BCN awarded grant to improve mentor-training program
By, Juliana Larsen
When people ask what we do here at BCN, we tell them we provide trauma informed mentoring to trafficked and at-risk youth. But what does that mean? How is trauma informed mentoring important to the children in our program?
Our mentor training program is a vital part of what we do at BCN which is why we’re excited to have been awarded a grant from Mentor Colorado to help us improve our training program.
Trauma informed services are generally based on a framework of understanding, recognizing, and responding appropriately to the effects of trauma. At BCN, this translates into providing specific training for our mentors before they are paired with their mentee.
Our mentors are educated about the effects of sexual, physical, and emotional trauma on children, and how they can behave to reduce the risk of re-traumatizing a child. Children who have experienced major trauma, like those in our program, often have negative expectations from adults. By equipping our mentors with tools to help them understand and empathize with these children’s experiences, we are helping to build new, positive associations about adults.
Through this grant, we will receive guidance to help us take our program to the next level and become nationally accredited. More importantly, these funds will improve our capacity to help trafficked and at risk youth.
According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll recently published, one in five women who attended college during the past four years say they were sexually assaulted. The White House has declared sex crimes to be an "epidemic" on college campuses. Sure, there are those lit-up call buttons all over campus, but no one uses them and is everyone really able to get to one in an unsafe situation? What college students DO use, is their smartphones.
Stemming from the 2011 "Apps Against Abuse" challenge, there are now several apps available across the country. One of the winners, Circle of 6, works by letting a student download the app and pick six trusted friends to join a "circle". Then, if in an unsafe situation, they can send a pre-written text to those friends with just two clicks.
For example, sending the message, "Come and get me. I need help getting home safely." will automatically include the sender's GPS location. It also allows the students to not only access their personal contacts, but allows access to national hotlines and emergency numbers as well.
The best part of this app, is that it was created by sexual assault survivors.
Other apps include, Here For You, LiveSafe and OnWatch.
Not all of these tools are apps only. A new site called Callisto, is an online reporting system who's goal is to make the reporting more empowering for survivors. Through Callisto, students can fill out a timestamped record of the incident and then choose between three different options.
First, they can send it directly to their campus Title IX coordinator, who is in charge of student investigations. Second, the student can save it and decide whether to file it later. Finally, and most notably, the student can put the report into “matching,” which will only file the report if someone else reports an assault by the same perpetrator.
This last option may help with the underreporting issue. Callisto is being piloted at Pomona College and the University of San Francisco this year, with plans to expand it further if it’s successful.
While these tools are not a silver bullet of any kind, they do provide students with a tangible tool they previously lacked.
The HERO Act or Human Exploitation Rescue Operative is a bill that amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a Child Exploitation Investigations Unit that operates through the Cyber Crimes Center. It will provide investigative assistance, training, and equipment to support domestic and international investigations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of cyber-related crimes.
Specifically, the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit will:
- coordinate all ICE child exploitation initiatives, including investigations into child exploitation, child pornography, child victim identification, traveling child sex offenders, and forced child labor, including trafficking of minors;
- focus on child exploitation prevention, investigative capacity building, enforcement operations, and training for law enforcement personnel;
- provide training and technical expertise to cooperating law enforcement agencies and personnel;
- provide psychological support and counseling services for ICE personnel engaged in child exploitation prevention initiatives;
- collaborate with the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Association to Protect Children to recruit, train, equip, and hire wounded, veterans and transitioning service members through the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (HERO) Child Rescue Corps program;
- collaborate with other governmental and nongovernmental entities for the sponsorship of, and participation in, outreach and training activities; and
- collect and maintain data on the total number of suspects identified by ICE, the number of arrests and cases opened for investigation by ICE, and the number of cases resulting in prosecution and report on such data.
This bill is important because it is enables wounded warriors and law enforcement to stop crimes victimizing children. This programs puts veterans to work as investigators, aiding law enforcement in combating child trafficking, by giving them forensic training and other skills. Each HERO Corps class undergoes an 11-week intensive training course, followed by a 10-month, unpaid law enforcement internship at a Homeland Security Investigations field office.The 2015 class is in training now and the program plans to put 200 HEROs into U.S. law enforcement by 2018.
We can't think of anyone better to help combat modern-day slavery, than our very own veterans.
With the anonymity that comes with hotels, traffickers are selling and buying victims from their rooms, unbeknownst to the employees. In fact, law enforcement agencies report that almost all pimped victims they've come in contact with has been exploited at one time or another in hotels.
The anti-trafficking group ECPAT-USA has launched a new public awareness campaign designed to educate hotels and travelers about sex trafficking. Their 1-minute, 24-second public service announcement (PSA) is narrated by a 13-year-old sex trafficking victim who describes the experience of being spotted by a hotel guest who could help her, but doesn't.
