What happens to the children who don’t make the news?

On August 4th, Adela Rodarte, assistant director of WestCoast’s Transition Age Youth Services Program was a guest on KQED’s Forum: OPD Sex Scandal Puts Spotlight on Bay Area Sex Trafficking. In the wake of extensive media coverage about police abuse of an 18-year-old, Forum host Dave Iverson turned our attention to “the children who were exploited the day before that story broke, the day after, and who continue to be exploited today.”

Drawing from eleven years of experience working with exploited youth, Adela spoke to the risk factors that make children vulnerable to trafficking and why we must respond to exploited youth as victims of abuse rather than punishing them.

To listen to the full episode, click here.

Other guest panelists included:

  • Nancy O’Malley, district attorney, Alameda County
  • Kate Walker Brown, attorney, National Center for Youth Law
  • La Toya Gix, human trafficking survivor; advocate, Alameda County’s District Attorney office

Related Articles:

Urge Assemblymembers to Vote YES on SB 1322 (Mitchell): There is No Such Thing As a Child Prostitute

This coming Monday, August 8th, California lawmakers will vote on legislation that stops authorities from treating victims of child sex trafficking like criminals. We need your help to get this off the Assembly Floor and to the Governor’s desk.

SB 1322 (Mitchell) precludes victims of childhood commercial sexual exploitation from being arrested and charged with prostitution and related loitering. This bill is consistent with federal law and reflects a recognition of the harmful effects of arresting victims of child sex trafficking, including further trauma, disconnection from community and school, and burdensome criminal records. (Click here to learn more.)
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Is it a scandal if it happens all the time?

In Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, WestCoast Children’s Clinic CEO, Stacey Katz, and Adela Rodarte, assistant program director of our C-Change program, give a more complete picture of what’s really happening with child sex trafficking victims: They are routinely abused by people charged with protecting them. This is a systemic and cultural problem, not an isolated incident of law enforcement misconduct.

“[It’s] not a scandal—it’s something that’s happening all the time. The problem is systemic.” – Stacey Katz

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CA Assembly Public Safety Committee passed bill SB1322

Dear WestCoast Community:

The CA Assembly Public Safety Committee passed Senator Holly Mitchell’s bill, SB 1322, with a vote of 6 -1 yesterday. SB 1322 gives children immunity from prostitution charges. Thank you for taking the time to make calls to members of the Public Safety Committee to let them know there is no such thing as a child prostitute. As Senator Mitchell asserts:

“California currently allows for criminalization of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) victims by charging them with crimes committed while being victimized. Under current law a victim can be detained in juvenile hall and prosecuted for prostitution. This is not an effective or ethical response to this growing epidemic.”

Thanks to the Assembly Public Safety Committee, we are one step closer to ensuring that sexually exploited youth receive the same protective response that we provide for all other victims of child abuse.

The bill will be heard next  on the Assembly Floor. If approved, SB 1322 will go to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature.  We will let you know how you can support the bill as it moves forward.

Thank you again to Senator Mitchell and the Assembly Public Safety Committee for your commitment to supporting sexually exploited youth.

Thank you,

Jodie Langs
Policy and Communications Director

Action Alert: Tell CA Assembly Public Safety Committee there is no such thing as a child prostitute

California lawmakers are considering important legislation that will stop authorities from treating victims of child sex trafficking like criminals. We need your help to make this happen. Please call your legislators and tell them to support SB 1322 so that CA definitively affirms that there is #NoSuchThing as a “child prostitute.”

An Update

Dear WestCoast Community,

This fall, I joined a Blue Ribbon Commission tasked with informing state policy to improve the response to children who are commercially sexually exploited. Convened by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley through the Human Exploitation and Trafficking (H.E.A.T.) Institute, the Commission is comprised of 14 leaders from child welfare, education, criminal justice, health, and other nonprofits across California. Through seven regional hearings, the Commission has heard testimony on the strengths and gaps in our current system of care for exploited youth. Our work will culminate in a final report with recommendations to policy makers for a comprehensive system to respond to the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

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“If I’m a victim, why am I in this jail cell?”

Dear WestCoast Community:

Children who are bought and sold for sex are often arrested for prostitution rather than receiving the protection and support provided to victims of rape and child abuse. At WestCoast, 73% of the youth we serve in our intensive mental health program for commercially sexually exploited youth have been involved in the juvenile justice system as a result of their exploitation.

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Did you write this for me?

Why do I fight with the people I love? Why am I failing my classes?
Why is it so hard for me to make friends?
A new book, Assessing Children in the Urban Community, edited and written by WestCoast staff, describes our collaborative approach to helping children answer questions like these through psychological assessment.

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