Domestic minor sex trafficking. Commercial sexual exploitation of children. Sex trade. Slavery. Prostitution. These are some of the words we use to describe a range of horrific crimes that most of us don’t want to think about.
Crimes like forcing or coercing youth to participate in sex acts, pornography, street-based prostitution, internet-based exploitation, stripping, erotic massage, phone-sex lines, interfamilial pimping, or survival sex. All of these acts are illegal and take advantage of the imbalance of power between an adult and a child.
What is SAFE CARES?
We are embarking on the new program, SAFE CARES, to provide a comprehensive response to survivors of exploitation by creating opportunities to be – and feel – safe and connected to each other, an agency, and a trusted ally.
SAFE CARES stands for Collaboration, Advocacy, Response, and Engagement of Survivors.
SAFE has been serving survivors of exploitation for years: the 13-year-old pregnant teen who was sold for sex by her father to pay for drugs, the 18-year-old El Salvadoran who was trafficked for sex across Mexico and into the US as an adolescent boy, the 30-year-old woman who has lived on the streets for years and sold her body for a place to spend the night.
Even as we have provided services for exploitation survivors, our understanding of the issue has grown. Funding from the Victims of Crime Act administered through the Office of the Governor is helping us to better serve child victims of sexual exploitation through a continuum of services.
When SAFE CARES officially launches, we will offer a drop-in center, specialized foster care, emergency care, information, referral, and education. We plan to have these programs operational in the fall.
Most importantly, every one of the survivors listed above survived and thrived. The survivor who came to us at the age of 13 is raising her child in a safe and happy home; the young man from El Salvador is a college graduate; and the homeless woman is living in her own apartment and maintaining stable employment.
Through SAFE CARES we will be able to do so much more for so many more. Stay tuned.