The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Youth
Florida passed its landmark Safe Harbor legislation in 2012 and has followed up with even stronger laws. These laws recognize that commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) are victims – not criminals – and encourage understanding and therapeutic treatment rather than prosecution, court sanctions or jail.
Sex traffickers prey on children with low self-esteem and minimal support systems. Children who are homeless, suffering with mental health problems, in foster care or past or current victims of abuse and neglect are especially vulnerable. Sexual exploitation trauma requires effective emergency response, specific and high-level treatment with the consent and voluntary cooperation of the victim and a coordinated system of care. Service identification and navigation by truly knowledgeable staff and volunteers is absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately, strong laws in Florida have not translated into readily available, consistent and coordinated services for victims. Law enforcement, providers and families are continuously challenged in locating appropriate interventions and placements when a child victim is identified or recovered.
Florida’s First Pilot of a Promising, Coordinated System Model
In 2016, initial funding was allocated for Open Doors: a promising, direct service and coordinated system model designed for sexually exploited and trafficked youth, mostly ages 10-24. Open Doors was adapted from the experiences of other states and based on meticulous research. This program will increase care coordination by developing and implementing emergency response and assistance led by survivor mentors, screening, individualized total care management and assessments, safety planning, victim support, extensive and on-going training, public awareness and collaboration.
The goal of the Open Doors pilot program is to improve direct victim assistance while coordinating existing services to increase utilization and improve delivery. The project will target five regions with plans to expand statewide.
- Continue support of Open Doors: The 2016 Florida Legislature earmarked $500,000 in general revenue funding with an additional $2.5 million in federal VOCA funds to launch Open Doors. This is the state’s first coordinated system model of promising practices to immediately and expertly serve this population, but continuity and expansion of funding will be needed.
- Adhere to the original intent of Safe Harbor laws: Survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking must continue to be treated as victims rather than criminals.
- Ensure that funding follows the child, rather than allocating resources by formula or silos: Victims need multiple levels of services and better use of all available funds will address the significant gaps that currently exist.
What The Children’s Campaign is Saying…
- Warning Labels Campaign Wins Big for Florida’s Children
- Part Two: Florida’s ‘Modern Day Slaves’ Need Open Doors
- Florida’s ‘Modern Day Slaves’ Need Open Doors
- New Awareness Campaign Launches to Save Girls’ Futures
- Open Doors: A Statewide Network for Victims of Sex Trafficking—The Children’s Campaign
Article detailing Open Doors, which places newly-rescued sex trafficked victims in the care of a team of professionals, including a highly trained survivor-mentor and regional advocates, who work in concert with law enforcement and community partners at every entry point where a victim is identified.
- Victims or Criminals? The Intricacies of Dealings with Juvenile Victims of Sex Trafficking and Why the Distinction Matters—Krystle M. Fernandez
Overview of domestic minor sex trafficking that suggests that states can provide the best chance of recovery for traumatized victims of trafficking by decriminalizing minor prostitution and ensuring that court advocates are properly trained.
- National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) Data Breakdown: Overview of Incoming Signals—National Human Trafficking Resource Center
Review of the calls and emails to the trafficking resource center, where Florida had the third highest amount of calls.
- Treating The Hidden Wounds: Trauma Treatment And Mental Health Recovery For Victims Of Human Trafficking—Heather J. Clawson, Ph.D., Amy Salomon, Ph.D. and Lisa Goldblatt Grace, LICSW, MPH
In addition to a lack of appropriate resources, sex trafficking victims face difficulty trusting service providers due to the complex trauma that they have experienced.
- Placement Challenges Persist for Child Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation; Questions Regarding Effective Interventions and Outcomes Remain—Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability
A study following commercial sexual exploitation child victims including services provided, re-victimization and the agencies that continue work to better identify this population of children.
- 2016 Human Trafficking Responses in Florida—Services and Resources Committee
A report done by the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking that will address the prevalence of sex trafficking in Florida, identify the continuum of care set in place for victims at the present time, provide strengths and weaknesses in services, and set forward recommendations to improve the care of survivors in the state of Florida.
- State Council on Human Trafficking Annual Report 2016—State Council on Human Trafficking
The report reviews the work of the Council during its second year with a particular emphasis on the Services and Resources Committee analysis in its Human Trafficking
Responses in Florida paper.
Disclaimer: These links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They do not constitute an endorsement or approval by The Children’s Campaign or its affiliate organizations and partners.