Many thanks to the Women’s Funding Alliance, Seattle Human Services Department, YouthCare and Women’s Funding Network and to City Councilmember Tim Burgess for their leadership in hosting “In Our Own Backyard,” Thursday night’s forum about the sex trafficking of local girls.
The truth is shocking:
- Girls as young as 12 years old are recruited and sold as prostitutes in the Puget Sound area.
- Seattle is not alone. Nationwide, 300,000 U.S. children (84% girls) are targeted for sex.
- Nearly all children who are sold for sex have been sexually abused at home first.
- A sexually abused child is exceptionally vulnerable to those who prey on children.
- A pimp attracts a young girl by telling her she is pretty; by making her feel safe; by giving her something she wants.
- The pimp controls the girl through a combination of temporary kindness, loyalty, and fear. Then threats of rape and murder begin.
- A pimp will make up to $1000 per sexual transaction. The girl gets $0.
- Fortunately, a sea-change is happening. The Seattle Police work with a young girl who is involved in prostitution not as a delinquent but rather as a victim. The goal is to rescue the child from the situation and provide needed services for the girl.
- The Bridge in Seattle is a pilot program providing a safe place with restrictions and expectations for the girls taken off the street. It is a residential program, mostly privately funded at this point. It’s only been in existence for 8 months but already shows promising results.
- King County Prosecuting Attorneys and Seattle Police are targeting pimps and johns. A first-ever case charging a pimp and john as co-defendants has been filed. Obtaining convictions are difficult because the young girl must testify. Can you imagine being a 15 year old girl and being grilled in the courtroom about the sex act you performed on the guy?
- Recognize that domestic trafficking is happening here in Seattle and – yes it’s true – men we know seek sex with young girls. We need a new movement: Real Men Don’t Have Sex with Little Girls.
- Use your voice to stop the promotion of child sex when you see it. Tell local papers and advertisers that we won’t tolerate sex trafficking in Seattle.
- Talk to both your girls and boys about empathy for others and what is acceptable, respectful touching. We’ve been doing this for years in various school programs and we must continue the efforts at every opportunity. Parents, grandparents, friends: we are the ones who can make the change.
- Support programs such as True Colors and Team Child which teach girls to make choices with confidence. Help us provide our girls with confidence-building tools to know the difference between love and manipulation.
- Retain and coordinate our public and private programs aimed at ending domestic violence. There’s no cheap or easy fix: we need our domestic violence counselors, our police and detectives trained in domestic violence- intervention, our prosecuting attorneys, our victims advocates, and more programs like The Bridge. Most of all, we need to know what’s going on and agree to model a strategic, community-wide response.
Councilmember Tim Burgess’s remarks last night were great, and you can read them in their entirety here.
For more information about The Bridge, visit http://www.seattle.gov/humanservices/domesticviolence/prostitutedyouth/bridgeprogram.htm
Special thanks to Tim Burgess and to former legislatorRep. Velma Veloria, to Sen. Karen Fraser, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson for their decade-long effort to end child sex trafficking.