5   Recommended
Strategies

“The human cost of the status quo is simply unacceptable.”

 

The IOM/NRC report concludes with a series of recommendations for making progress toward preventing and responding to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. The strategies for progress articulated in the report’s recommendations are summarized in this section.

INCREASE AWARENESS AND UNDERSTANDING

As discussed in prior sections, a lack of training among professionals who interact with children and adolescents—especially those who are vulnerable—is a barrier to timely and appropriate action to assist victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking and prevent these crimes among youth at risk. These professionals are often dismayed to learn that they have missed opportunities to help these youth and want to know more about how to identify and assist them.

Training

Training for professionals and others who interact with young people needs to target and reach a range of audiences in a variety of settings (e.g., urban



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5  Recommended Strategies “The human cost of the status quo is simply unacceptable.” T he IOM/NRC report concludes with a series of recommendations for making progress toward preventing and responding to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. The strategies for progress articulated in the report’s recommendations are summarized in this section. Increase Awareness and Understanding As discussed in prior sections, a lack of training among professionals who in- teract with children and adolescents—especially those who are vulnerable—is a barrier to timely and appropriate action to assist victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking and prevent these crimes among youth at risk. These professionals are often dismayed to learn that they have missed opportunities to help these youth and want to know more about how to identify and assist them. Training Training for professionals and others who interact with young people needs to target and reach a range of audiences in a variety of settings (e.g., urban 39

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40 A Guide for Providers of Victim and Support Services Recommendation to Increase Awareness and Understanding Develop, implement, and evaluate: •  raining for professionals and others who routinely interact with children t and adolescents, • public awareness campaigns, and • specific strategies for children and adolescents. and rural; tribal lands, territories, and states). Relevant sectors (e.g., health care, law enforcement, victim and support services) should participate in the development, implementation, and evaluation of training activities that use evidence-based methods. Further, each sector should be consulted to determine the best methods for that sector, given that needs may vary, for example, between law enforcement personnel and health care providers. Public Awareness Campaigns A lack of public awareness is a significant barrier to preventing, identifying, and responding to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. To address this gap, existing public awareness initiatives could be expanded to encompass these crimes. Strategies for Awareness Among Children and Adolescents Child and adolescent victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking may not view themselves as victims, and youth who are at risk for this kind of exploitation may not recognize their individual risk. Therefore, special efforts are needed to increase the awareness of children and adolescents to help them avoid becoming victims and to help victims and survivors obtain the assistance they need. Strengthen the Law’s Response “Individuals who sexually exploit children and adolescents have largely escaped accountability.” A small but growing number of states have enacted laws—sometimes referred to as “safe harbor” laws—designed to redirect young victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking from the criminal or juvenile justice system to child welfare or other agencies to receive supportive services. While

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Recommended Strategies 41 recognizing that additional time and research are needed to assess the effec- tiveness of specific state laws, the IOM/NRC report recommends that the core principle underlying these safe harbor laws—that children and adolescents who are survivors of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking must be treated as victims, not criminals—should be advanced without delay. In addition, despite laws in every state that enable the prosecution of individuals who purchase sex with a minor, function as exploiters/traffickers, or otherwise sexually exploit children and adolescents, and despite the hard work of prosecutors and law enforcement in many jurisdictions, individ- uals who sexually exploit children and adolescents have largely escaped accountability. Recommendations to Strengthen the Law’s Response Develop laws and policies that redirect young victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking from arrest and prosecution to systems, agencies, and services that are equipped to meet their needs. Such laws should apply to all children and adolescents under age 18. Review, strengthen, and implement laws that hold exploiters, traffickers, and solicitors accountable for their role in commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors. These laws should include a particular emphasis on deter- ring demand. Strengthen research on Prevention and Intervention As noted previously, the evidence base on strategies and approaches for pre- venting and responding to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States is extremely limited. Recommendation to Strengthen Research on Prevention and Intervention Implement a national research agenda focused on: • advancing knowledge and understanding; • developing effective interventions; and •  valuating the effectiveness of prevention and intervention laws, policies, e and programs.

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42 A Guide for Providers of Victim and Support Services Support Collaboration As discussed in Section 3, collaborative, coordinated approaches that bring together resources from multiple sectors will be most effective in identifying victims and survivors and in meeting their challenging needs. Recommendation to Support Collaboration and Coordination Develop guidelines on and provide technical assistance to support multisector collaboration and coordination. Support Information Sharing “The difficulty of locating services and programs available to vic- tims is a very real obstacle for children and adolescents seeking to access services and for professionals and caregivers trying to help them.” One of the most significant barriers to preventing, identifying, and respond- ing to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors is a lack of reliable, timely information. A number of organizations maintain lists of services available to child and adolescent victims of commercial sexual ex- ploitation and sex trafficking. However, there is no exhaustive list of national-, state-, local-, and tribal-level resources for victim and support services. The difficulty of locating services and programs available to victims is a very real obstacle for children and adolescents seeking to access services and for pro- fessionals and caregivers trying to help them. Recommendation to Support Information Sharing Create and maintain a digital information-sharing platform to deliver reliable, real- time information on how to prevent, identify, and respond to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States.

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Recommended Strategies 43 Final Thoughts Efforts to prevent, identify, and respond to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States are in the same develop- mental stage that efforts to deal with physical and sexual abuse of children were in during the 1970s, when a handful of multidisciplinary approaches for addressing those problems were emerging around the country. Approaches to domestic and interpersonal violence were at a similar stage in the early 1980s. The nation today has a real opportunity to build on lessons from those earlier efforts, as well as current noteworthy practices, to address the problem of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors, and the victim and support services sector has a crucial role to play in achieving this goal. The children and adolescents who are at risk and are victims and survivors of these crimes cannot wait. The human cost of the status quo is simply unacceptable.

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