Jim Martin honored for battling human trafficking
Aspire has honored Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin for his work in the fight against human trafficking.
Martin received the Victory through Service Award at the group’s first anniversary celebration, Art for Autonomy, July 25 in Bethlehem.
The award is sponsored by Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania, an organization which works toward elevating victims’ rights through the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Martin was one of three recipients. He received his award in the Public Servant category.
Lisa Pektor, president of PennCap Properties, was presented the award for the Company category.
Hope Sabbaugh, a field worker for VAST (Valley against Sex Trafficking), received the Front-Line Fighter award.
Aspire’s mission is to provide an environment of safety, healing, and empowerment that will equip victims of trafficking with services and programs essential to their pursuit of independence.
The group’s objectives are to provide: comprehensive case management; housing ranging from emergency shelters to independent living; and a peer-led, drop-in center where victims can receive support, interact with other victims, and link to resources.
The award ceremony was part of a larger event during which local wineries, breweries and distilleries joined with local restaurants to supply refreshments.
Martin and the Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center recently partnered with Lehigh University; AEquitas, a prosecutor’s resource; and The Why, a nonprofit with the mission to eradicate modern slavery in the fashion industry and to economically empower survivors.
The goal of the partnership is to develop an artificial intelligence application to identify potential human trafficking victims and perpetrators within police incident narratives.
Martin has assembled a team of representatives from the RIIC, his office, Lehigh University’s Computer Science and Engineering Department, AEquitas, the Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation at Villanova Law, and members of the community. The objective of this program will be to provide victims’ treatment and to arrest and prosecute traffickers and the consumers of sex for money.
A part of this initiative is to establish a safe house for victims of human trafficking where they can find safety, as well as support, to enable them to live productive, healthy lives with the hope of a positive future free from the control of their traffickers.
Recently, a generous grant from the Dorothy Rider Pool Trust was given to Martin to help further these goals.
The funds will allow several team members, including representatives from AEquitas, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Lehigh Conference of Churches, and a community donor to travel to Nashville, Tenn., to visit an existing project, Thistle Farms.
The Thistle Farms recovery model includes the following to aid victims of human trafficking, prostitution and addiction:
•Free long-term housing without a live-in staff;
•Free comprehensive mental and physical health care; and
•Free job training and/or continued education that connects survivors to a sustainable income.
The Lehigh County team will be able to observe and acquire information from this facility and the network of sister organizations which have developed from it.
The site visit to Thistle Farms will provide insights into the program structure, costs and the ability to craft connections for a more seamless recovery process.
“I am humbled and gratified to have received the Victory through Service Award for the part I’ve played in Lehigh County’s fight against human trafficking,” Martin said. “It truly is a team effort, and I, therefore, share this honor with all of those working with me to eradicate this scourge from our area.
“I thank Aspire for recognizing our efforts, and I commend them for the work they are doing.”