The first pillar of our work is Awareness. Most people in America are unaware that the prostitution of children still occurs, and those that are already aware of it typically think that it’s something that goes on overseas. The truth is that the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) does occur overseas and in the US. American children are the victims of this heinous crime as are children trafficked to the US for the purpose of CSEC.
The second pillar of our work is Advocacy. Everyone can agree that very young children (12 and under) who are commercially sexually exploited are victims, but some people think that adolescents should not be considered children when it comes to being sold for sex. We use the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as our guidepost, and believe that everyone under the age of 18, regardless of sex, race, sexual orientation, religion, creed or anything else is entitled to protection from commercial sexual exploitation, and we want to see comprehensive protections and services in place to prevent children from being commercially sexually exploited and to help restore the lives of those who were the victims of CSEC.
The third pillar of our work is Policy. School systems, criminal justice agencies, child welfare agencies, travel companies and other corporations, and so many others all have a role to play in the protection of children. Children need to be warned about traffickers in the same way we warn them about strangers and sex predators. It should be part of the curriculum to educate them about what they need to watch out for. Criminal Justice agencies across the country vary dramatically in the practice and application of the law due to differences in local and state laws as well as budgetary constraints. However, police need to stop arresting children found to be in prostitution and start referring them to services. Many children found in prostitution have had some contact with the child welfare system in their state or locality prior to their victimization. Social workers need training to identify the warning signs before the child is trafficked. They need to know what to do when a child is trafficked to save that child. The hospitality industry needs to sign the Code of Conduct, a voluntary set of business principles travel and tour companies can implement to prevent child sex tourism and the trafficking of children. Companies not in the travel industry should also take steps to make their staff aware of CSEC and have a policy and set of procedures on what to do when it is suspected.
The fourth pillar of our work is Legislation. We are constantly pushing for improved laws on the state and federal levels that recognize the children who have been commercially sexually exploited as victims, not criminals, and provide them with comprehensive support and services. We also pressure the federal government to adhere to international treaties and conventions relating to the rights of children.