Ridgefield Playhouse concert to raise awareness of human trafficking

RIDGEFIELD — A concert at The Ridgefield Playhouse will honor a new state law that increases protections for victims of human trafficking.

Hosted by the nonprofit Traffick Jam Live, the eponymous event on Aug. 14 will feature performances celebrating the bill’s passage and raise awareness of the issue.

Ridgefield resident Bo Beatty founded the nonprofit in 2016 after hearing testimony from human trafficking survivors at the Grace Farms Foundation in New Canaan. TJL produces concerts, digital broadcasts and other events on human trafficking.

Since 2008, more than 1,000 Connecticut children have been referred to the state Department of Children and Families as possible victims of child trafficking.

What does the law do?

Adjusts the membership in the Trafficking in Persons Council.

Allows certain testimony in the case of a delinquency proceeding to be compelled.

Establishes an affirmative defense for trafficking in persons in the case of a victim of trafficking.

Redefines "sex trafficking."

Modifies the elements of the crimes of patronizing a prostitute and commercial sexual abuse of a minor.

Changes the required frequency of a refresher course in human trafficking awareness for certain professions.

Extends vacatur relief to a person who committed certain crimes if a conviction is based on participation in the crime by the convicted person due to such person being a victim of trafficking.

Source: Connecticut General Assembly

“We’re an outlier in the human-trafficking space,” Beatty said. “By using music to draw audiences, (we’re) able to deliver brief and short messages of what’s going on right in their local communities.”

The law “greatly strengthens” a legal team’s ability to prosecute traffickers, Beatty said. It also provides “vacatur relief” for victims who were convicted of certain crimes — which they may have been coerced to commit by their traffickers — during the time they were trafficked.

“It’s very difficult to get that off your record,” Beatty said, “so the vacatur is helpful in getting a victim back to a normal life.”

Advocates say these measures reflect a greater understanding and awareness, as well as the long-term consequences trafficking victims endure.

“I’m proud that Connecticut’s legislature stepped up to expand the definition of human trafficking and ensure law enforcement has the necessary tools to save lives,” said state Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport. “It’s an honor to participate in this event, marking both the progress we’ve made against the inhumanity of trafficking and the work that lies ahead to end these crimes once and for all.”

Several Connecticut-based nonprofits will take the stage to share information about human sex trafficking, including how to spot early indications of grooming — a process a trafficker uses to identify and ultimately control someone for the purpose of trafficking them — and how social media can provide traffickers greater access to young people, particulary girls.

This year, the U.S. State Department reported that 28 percent of sex-trafficking victims in the United States are girls under the age of 18.

Grammy-winning singer and guitarist José Feliciano, of Weston, will headline the concert with Vaneese Thomas.

“I must admit, not until I was invited to perform this concert … did I grasp the scope of the dilemma,” Feliciano said in a statement. “Unless we as a people are really aware of this perversion ... it will continue to permeate the underbelly of our society.”

To help provide complimentary tickets to human-trafficking survivors and employees and volunteers of Connecticut’s anti-trafficking nonprofits, visit traffickjamlive.org.

Tickets are available at ridgefieldplayhouse.org/event/traffick-jam-live.