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September 2014 Newsletter: Child Sex Trafficking

It is estimated that 100,000 children are being sex trafficked in the United States each year. This month’s MECP newsletter invites you to explore this proliferating epidemic and the vulnerabilities of the children involved.  Our first article, provided by Willamette University College of Law’s International Human Rights Clinic, discusses their report entitled Human Trafficking & Native Peoples in Oregon: A Human Rights Report, which examines the prevalence of human trafficking among Native communities in Oregon. This report provides recommendations on the prevention of trafficking, prosecution of offenders and the protection of victims.

Our second article, contributed by the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Section, discusses the FBI’s web based safety tool: Safe Online Surfing, which is intended to educate students, teachers, parents and care givers about the dangers associated with internet use. Additionally, we have featured a valuable resource from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, California to assist those who work in the field of human trafficking. This podcast provides great insight on how the criminal justice field can better serve commercial sex trafficking victims with intellectual disabilities. 

In conclusion, MECP’s 3rd Wednesday at 2 PM webinar series highlighted the use of technology in assisting offenders who victimize children and discussed what resources are available to eliminate these risk factors in communities across the country.

Smiling children3rd Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET Webinar Series: Risk Factors and Other Indicators of Technology Facilitated Child Sex Trafficking

MECP partnered with Retired Lieutenant Joe Laramie of the Glendale, Missouri Police Department, for this month’s webinar presentation to discuss the indicators and risk factors that contribute to the victimization of youth by sex traffickers. Lt. Laramie provided an overview of how technology facilitates child sex trafficking, including the recruitment and control of victims, as well as the marketing of victims for commercial sexual exploitation. The focus of this presentation was on prevention through awareness and provided child protection tips to those who care for or supervise youth.

To view this presentation and others, please click here.

Human Trafficking & Native Peoples in Oregon: A Human Rights Report
International Human Rights Clinic, Willamette University College of Law

As awareness of issues concerning human trafficking gain increasing attention, there has been relatively little research and data collected on how such issues manifest among Native Americans. Recognizing this gap, Willamette University College of Law’s International Human Rights Clinic recently produced a report entitled Human Trafficking & Native Peoples in Oregon: A Human Rights Report. Building on a previous 2010 Report where the Clinic generally examined human trafficking in Oregon, the new report similarly aims to assess the extent to which state and federal actors meet their obligations to prevent human trafficking, prosecute traffickers, and protect survivors and those at risk of victimization.

Through a culmination of primarily legal research and investigative interviews with service providers, survivors, state, federal, and tribal law enforcement and other actors in the justice system, the report concludes that more can be done to meet obligations to prevent, prosecute, and protect among Native communities. In particular, the report sheds light on ways in which Natives Americans are more vulnerable to and affected by human trafficking.  The report also highlights specific findings and recommendations that suggest ways in which these obligations can be better met.

The vast majority of Native victims of trafficking were identified as females in their early-teens to early-twenties who had spent time in foster care and had been previously sexually abused. Most traffickers were identified as non-Native intimate partners who gained the victim’s trust and dependence by providing emotional and economic security. The apparent role that foster care and previous exposure to abuse play in increasing vulnerability to human trafficking is particularly important for Native children, who are often overrepresented in foster care. Service providers also suggested that children in foster care are particularly susceptible to trafficking by an “intimate partner” due to a lack of independent living skills and emotional support, and often the normalization of abuse.

Foster care placement and normalization of abuse were also found to be interrelated with vulnerabilities related to generational trauma, as well as a lack of adequate resources to treat victims of abuse and provide community-based support in general. For some, the persistence of “generational trauma” (or generationally perpetual feelings of oppression due to a history of discrimination) may lead to alcohol/substance abuse, poverty, early sexualization, and normalization of abuse – factors that can directly or indirectly increase the risk of victimization. Service providers voiced concern that limited access to resources like housing (most shelters serve men and domestic violence victims), cultural healing methods, and long-term treatment options increases exposure to re-victimization and the likelihood that cycles of abuse will be normalized in the home and passed on to the next generation.

Issues related to past abuse, generational trauma, and limited access to services can also act as both a cause-and-effect in underreporting and under-enforcement. Related findings in the report indicate that fear, isolation, and perceived discrimination or lack of recourse largely contributes to law enforcement-related barriers. In Native communities, victims or community members may not report crime for fear of shame, shunning, or retaliation by the offender or community. The likelihood that law enforcement intervention will lead to the victims’ misidentification as a criminal, the loss of housing, or the loss of the trafficker’s protection only further contribute to the fear and failure to report. More generally, slow police response time, ineffective investigation, high declination rates, and severe limitations on tribes’ prosecutorial authority also work to discourage tribal members from reporting crime, thus contributing to the overall under-enforcement of crime in Native communities.

Considering the ways in which Natives vulnerable to trafficking both reflect and differ from the national profile, the report also suggests some of the following recommendations:

• Implement data tracking methods that more accurately measure Native American involvement in human trafficking.
• Look beneath the surface when a situation appears to be prostitution, domestic violence, or addiction.
• Develop cultural sensitivity – understand “generational trauma” and recommend culturally diverse programs and treatment, and ensure they are covered by medical programs.
• Encourage participation in life skills programs and healthy personal relationships for foster children and other at risk youth.
• Facilitate cooperative partnerships between tribal and non-tribal entities that increase accessibility to law enforcement and necessary health and social services.

For more information, and to read the full report, please click here.

Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Safe Online Surfing Program
Scott McMillion, Unit Chief, FBI Violent Crimes Against Children Section

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is leading the way to protect our children from online predators. The FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children program’s mission is to decrease the vulnerability of children to sexual exploitation, develop a nationwide capacity to provide a rapid, effective, and measured investigative response to crimes against children and to enhance the capabilities of its partners to help protect children through programs, investigative assistance and initiatives. This is a big mission and the FBI has had very good success in curtailing the sexual exploitation of children online by arresting and convicting over 1,000 child predators every year for the last ten years. The FBI partners with state and local police agencies forming the Child Exploitation Task Forces, which are strategically located around the country. Furthermore, the FBI collaborates with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to identify, investigate, and incarcerate those who criminally exploit our nation’s children. However, there is more to be done to stop child predators from sexually victimizing our children.

Hence, the FBI has launched Safe Online Surfing (SOS) Internet Challenge. The FBI-SOS Internet Challenge is a free, fun, and informative web-based program that promotes cyber citizenship by teaching students in third through eighth grades how to recognize and respond appropriately to online dangers. Revamped in October 2012 with a new website and a new series of activities, FBI-SOS provides a ready-made curriculum for teachers that meets state and federal Internet safety mandates. It includes testing for students and competition among schools to encourage participation and learning. The program is managed by the FBI Criminal Investigative Division and is supported by the Office of Public Affairs, field offices across the country, and various Citizens Academy Alumni Associations nationwide.

During the 2013-2014 school year, the FBI-SOS program achieved historic levels of participation. A total of 75,292 students nationwide completed the program and took the examination, triple the total from the previous year and more than all of the prior years combined.

Other statistical highlights:

• Since October 2012, the FBI-SOS website has been visited more than 555,000 times, with a total of 1.37 million page views.
• Academic year 2013-2014, 1,348 schools in 45 states completed the program.
• Illinois had the most schools and students participating, followed by Texas, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
• School year 2013-2014, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom accessed the site more than any other countries outside the U.S.

In September 2013, the Bureau also introduced a version of the FBI-SOS website in Spanish. While testing is not available in this language, the Spanish site received more than 8,400 visits during the school year.

To participate in FBI-SOS, teachers must first sign up their schools at https://sos.fbi.gov/teacher-registration. Once approved by FBI-SOS staff, teachers are sent a unique web link to manage their classes. After registering their classes, teachers receive a set of electronic test keys, with one key for each student. No information on the students is collected or stored by the FBI.

Students then navigate through the various games and activities in their grade-appropriate island—one each for third- to eighth-grade students. Each island includes up to eight  learning portals for students to visit. Using games, videos, and interactive features, these areas address the protection of personal information, password strength, cell phone safety, instant messaging, social networking, and online gaming safety, among other topics. The videos include real-life stories of kids who have faced cyberbullies and online predators.

After students have completed all activities on their island, they take the exam using their electronic test key. The test scores for each school are aggregated by the FBI and appear on a national leaderboard on the website. Each month during the academic year, schools compete for the national award in one of three categories, determined by the number of students participating from each school: Starfish (5-50 participants); Stingray (51-100); and Shark (100+). The top-scoring school in each category receives a national FBI-SOS award at the end of the month. When possible, these schools are visited by representatives of their local FBI field office.

The FBI-SOS Internet Challenge was developed with the assistance of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, with input from teachers and schools. All public, private, and home schools with at least five students are eligible to participate in the program, which can be accessed via the SOS website year-round—in the classroom or at home by kids of all ages and even adults. However, the exam used for competing can only be taken by third- to eighth grade students whose classes have been registered by their teachers.

The goal of FBI-SOS is to educate students in an entertaining way about Internet safety, creating more responsible cyber citizens and reducing future crime. To visit the FBI-SOS website, please click here.

Radio Podcast: Serving Commercial Sex Trafficking Victims with Intellectual Disabilities

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, California has developed H.E.A.T Watch Radio, a podcast series that discusses issues within the field of human trafficking. Their latest podcast entitled: Serving Sexually Exploited Children with Intellectual Disabilities, discusses the various challenges and vulnerabilities that children with disabilities face when they are targeted for child sex trafficking. If you would like to view their latest podcast or subscribe to H.E.A.T Watch Radio, please click here.

Upcoming Events

October 25th - 28th:  Course: IACP 121st Annual Conference and Exposition. Featuring renowned keynote speakers, forums and technical workshops, and the largest exhibit hall of products and services in the law enforcement community, this premier event for law enforcement provides thousands of dedicated professionals from across the country and around the world with an exceptional, concentrated forum for learning, collaborating and experiencing new technology. Join delegates from local, state, county, tribal and federal agencies at the IACP Annual Conference and Expo.

October 29th -31st: SAFE Conference. Join the Safe Coalition for Human Rights in challenging the 32 billion dollar industry of human-trafficking through this expert, multi-track conference. Engage to raise awareness, educate front-line workers and professionals to respond to trafficking, strengthen coalition and law enforcement efforts, provide funding for safe housing, receive intensive training for evidence-based treatment techniques, and effect changes to deter the purchase of sex. For more information, please visit here.

December 2nd – 4th 10th: Global Youth Justice Training Institute. On December 2–4, 2014, Global Youth Justice will host its 10th Global Youth Justice Training Institute in Las Vegas, NV. Participants will learn strategies to establish or enhance local youth justice diversion programs through teen, student, youth, and peer courts and peer juries. Topics will include training youth and adult volunteers; providing quality community services, programs, and referrals; conducting mock family intake meetings, grant writing, funding opportunities, and more. Click here to learn more.


1. “Child Sex Trafficking in the United States.” Polaris Project. Web. http://www.polarisproject.org/.