Stories & Commentaries

On a Mission to Stop Human Sex Trafficking: Profile on Renee Battle-Brooks


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Stop, look around, what do you see?

It’s a question she asks herself almost everywhere she goes — to the dry cleaners, grocery store, local mall, a movie theater, and yes, even when she steps onboard a plane. Over the years, the question has evolved into many questions: Is she here? What does she look like? Does she need my help?

Renée Battle-Brooks is an assistant state’s attorney for Prince George’s County, Maryland, and she knows that somewhere close by is a young girl trying to escape the life. She’s scared. She’s traumatized. She’s broke and she’s broken.And if spotted by the trained legal eye of Battle-Brooks, she’ll be a survivor. In whatever location the attorney finds herself, she looks carefully, intently with both determination and resolve. She may be just around the corner.

For the 25-year-legal veteran, a significant portion of her time centers on the prosecution of those profiting from human trafficking.

“Sheer greed drives the global $150 billion trafficking industry,” says Battle-Brooks. “Pimps are profiting from the naiveté of vulnerable young women who have run away, been kicked out of their home, or have simply found themselves lost, living on the streets, and trying to survive.”

Battle-Brooks sees her role as a prosecutor to be that of an advocate for the victim/survivors of human trafficking. “We’re seeing children as young as 11 years old being groomed by men, women, grandmothers, and people in the highest levels of authority. Most of these children are not mature enough to understand what is happening; they are lured by the promise of a better life, when what they end up with is a lifetime of involuntary servitude.”

The numbers are alarming. Last year, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reported that one in six runaways was involved in sex trafficking. Within 48 hours of running away, a third of those children have been lured into prostitution. “That’s unacceptable,” says Battle-Brooks. “I don’t know if sex trafficking will ever be eradicated, but I’m on a mission to help the victims/survivors where I can and put those exploiting them behind bars.”

The prosecutor recounted one of her recent cases. A 17-year-old victim was due in court to testify against her pimp, but less than 15 hours before the hearing, she was found dead in a less-than-opulent mid-west hotel room. The police say it was likely an overdose.  Battle-Brooks isn’t so sure. She points out that victims/survivors are often intimidated into not testifying in such cases. It’s a cycle that seems never ending. Still, the determined prosecutor says she’ll continue to pursue the young girl’s pimp, hoping that one day he’ll be incarcerated and out of business for good.

Until then, Battle-Brooks says she’ll keep looking, keep watching, keep making others aware that victims of sex trafficking are everywhere. Look for them, she says. They’re out there waiting for someone, anyone, to extend a hand of kindness.

Stop, look around, what do you see?

You may see her.

— Debra Anderson is the communication director for the Potomac Conference.