PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Six years after outlawing prostitution, Rhode Island has developed protocols to guide law enforcement, medical providers, social workers, prosecutors and victims’ advocates in helping children who’ve been sexually exploited.
“The reality is, we have a serious problem with human trafficking, and we have to do more,” Governor Raimondo said at a packed news conference at the State House on Wednesday. “These are our daughters, our friends and people in our community, and we owe them a Rhode Island where they can be safe and secure.”
As the governor spoke, Danielle Obenhaus, of Providence, gave a small smile to the crowd. Obenhaus was 13 when she ran away from home and was picked up by
a man in Kennedy Plaza who promised to love her. Instead, he beat her and sold her for sex to multiple men, until she escaped weeks later.
The pimp, Obenhaus told the crowd, “broke me in every sense of the word.” Now, as a mentor coordinator at Day One, Obenhaus counsels other girls who’ve been caught in the same trap, even while battling her own panic attacks, flashbacks and rage.
It’s an experience that only those who’ve been through it can truly understand — and that’s why Obenhaus and other survivors of sex trafficking are a part of Rhode Island’s protocol to help other victims.