The work Crittenton’s staff does on behalf of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week effort. But in January, National Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Month, we single out the final week to have a special celebration for survivors on our campus and honor the memory of those lost to “the life,” while sending a message of support to those yet to be rescued.
This year we are in the midst of preparing for our own “Anti-Human Trafficking Week”, and are especially excited about some enhancements newly introduced for 2014’s program.
With the help of our legislative friends from offices like U.S. Congressman Ed Royce, California State Senator Bob Huff, California State Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva and the City of Fullerton, our survivor celebration will provide an opportunity for Crittenton’s tireless staff and our incredible clients to be recognized for their work and their journeys of recovery. And, equally important, it gives policy makers a chance to broaden the lens they see human trafficking through, which improves legislation and helps the thousands of at-risk girls in our communities.
The horrifying statistics that circle around the issue of trafficking are well-known now: 100,000 children are at-risk each year, the average age of entry is 12 years old, and victims suffer from extreme emotional, physical and repeated sexual abuse.
While our clients are reflective of those numbers, we take time during Anti-Human Trafficking Awareness Week to emphasize that Crittenton’s clients are much more than those statistics. The majority of our clients come from abuse households, were recruited by a pimp at a young age and are still struggling with the effects of repeated trauma. That doesn’t mean we fold to the immense pressure of this issue, but instead it means that we work harder to prove that those numbers are not unbeatable.
Our clients can, have, and will continue to thrive. As one of our clients so recently phrased it, “I know I have someone to turn to if I ever have difficulties…I know they will be there no matter what… it has surely made me think straight and realize that I am more than 9 grand.”
We’ve been fortunate to partner with legislators like those mentioned above and their staff in finding ways both legislatively and within the communities to prevent trafficking and help those minors who have already been exploited to find safety and support as they heal. It is no longer a topic that is hidden in the shadows, but something that civic leaders, churches and policy makers are taking a stand on. To have that support is incredible not just for staff, but for the clients who desperately need the reassurance that their voice is important and their future is bright.
To that end, we will also be launching our Crittenton Partnership Pledge Program during our Anti-Human Trafficking Week and have invited our legislative partners, and everyone interested in standing up to trafficking to sign the pledge and join us in our fight. It’s our goal to develop a network of activists, churches, individuals and businesses throughout the region that will commit themselves to educating themselves and working against modern-day slavery. Because everyone has different abilities and gifts, we welcome each partner to work with us in identifying ways to make the biggest impact.
For some, this might be hosting a training at their rotary club, and for others it could be a great social media campaign on Twitter or passing out information at their college campus. Crittenton staff will be available to support partners throughout the year and will receive updates on things like what other states are doing and what our newest initiatives are.
So, in honor of National Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Month, and in anticipation of our very own, Anti-Human Trafficking Awareness Week, we are re-dedicating ourselves to the fight against human trafficking by celebrating our survivors and committing to broad community-based prevention.
At Crittenton, we know that we can’t end the sexual exploitation of children alone, and we are looking to the communities we serve to join in. If you’re interested in being our partner please contact Crittenton’s Public Policy and Advocacy Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stefanie Benvenuto serves as the Public Policy and Advocacy Director of Crittenton Services for Children and Families of Southern California (CSCF). In this role she is directly responsible for the agency’s public policy program and advocacy efforts relating to child welfare, foster care, juvenile justice, and similar areas of legislative focus. Ms. Benvenuto also serves as Crittenton’s policy analyst, an advisor on all civic engagement efforts, and manages governmental and community relations needs at the local, county, state, and national level.