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Local and National Experts Discuss Ongoing Efforts to End Sexual Exploitation of Youth

Seattle Foundation and partner nonprofit Stolen Youth convene expert panel


July 18, 2016

Sex trafficking, especially of children, is hardly a comfortable topic. But Seattle experts have been shining light on this difficult and growing issue, and in the process have developed techniques that have made our region a national model for addressing sex trafficking. Last night, Seattle Foundation and partner nonprofit Stolen Youth brought together some of these local and national experts to discuss how we as a community can end once and for all the sexual exploitation of youth.

National efforts target internet platforms

On a national level, Carol Robles-Román, former Deputy Mayor to Mayor Bloomberg, and now President and CEO of New York-based Legal Momentum, discussed the challenge that new internet platforms have created. She and Legal Momentum board member and advocate Loria Yeadon presented Legal Momentum’s national work targeting the internet-based businesses that have created platforms for this exploitation to multiply, covered in Robles-Román’s recent Op-Ed from the Seattle Times.

Seattle leads the nation in innovative approaches

On a local level, panelists covered Seattle’s innovative work in prosecution and victim support. Representing both nonprofits, survivors and local government, the panel included Robert Beiser ofSeattle Against Slavery, Debra Boyer of the Organization for Prostitution Survivors and Valiant Richey of the King County Prosecutors Office. Their collaborative work highlighted both the alarming growth of the problem, the hopeful work being done and the myths they’re faced with dismantling.

Washington state has become a national model for its implementation of the Nordic legal model, which focuses on addressing demand rather than prosecuting victims. However, as Prosecutor Richey pointed out, one of the major myths of sex trafficking is that this is an issue that can be fully addressed by law enforcement.

Multi-pronged approaches to address demand

Instead, services like men’s accountability groups and awareness campaigns are needed to change the culture that creates this demand. The forces that drive young people into exploitation are not always simple either. Debra Boyer of the Organization for Prostitution Survivors spoke to how racism and poverty are as efficient a trafficker as any third party. From techniques like preventative outreach to high school students, training for front-line businesses like hotels, broader policy efforts and greater wraparound services for victims, the panel focused on the necessity of collaborative and multi-pronged approaches.

In the end, all spoke of the need for greater capacity. As Robert Beiser of Seattle Against Slavery pointed out, the ideas and techniques are there. The next step is the money and support to scale up these innovative programs.

GiveTogether for Child Welfare

Seattle Foundation is also launching a campaign to address broader issues of child welfare with our first GiveTogether campaign of 2016. If you have a fund with Seattle Foundation and are interested in learning more, please contact your philanthropic advisor. If you are a nonprofit organization, look for additional information about GiveTogether in mid-to-late April. Stay tuned for additional details by subscribing to our mailing list at the footer of this page. 

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