If you want statistics on the number of homeless served at a particular shelter, you can get that information easily. If you’d like to know how many families a local food bank served in a year, the numbers are readily available. If you’d like to know how many kids attended after-school programming providing meaningful alternatives to street gangs, there are resources to help you determine the answer.
But when your services are aimed at breaking down an “invisible” injustice, how do you prove a program’s efficacy?
Recently, the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council released a report titled, “Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States.” The report pointed out what we already know: Victims of exploitation often go unrecognized, the crimes against them remaining unreported and undiscovered.
And as iEmpathize founder Brad Riley points out, not only do we not know how many victims there are, we also don’t always know who the criminals are. “This is the one crime where the victimizer is not present in the room,” Riley said. “He’s not even there when the money exchange happens. How do you bring justice to a criminal who isn’t present at the scene of the crime?”
This is perhaps the greatest challenge of fighting the sex trafficking of children. How many victims are out there, and how do we know if we are making a difference in fighting the issue when they are so well hidden?
What we do know is that human trafficking is the fastest growing illicit business in the world. We also know that children are often subject to arrest, detention, conviction, and incarceration because they are not always properly identified as a child and as a victim. And many will then carry permanent records as offenders.
So how do we chart how successful our programs are in reducing that grim reality?
iEmpathize was delighted to read that the policies and practices to combat these crimes – as advised in the Council’s report – line up with the steps we have already been taking as an organization committed to eradicating child exploitation. Here are some examples taken from the text of the report:
- Those who look the other way enable and perpetuate these crimes.
Empowering individuals to develop empathetic reactions to kids who are exploited is at the heart of iEmpathize’s methods. We absolutely agree that the number one perpetuating factor for child victimization is a culture that too often ignores the signs of potentially exploitative situations.
- Societal, Community, Relationship, and Individual Risk factors build upon one another to create a perfect storm of vulnerability for a child.
We identify these risks as being the factors that push or pull children into the arms of someone who will exploit them. We work hard to educate people about those risks that make a child most vulnerable. We also work hard to help children recognize that no matter what negative pulls and pushes they experience, there are also positive pulls that can lead them to a safer place.
- Efforts to prevent, identify, and respond require collaborative approaches that build upon the core capabilities of people and entities from a range of sectors.
iEmpathize is committed to working collaboratively with the kids, sectors, and regions most impacted by the issue of child exploitation. Our work in youth programming and with industry based sectors like the trucking industry and the oil industry empower individuals to use their training, skills, environment, and resources to effectively combat the issue.
- To increase awareness and understanding, we must develop, implement, and evaluate training for professionals and other individuals who routinely interact with children and adolescents, public awareness campaigns, and specific strategies for children and adolescents.
Our commitment to a wide spectrum of engagement tools enables us to engage individuals and communities through our educational exhibits and films. We do not take a “one size fits all” approach. We design our curricula and campaigns around the needs of the children, sectors, and regions we serve.
- No one sector, discipline, or area of practice can fully understand or respond effectively to the complex problems surrounding commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors.
The Council’s report points out numerous areas of national improvement requiring legislative action, but we couldn’t agree more that the issue of child exploitation is not just a problem to be solved by law enforcement and legislators. This is an issue that requires cultural change, and iEmpathize is committed to showing every individual we encounter how he or she can engage the issue just as much if not more.
-Candace Joice, Denver Hub