Don’t Stay Silent! Speak Up!
On September 5th, many of us had the pleasure of attending the FaCT Training on Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC), presented in partnership with Polly Williams and Ashley Coia from the Orangewood Foundation’s The Lighthouse (learn more about The Lighthouse at the preceding link). This training provided an insight into the complex world of human trafficking, helped us gain an understanding of the realities victims face every day, and taught us some practical tools to help us prevent human trafficking and work with survivors.
As staff members and leaders within Family Resource Centers and community-based organizations, we are professionals who are tasked with ingraining ourselves within the communities we serve to work towards bolstering those communities and ensuring their health and prosperity. The health and prosperity of the communities and families we serve are the best chance and one of the largest determining factors in a child’s success. Just as communities are a the first line of defense for a child’s success they are also the best way in which we can protect our young people. As professionals ingrained in our communities, we can protect sexually exploited and trafficked youth by increasing our community’s awareness and sensitivity towards sex trafficking and by responding through a victim-centered perspective. The key points below give a more robust understanding of human and sex trafficking:
- Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of person by improper means (including force, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.
- Sex trafficking: Manipulated or forced to engage in sex acts for someone else’s gain
- Forced labor: Working for little or no pay, often in manufacturing or agriculture
- Domestic servitude: Forced to work in isolation and hidden in plain sight as nannies, housekeepers, or domestic help.
After providing us with a better understanding of human trafficking, Polly and Ashley helped us recognize risk factors and indicators of a young person that may be being trafficked. Many traffickers are highly skilled at what they do and many indicators may seem like normal behavior. However, with a keen eye you can detect when a young person is being groomed and/or trafficked:
- A person under 18 years old that is frequently on their own
- Having multiple phones or frequently having new phones
- Possession of expensive clothing or technology that a teenager would not normally have access to
- An insistent desire to develop romantic relationships
- Feelings of insecurity or being misunderstood
- A strained relationship with parents or a seeming lack of parental figures in their lives
With an understanding of indicators, we must also know how to respond. Polly and Ashley helped us gain and understanding of how victims might present and share some practical tips on how to work with victims.
- “Rapport, rapport, rapport” is key in working with victims. Similarly to working with families, building a relationship and trust is an important first step.
- Create a safe space and emphasize confidentiality. Continually explain what you are doing to emphasize trust and the safe space.
- Meet victims where they’re at. Follow-through of support, respect, and being non-judgmental help maintain and increase engagement.
- Allow victims to make their own decisions and lead the conversation. Give them back control and allow them the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. Often autonomy can feel foreign.
The psychological and physical impact of trauma and exploitation is deep and long-lasting. While understanding how to work with victims is important, often your potential interaction with a victim may just be the beginning of a long and arduous road ahead for them. The most important role you can play is to not be silent! Speak up and make a report. As mandated reporters, it is the law to report the sexual exploitation of children through the Child Abuse Registry (714) 940-1000. In addition, the National Human Trafficking Hotline is always available at (888) 373-7888. While the safety of the public and the victim are paramount, you should also take your safety into consideration. Do not attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly. Instead, be sure to report any knowledge you may have of a suspected trafficker to law enforcement.