Webinar presenters Cherice Hopkins and Rebecca Burney answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Combatting Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: Multi-Disciplinary Approaches. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: I think you mentioned where we can maybe follow up and get more information, would that in the handouts area or did you have other locations where you even have more data?
Cherice Hopkins: We actually do have a lot of statistics there in the webinar. You can find them off on from the fact sheets that have been uploaded. You can also find some statistics in that sex abuse to prison pipeline report we mentioned. So we do have additional information on our website that’s listed on this page rights4girls.org, we have a whole resources page there.
Audience Question: What was that URL that provides report cards on the state?
Cherice Hopkins: Shared Hope International. They are a partner of ours and they also do a lot of work to end the criminalization of child sex trafficking survivors. And I believe the name of it is Protect Innocence Challenge, I think that’s where their report card.
Audience Question: What is the age range for the girls being trafficked?
Cherice Hopkins: It can be hard to identify just because oftentimes the children who are being trafficked they – I guess I would say that’s why screening is so important because children can be trafficked at younger ages but oftentimes they aren’t identified until they are older for example high school age. But really children of all ages can be trafficked.
Rebecca Burney: We haven’t heard of specific ages just as Cherice mentioned, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the exploitation started but I will say we had tracking survivors as young as 9 years old getting services. So anywhere from 9 to 18 when they’re considered a child sex trafficking survivor but again we have a whole host of youth that we worked closely with that are trafficked at 18, 19, 20. Unfortunately, they don’t fall under the definition of child sex trafficking but they still are trapped in the situation. Many times exploitations continue from childhood past their 18th birthday as well.
Cherice Hopkins: So I think again we go to the points of screening and then also for prevention to start early particularly since a lot of times before children are trafficked they experienced other forms of abuse that’s made them vulnerable to exploiters.
Audience Question: Could you share with us again, what does DCST stands for as well as NCMEC?
Cherice Hopkins: OK so NCMEC is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. So they are non-profit but do a lot of work with the government. So, for example, they have a hotline where people can call them to report children missing and particularly in the child welfare context if children go missing from care then they also have to report to NCMEC in addition to the police so yes, NCMEC is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And then the other one is DCST – I’m not sure – I know we mentioned CPS – Child Protective Services but DCSP, sorry but I don’t remember mentioning that particular. Domestic Child Sex Trafficking.
Christina (host): Also to let you know, if you’re curious about NECMC we have about 7 or 8 upcoming webinars with NCMEC as well that you might want to check out on the website.
Audience Question: Has there been any research done on whether there has been any underground economy that involves African – American buyers. Is the system only set up to identify white male buyers? And if so, does that mean that victims of black male buyers are also under the radar as well?
Rebecca Burney: I will say that the research has just been done on buyers. It includes of men of all races so I don’t believe that there is any type of underground economy where there are only African-American buyers. We know that it’s varied to jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But overwhelmingly, it is disproportionately white men and that’s what the data tells us. It is also what used to being exploited have told us. That does not mean that there aren’t men of all races who are buying sex. There are – but we just found that disproportionately it’s white men. But they’re all sold in the same market. There is no underground economy where men of color are buying children.
Audience Question: Is Domestic Child Sex Trafficking growing in prevalence or volume here in the U.S.?
Cherice Hopkins: I think that’s really hard to say. I think there’s been increasing reports in different jurisdictions but it’s also – while trafficking has gone off for a very long time, understanding of it, awareness of it has changed. So, oftentimes as people become aware they get better at spotting the signs and identifying survivors. We know that there had been increased support but it’s hard to say that that means trafficking has increased as opposed to that just means that we are doing better at understanding that domestic child trafficking occurs and that people are getting better at spotting signs and reporting.
Audience Question: Do you have a figure nationally of how many girls might be at risk in terms of the total percentage of girls in the US? Is it 15%, is it 20%? Do you have a sense of the percentage of those might be at risk?
Cherice Hopkins: No, it’s for the same reason a lot of it is still, even though there is more awareness it’s still not as much as a merit as we would like, like all sexual violence vastly unreported . Then as we discuss child sex trafficking survivors have additional stigma as well as being concerned about incarceration, so it’s just hard to get those of national figures. They just aren’t out there.
Audience Question: You mentioned that each year hundreds of children are arrested for prostitution offenses, but shouldn’t it be categorized as child sex trafficking as opposed to being prostitution? Maybe this goes back to your poll-in questions as well of why is it that if a child, anyone under 18 is arrested for these key infraction indicators, are running away, loitering, prostitution, etc. Why are these children immediately being referred for further investigation to uncover what’s really going on and then treating them as victims? Shouldn’t there be a standard operating procedure or something?
Cherice Hopkins: Hundreds of children are arrested in prostitution offensive. We say prostitution offenses because those are what the charges are. But to your point, yes, absolutely there should be response as to instead treat these children as sex trafficking survivors, right? On one hand, you have lots of people who sell them or people who buy them are committing a crime but then at the same time they’re themselves are being arrested. There absolutely should be a response that instead focuses on treating them as sex trafficking survivors and so some of the places like the places we’ve highlighted are trying to get to that. I mentioned the first response protocols, so oftentimes those protocols are twofold, like the one about making sure identifying the child sex trafficking survivors. Second, making sure that they’re immediate needs are met, but then the other part of that is coming up with an alternative to detention. So some places have done that, other places are working at it but there’s still a lot more work to be done, but you’re absolutely right. We shouldn’t arrest children on prostitution offenses but in terms of language use, the reason we didn’t call it child sex trafficking offenses is because those are the name of the charges. But to your point, if we truly understood child sex trafficking survivors then they wouldn’t be arrested on prostitution offenses.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Combatting Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: Multi-Disciplinary Approaches.