A New Screening Tool for Victims of Sexual Exploitation in DC

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The misidentification of victims of human trafficking is one of the primary obstacles facing anti-trafficking advocates today. According to Shared Hope, an anti-trafficking policy organization, “this misidentification occurs at all levels of first responses: from law enforcement arrest[s] on the streets, to homeless and runaway youth shelters’ intake process, to court adjudication of the victim as a delinquent for habitual runaway or drug possession, or other offense[s] occurring as a result” of the exploitation.[1] Without identifying victims of trafficking, law enforcement and other officials cannot target and arrest traffickers and provide victims with the services they need.

In the District of Columbia, the Court Social Service Division is currently developing a screening tool to identify child victims of commercial sexual exploitation. This tool was discussed at the recent meeting of the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Working Group.[2] On behalf of Judge Hiram Puig-Lugo, Mr. Malcolm Woodland presented the initial findings of the tool, which has been implemented as a pilot in DC. Amara applauds the task force for their work to create a screening tool for victims of exploitation and we are eager to learn more about the tool in the upcoming months.

This type of screening tool is invaluable because it can help officials in the criminal justice system determine whether or not an individual is a victim of sexual exploitation and direct them to the services they need. The Court Social Services Division plans to establish a referral system between the DC courts and criminal justice systems and local nonprofits that provide social services to victims. Ultimately, once a victim is identified, he/she will be referred to the proper partner organizations. Amara looks forward to partnering with the task force when the referral system is established. We thank the task force for their efforts in creating this tool and we are very optimistic about its implementation in the future.

[1] Linda A. Smith, Samantha Healy Vardaman, and Melissa A. Snow, “The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking,” Shared Hope International(2009), v. http://sharedhope.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/SHI_National_Report_on_DMST_2009.pdf

[2] Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Working Group Meeting, DC Superior Court, July 28, 2014 (4:00 PM)

By Caroline Ackerman

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