From Fire into the Frying Pan: Jail May be Next Stop for Rescued Child Sex Traffic Victims

Friday, August 16, 2013

Breaking up child prostitution rings, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did last month, makes for great headlines and the arrests of some bad people. But it doesn’t solve the problem of what the government should do with the victims of these illegal operations who often have nowhere to go, except maybe jail.


In July, the FBI conducted “Operation Cross Country,” which targeted sex-for-hire operations in 76 U.S. cities and reportedly led to the rescue of 105 children.


But getting these kids out from under the control of pimps and others represents only half the challenge, child welfare advocates note.


“If there is nowhere to hold them, and nowhere safe for them to go, law enforcement has no alternative,” Staca Shehan, director of the case analysis division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told U.S. News and World Report. “If they aren’t placed in a juvenile detention facility, the child could run back to the prostitution scenario.”


What often happens is police will charge the children with prostitution, just so they can be detained until some kind of social welfare housing becomes available.


But arresting them has its own consequences, Sienna Baskin at the Urban Justice Center says.


“It seems like they’re treating the arrest of minors as an acceptable collateral consequence of this operation. But arrest is a very traumatic experience that can lead to abuses for both adults and minors,” Baskin told U.S. News.


Still others are placed in safe housing set up by the FBI’s Victim Assistance.


Overall, the government and law enforcement should do a better job of placing child sex trafficking victims in domestic shelters or providing other services, according to the anti-sex trafficking group Shared Hope International. The group in a May report (pdf) called for better communication between service providers, more training for law enforcement on trauma responses and more diverse options for placement.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Some Child Sex Trafficking Victims 'Rescued' by Recent FBI Sting Could End up in Jail (by Elizabeth Flock, U.S. News and World Report)

Operation Cross Country: Recovering Victims of Child Sex Trafficking (Federal Bureau of Investigation)

L.A. Foster Care Is Biggest Known Source of Local Teenage Prostitution (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)          

FBI Accused of Hiring Underage Prostitutes to Trap Gun Traffickers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)      


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