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

Chronicle reporter, Erin Allday, also highlights the need to identify victims earlier, provide long-term services, and stop blaming victims. WestCoast’s C-Change program, which serves over 100 sexually exploited children annually, recognizes the importance of building trust to support youth through all stages of healing.

“They’re testing you out. They’ve been failed before. Then they’ll realize, ‘Wow, this lady is coming back. She’s not asking for anything in return, I don’t have to do anything for her, and she’s coming back.’”

– Adela Rodarte

The article describes WestCoast’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation Identification Tool (CSE-IT), designed to improve early identification and prevent prolonged abuse. In one year, service providers at 56 sites have already identified 710 exploited youth using the CSE-IT.

Dr. Katz believes it’s possible to stop the quiet acceptance of child exploitation as community awareness increases: “I think a cultural shift will happen. I don’t believe that we’re just going to abide while our girls are exploited. But how long will it take?”

We need a critical mass of people to say, “Not now. Not ever.”

Click here to read the full article.