Responding effectively to human trafficking requires a comprehensive continuum of services to assist victims of commercial sexual exploitation in their ongoing healing process.
The first priority of any service provider is to stabilize the victim. Thereafter, attention shifts to providing ongoing coordinated support. Since child sex trafficking happens in every community, existing resources should be leveraged and if possible expanded to help our exploited youth.
Emphasis should also be placed on building a coordinated response between service providers, community based organizations, and government agencies that come in contact with this population to most efficiently use the services already in place. It is not a question of whether the victims of human trafficking have been and will be seeking services. Rather the issue is how we respond to their needs in the most effective and efficient means possible.
One of the keys to success is the training the community, law enforcement, government agencies, schools, and service providers to comprehend the victimization of exploited youth. Professionals need to identify and respond to warning signs, sometimes referred to as red flags. Professionals who would commonly intersect with exploited youth, such as teachers and school employees, health care providers, and social service professionals, should have an understanding of the myths and misconceptions of human trafficking, and learn the terminology and rules of “The Game.”
Additionally, providers need to work in unison with outside partners to establish a coordinated service response that does not duplicate efforts unnecessarily or allow victims to slip through the institutional cracks. Finally, a continued emphasis on the well-being of victims must be maintained, whether or not they choose to participate in law enforcement investigations and/or the prosecution of their alleged trafficker.
In Alameda County, our coordinated system response takes place among three main programs: SafetyNet, Girls Court, and the Young Women’s Empowerment Program (YWEP). Each program relies on the strength and coordination of multi-disciplinary partnerships, while ensuring their accountability through a victim centered approach. Below is an outline of SafetyNet and YWEP as they relate to services, and for more information on Girls Court, see the prosecution section of this booklet.
Establishing Services in your Community
We have found that it is necessary to have a full time H.E.A.T. Watch Program Coordinator to help facilitate efforts among law enforcement, service providers, government agencies and the community. This may or may not make sense for you depending on your resources and the nature and extent of the issue in your community. However, some level of coordination is essential. Hopefully, this role can be incorporated within your office to ensure coordination and training.
Moreover, some communities will not have service providers dedicated solely to helping sexually exploited minors. Again, agencies can use resources and programs already in place, if they are unable to create their own specific program. For example, most communities have their own rape crisis centers. These centers are ideally built to operate as first responders or case managers for exploited youth who are identified by law enforcement and hospitals. Local mental health facilities can also be trained to provide individual and family therapy for victims.
H.E.A.T. Watch Response
For more information, questions, and requests for training, email firstname.lastname@example.org.