Advanced Advocacy Strategies to Empower Sexually Exploited Youth
Community Relations Director, Melissa Palfrey & Outreach Services Director, Paula Schoenberg
Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years.
When working with victims it always best policy to allow the person to define their own experience in how to address them. Youth are being enticed into sex trafficking by different apps such as Facebook, Snapchat, Plenty of Fish and Craigslist, but they are always changing their strategies.
Here are a set of tools to help an advocate navigate and support a victim through the immediacy of their trauma:
Basic Needs. Take care of their most basic needs first; if someone's most basic needs are not being met it is very difficult to focus on their healing journey. (food, clothing and water).
Shelter, another basic need. Having a safe place for their body and their mind to relax without fear is important to help them focus on their emotional and physical health.
Medical and Sexual Health Services. Making sure they are able to access medical/sexual health services. Am I going to heal physically from this trauma? This is an important question that would weigh heavily on anyone's mind. So an advocate helping them get the necessary treatment and navigate resources such as Access WI or Neighborhood Health Partners is vital to their healing journey as well.
Mental Health Services, most physical wounds heal quickly comparatively to the emotional scarring some victims carry through most of their lives. It is vital they receive the coping mechanisms needed to survive daily life and to prepare for the struggles they may face along the way. There are many good providers in the area for referral help.
Healthy vs Unhealthy Relationships Sometimes an individual is in a situation for so long that their "normal" is unhealthy. They are disconnected from society norms and are unsure how to act and react to different situations. Teaching about healthy/unhealthy relationships can help them interact with others in a more cohesive and comfortable manner.
Legal Support. Advocates can help victims navigate the correct paperwork to obtain for restraining orders and other legal processes. Just being present for court proceedings helps support the victim.. For legal advice, we can connect them with Legal Actions WI.
Peer Support. Connecting individuals with like experiences and frustrations helps a person feel not so alone in struggles and in the hurdles they are facing. Being able to open up and share like-experiences helps heal.
Educational Support. Connecting individuals to a GED program like SW
Technical School and the W2 program to further their education goals to get a
job is beneficial.
Employment and job training are necessary tools needed to help survive on their own. Providing these services helps them be independent and sustainable.
Safety/harm reduction creating safety plans tailored to the victim and their fears not only helps them to be more self-reliant, but also encourages safe behaviors. Education regarding safe sex and healthy relationships can help prevent destructive behavior that would be contrary to their healing process.
It is important to know that an advocate can help support and navigate through these systems with an individual who has been trafficked with free and confidential services. Working with an advocate is on the survivors own terms whether it be a short period of time or for years it is all depends on the individual’s needs.
Please know your resources so you are able to help if or when you may encounter a friend, yourself and someone you know who has been trafficked. It happens more than we realize.
Wisconsin Sex Trafficking Guide through the Department of Justice