Webinar presenters Rebecca Burney, Beth Bouchard and Ann Wilkdinson answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Combating Domestic Child Sex Trafficking: A Multi-Disciplinary Response. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: Rebecca, you mentioned trauma bonds, can you, kind of, a super high level, because I know you said that could be a whole webinar in and of itself, can you just kind of touch on what are trauma bonds?
Rebecca Burney: Sure, so just very, very high level, many youths are in deep relationship with their exploiter. One of the things that, you know, we often talk about is, you know, love can be a similar coercive force in the life of young people. Many of the young kids that we work with who are trafficked actually consider their exploiter their boyfriends. So sometimes, when you go through a traumatic experience with someone, it creates, that bond, that love, and connection to that exploiter, I mean, it’s a much more complicated, a very high level when we think about, like, Stockholm Syndrome in developing an attachment to your abuser. That’s kind of what we’re talking about in terms of trauma bonds
Audience Question: To be clear when we’re talking about girls of color, are we talking about all girls of all color? Or we’re talking specifically about African American girls?
Rebecca Burney: OK, I guess I’ll, I’ll take this one. Typically, we’re speaking about all girls of color, non-white, when we use the term. Unfortunately, you know, there’s not always data about every single racial or ethnic identifying individuals. So typically, we’re talking about African American girls, Native American girls, or Hispanic Girls and usually, there’s a multi-racial or other categories, but we don’t have a lot of good data on Asian American girls and things like that. But typically, we speak about girls that are not white when we talk about girls of color, and if we’re speaking specifically about Black girls or African-American girls, we try to use that.
Audience Question: Rebecca, you, and Beth both talked about, that you touch through a lot of data in your presentations and a number of folks have asked, where can we find those research studies? So, I guess, Rebecca, and then Beth, how do we get those studies?
Rebecca Burney: Sure. So, for the data that I shared, you are welcome to visit our website at rights4girls.org, and you will find our report, The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girl Story has a ton of data. If you just go to the back, it’ll show all the studies that we referenced. There’s also a number of fact sheets on our website that have a ton of data about the racial disparities I mentioned, the buyer demographic data and you can just click on the Fact Sheets which are all on our website, to find exactly where those numbers came from.
Elizabeth Bouchard: I’ll just chime in too, to say that there is some data related to SEEN referrals available on our Children’s Advocacy Center website There is also a recent publication in The Journal of Child Maltreatment that showcases some of the research our program has conducted in close partnership with Northeastern University. The research involves identifying CSEC risk among youth. The title is Enhancing the Identification of Commercial Sexual Exploitation Among a Population of High-Risk Youth Using Predictive Regularization Models. That’s sort of a mouthful. I can provide information about the article to be sent out after this webinar.
Audience Question: Are these multi-disciplinary teams funded? Are they mostly volunteers? How do these professionals work on these teams when their plates are already overflowing? You maybe can talk a little bit about that.
Elizabeth Bouchard: Sure. So, our Support to End Exploitation Now program employs SEEN case coordinators who are staff at the Children’s Advocacy Center. Their full-time job is to facilitate and coordinate CSEC multi-disciplinary response teams. It is the job of SEEN Coordinators to pull together the different system partners and providers who were already working with youth, and who are assigned to respond to CSEC, and to make sure that the various systems involved are speaking and planning together. They are funded and paid for by the CAC because SEEN is a program of our Children’s Advocacy Center.
JCH: What are some of the best ways to get buy-in and engagement from these, all these different agencies and get their participation on these multi-disciplinary teams?
Elizabeth Bouchard: In our community, we found that it was important for cross-systems partners to become educated about the issue of CSEC and its reality together. So, when SEEN was first created, there was a very intentional process to invite experts who knew about CSEC, who could talk about CSEC, and who could share relevant information to meet with local stakeholders; this helped ensure that everyone could start with a shared understanding of the issue and foundation. And from there, it was critical for stakeholders to talk together about their shared mission and core principles; those elements that really are the binders of our team response. If we start to deviate from that process, we always go back to those shared agreements. So, finding consensus around those agreements is critical.
Audience Question: We know the stats on victims and buyers, but what about the stats on traffickers? What can you share about who those traffickers are?
Rebecca Burney: What we know is that unfortunately, it’s very evident in the media right now due to police brutality, racial profiling, we know that the traffickers, who are disproportionately arrested tend to be African American. So, we know that when you look at the arrest data of traffickers, they are predominantly African American. However, we do know from our work with survivors that traffickers come in all shapes. Many times, traffickers come from the same communities as the survivors do. So, I will let Beth and Ann speak to their experiences. But that’s what we found. The data is often unreliable just because the arrest data, unfortunately, has a racial bias.
Elizabeth Bouchard: Thank you, Rebecca. I would just add that our SEEN program does not collect much data on exploiters, as our response is really focused on youth. I would recommend, that folks looking for data on buyers or those facilitating exploitation to look at some of the research put out by Demand Abolition. They have collected data on those involved in the commercial sex trade those who are perpetrating crimes and sexual exploitation.
Ann Wilkinson: I think a Demand Abolition is a good place. We don’t hold stack on traffickers or pimps and exploiters either. I think that there is general information that male, but some of the exploiters are also female as well. And so, there’s a bit of information about that or a bit of knowledge about that and that often the people who groom the young person or the youth to be exploited are often female. Recruiters are often females as well. So, it gets a little complicated, because sometimes it, you know, it may be another young person that recruits as well. It’s a little, it’s a little more complicated than just getting a trafficker.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Combating Domestic Child Sex Trafficking: A Multi-Disciplinary Response.