 20s, were best friends growing up in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester — an area with a nearly percent poverty rate, according to a study from the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

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Blanchard left school in ninth grade but later earned his GED, he said in court testimony. Inhe was convicted of possession of a class B drug with the intent to distribute. In he lived in a Boston homeless shelter. But months later he got into a car accident, injuring his back and neck, keeping him from work. Gravely also broke the law on several occasions growing up. He served time in the early-to-mid s for gun possession and several drug distribution-related crimes. A few years later, he moved to Portland, then Bangor and eventually Presque Isle, where he was convicted of domestic violence assault.

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The two fell out of contact for a while when Gravely moved to Maine, but they reconnected in Gravely picked up Blanchard at the bus station in Bangor. The two talked about old times, the neighborhood and trafficking women.

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Gravely was selling drugs at the time. He was making money in it.

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Blanchard denied in court ever having that conversation or having any involvement in sex work, and said Gravely acted alone. He also claimed they simply went sightseeing and shopping during their trip to Boston, where they were accused of exploiting women. There is little research looking at the psychology of pimps and traffickers, due to the illegal nature of their work.

But a Urban Institute report provides a look at the motives of 73 people from eight U. To be considered sex trafficking legally, prosecutors must prove that someone used force, fraud or coercion as part of the commercial sex operation. Federal law and state law also consider it to be sex trafficking if the person performing the sex act is under age About 85 percent of the interviewed pimps were men.

Most had some education, with 75 percent having graduated from high school, earned a GED, completed some college courses or earned a higher degree. Many of the men grew up around the sex trade. About 32 percent of the interviewed pimps had family members who engaged in or facilitated sex work, and 26 percent lived in neighborhoods where sex work and pimping were common. One pimp explained how his surroundings growing up influenced his decision to enter the sex trade.

Gang bangers, helicopters over your roof. Seeing glitz and glamor, I always wanted that. Coming up like that having square jobs was never appealing. About a quarter of the respondents said they sold drugs before segueing into the trade; a quarter said they were encouraged by women who were seeking a pimp for themselves; and others were mentored by another pimp or exposed to it in another country where sex work is legal.

Some pimps explained that, when people wanted to buy drugs, they were also looking to buy sex. Just 5. Nearly all the pimps described themselves as business managers who found clients, chose the locations and times for the sex acts, and determined the price of each transaction. Pimps reported selling women to everyone from lawyers, police officers and judges to men serving in the armed forces, construction workers and teachers.

Elizabeth Hopper, the director of Project REACH at the Boston-based Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute, has provided crisis-based mental health services to more than sex trafficking survivors around the country since She worked on one sex trafficking case in which the pimp had his girlfriend strip so he could take pictures, which he sold for money. He then escalated his money-making venture by making his girlfriend engage in sex acts. And as money continued coming in, he brought other women into the fold as well.

Gravely officially entered the sex trade in early March by recruiting a woman with whom he had been intimate.

In Pennsylvania, prosecutors have to prove that someone “engaged in sexual activity as a business.” But some police officers, the York Daily Record/Sunday News found, may be going to extreme lengths.

The two had met in while she was working at a local gas station in Presque Isle. Gravely posted an ad for her services on Back. Gravely collected the money she made. After business slowed in Bangor, Blanchard and Gravely drove south and began selling the woman to more men out of a Motel 6, and later a Travelodge, in Portland.

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At one point, Blanchard and Gravely met a teenage girl at a Portland restaurant. They eventually convinced her to get in the car with them, and they headed back to the hotel, posted an ad online and trafficked her to men — all in the course of a day. After business slowed in Portland, they decided to drive down to Boston. The next morning, on March 28, Blanchard and Gravely were driving along Cumberland Avenue in Portland, smoking marijuana, when they saw a woman walking to work.

The woman, a 21 year old at the time of the trial, had been living on her own since she was 13 — supporting herself through jobs and school.

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The men said they were from out of town and asked her for directions to Portland City Hall. Since it was on her way to work, she decided to hop in the SUV and show them, according to her testimony in court.

‘There was no need for the officer to participate in the sexual activity’

Once at City Hall, though, they kept driving, started talking, and asked her if she wanted to go shopping and sightseeing with them in Boston. She agreed. They stopped at her house, so she could pick up her clothes, iPad, charger and other items. They went back to their hotel to pick up the teen and the Presque Isle women. They drove to the Midtown Hotel in Boston — located in a busy central business district near the Prudential Center.

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Goatley has been researching sex trafficking since Sometimes people are trafficking victims within their own family, making it easier to exploit their insecurities, she said. The manipulation is often gradual, she said. Sometimes they house them with other trafficking victims, so they can live in a space where sexual exploitation is normalized. The woman from Portland apparently had no idea Gravely and Blanchard had plans to traffick her. In the hotel room, the three women sat and talked. Even though the Portland woman was dressed for work, they were telling her to get ready. Finally one of the women asked her if she knew what an escort was.

She said no. Confused and frightened, the woman called one of her friends back home on her phone. She continued texting her friend throughout the night, expressing her fear.

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The men eventually returned to the hotel and told the Portland and Presque Isle women to go downstairs into the garage where an SUV was waiting for them. They walked the same four streets in a continuous loop for hours.

But no cars stopped for her that night. The weather was cold, so they went to a for drinks and cigarettes. Blanchard also bought condoms, she said. They eventually returned to the hotel room, and the woman went to the bathroom to call her friend.

She decided to make her escape. She was crying hysterically. Later she took a bus back to Portland, where she was greeted by two city police officers.

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