Dear WestCoast Community,
According to national news reports last week, the FBI rescued 105 victims from commercial sexual exploitation in 76 cities throughout the country. But what happens to victims after they are recovered? Some are returned to their families or foster care placements. The Chronicle of Social Change delved deeper to report that others are not treated like victims at all: Some Trafficking Victims ‘Rescued’ by the FBI Have Been Arrested.
Chronicle reporter, Lynsey Clark, interviewed WestCoast staff about how children sold for sex are treated in the systems that are there to help them—children are arrested rather than protected after being taken off the streets:
“We need to be supporting children who have been sexually exploited not arresting them,” said Susan Drager the director of transition age youth services at WCCC, which offers tailored treatments specifically for trafficked children.
“There is a lack of recognition that child trafficking is even child abuse,” said [Director of Policy and Communications, Jodie] Langs of WCCC, which provides specialized treatment to trafficked girls. “Right now when our staff calls the child protective services hotline, they are frequently told to call law enforcement instead,” she said. “It’s extremely challenging to connect sexually exploited youth with the right services and protection when you can’t get in the front door. There needs to be clarification, at the state level, that child sex trafficking is a form of child abuse.”
Please help us to ensure that victims of sexual exploitation are protected, not arrested. Ask your lawmaker to support HR 1732: Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking, an important step toward treating exploited youth instead of criminalizing them.
We also need your help to spread the word about the need for a coordinated, multi-system response to commercial sexual exploitation. Please forward this email to friends and colleagues.