The goal is to:
- To establish a policy and procedures against sexual exploitation of children.
- To train employees in children's rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation and how to report suspected cases.
- To include a clause in contracts throughout the value chain stating a common repudiation and zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children.
- To provide information to travelers on children's rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation of children and how to report suspected cases.
- To support, collaborate and engage stakeholders in the prevention of sexual exploitation of children.
- To report annually on their implementation of Code related activities.
One way they are trying to accomplish this is through a voluntary code of conduct for travel and tourism businesses. Those adopting the code promise to enforce a zero-tolerance policy against sex trafficking, to provide training that will help their employees recognize and report sex trafficking when they witness it, and to provide information to travelers to make them aware of the issue and how they can help.
For more information, to watch the PSA, or to sign the ECPAT-USA Code of Conduct, visit www.ecpatusa.org/code.
June 1st was the start of a new law in Northern Ireland, which advocacy groups hope will help to eliminate sex trafficking. The new law criminalizes the purchase of sex altogether, so men who use prostitutes will face up to a year in jail or have to pay a fine.
This is not a new concept, many states here have passed End the Demand bills. While many groups think these will only help the fight against trafficking, other groups have criticized these laws, saying it will drive the sex trade underground and increase the risk of the violence that victims face.
The SAGE project runs the First Offender Prostitution Program, commonly known as "john school," a court diversion program that has become a national model. The school targets first-time offenders and educates them on common misconceptions about who enters the commercial sex industry, why they enter it, and how it is experienced, as a means to reduce recidivism. The key to getting buyers out of the sex markets is to make the casual buyer think before acting; to interrupt the transaction before it’s made.
The other side says, not all prostitution is trafficking and like many other sectors, it includes adults laboring in conditions ranging from upscale to exploitative, from freely chosen to forced. Even so-called “victim-centered” approaches to end the demand disproportionately hurt women, leaving them more vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation because they have criminal records, which limits their access to affordable housing and sustainable wage jobs. In a recent John Jay College study, almost 90 percent of the minors profiled participating in prostitution indicated they wanted to quit “the life,” but cited access to stable housing as one of the biggest obstacles.
So, where do we draw the line with these laws? Is there a truly effective way to end the demand? We’d love to hear what you think.
Megan's Law is the law that requires law enforcement to make information about registered sex offenders available to the public. It also provides information about the offender’s conviction and a description of the offense, such as, "Subject sexually assaulted a juvenile female." New legislation sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., seeks to take this law to an international level.
The goal of this law is to protect children from exploitation, especially sex trafficking in tourism, by providing advance notice of intended travel by registered child-sex offenders outside the United States to the government of the country of destination, requesting foreign governments to notify the United States when a known child-sex offender is seeking to enter the United States.
The bill urges the president to reach bilateral agreements and memorandums of understanding with other nations on training and procedures upon notification, including the denial of a visa, and to formally request that foreign governments notify the U.S. when a U.S. citizen has been arrested, convicted, sentenced, or completed a prison sentence for a child-sex offense in the foreign country.
In 2008, when meeting with a group from Thailand on human trafficking Smith asked, "If we told you a convicted pedophile was coming to Bangkok, what would you do?"
“We wouldn't let them in,” the Thailand activists responded, that's when Smith realized that such a framework needed to exist.
Some believe this is a modern day scarlet lettering. However, most do not realize sex offenders are assigned to one of three tiers, based on their risk of re-offending. The risk assessment is done by a Superior Court judge. Only those put in the top two tiers are placed on the Internet registry.
While Megan’s Law is not a stand-alone mechanism to deter recidivism, I think it's a great tool to help combat this abhorrent issue. Human trafficking is a crisis that must be addressed at all levels, both domestically and internationally.
I love spring! Don’t you! I love to watch the early spring flowers pop out of the ground and see the flowering trees burst forth with their blooms. I’m in awe of the great variety of colors and flowers we see. After staring at the dark clouds and snow of winter, I usually feel they are long overdue.
In working with sexually exploited kids, you hear so many horror stories and they are so easy to focus on. We can look at all the darkness around us and get discouraged. Yet, this is when we need to look at the light that we know is just around the corner and see the happy faces of the kids that we have helped.
I have a quote I look at often and it says “The direction of your gaze determines the quality of you days.” To me, this indicates that I can determine where I place my gaze. What do I focus my attention on? What do I listen to? What do I fill my heart with? We have so many choices each day in these areas.
This is the focus that moves me and Blossom Care Network onward to find the solutions we believe will make a difference, even if it is only one person. Maybe that person will be the U.S. President someday (although I don’t know if I would wish that on anyone).
We hope you direct your gaze toward these children and become committed to their restoration. Thanks to those who have thrilled us by giving your time and money! You are their hope for the future.