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The intersection of trafficking and substance use disorder in Boston’s opioid crisis

Boston Police Officer Ben Linsky of the department's street outreach unit drove through the area near Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue in June.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

I was encouraged to see the Globe approach the important and often-overlooked topic of commercial sexual exploitation at the center of Boston’s opioid crisis at Mass. Ave. and Melnea Cass Boulevard in the recent article “Packing compassion on the beat: Mental health background aids officer as part of outreach in community” (Page A1, Aug. 29). As referenced in the recent Globe Magazine article “Kate Price remembers something terrible,” I advise a clinic supporting victims of trafficking in this neighborhood.

Foremost, the article’s premise that one person can adequately respond to such a complex issue within the complicated Mass. and Cass landscape is reductive. Research indicates team-based, multidisciplinary responses to sex trafficking are most effective. Yes, the article mentions a task force, but the story emphasizes a self-described one-man crusade.


Further, a quote from Boston Police Officer Ben Linsky at the end of the article reinforces the myth that recovery is simply a choice: “ ‘There’s no shortage of resources available to us,’ he said, but the pull of addiction is overwhelming. ‘It’s so hard to get people to make a good choice.’ ” Persistent addiction and sex trade involvement are not merely about women failing to avail themselves of effective and accessible support. This statement airbrushes what in reality is a blatant lack of services tailored to this unique population. This shortage leads to poorer addiction, gender-based violence, and mental health outcomes for sex-trafficked women.

Finally, while research suggests most sex buyers are white men, the story’s imagery shows a man of color being arrested for soliciting sex. An opportunity was missed to show readers a more accurate view of the typically hidden crime of sex trafficking. Instead, this imagery reinforces racist stereotypes in a neighborhood where communities of color are already disproportionately policed.


I encourage the Globe to do more to portray the complexities fueling the intersection of substance use disorder and commercial sexual exploitation in Boston.

Kate Price

Visiting scholar

Wellesley Centers for Women

Wellesley College