There is a common interest between the Life After Trauma Organization (LATO), and the Crime Victim’s Center of Chester County (CVC). Both are concerned with preventing children from being lured into sexual exploitation through human trafficking. Although Chester County does not encompass a large city, the Internet has greatly extended the reach of pimps to their prey, so that no community’s children are safe from this threat.
When CVC’s Katie Holton and I recognized the potential fit between the two organizations, a meeting was set for March 7th, 2016. This allowed both organizations to explore how CVC’s needs might be synchronous with LATO’s Teen Prevention Project, and identify the resistance that CVC may have experienced in addressing C-SEC in the past.
Katie, CVC’s Compensation/Special Services Program Manager, described various obstacles that had emerged when trying to devise a system to address victims’ trauma after having been lured into sex trafficking. She encountered blind alleys and blind eyes, which demonstrated how difficult it is for the general public and some officials to even acknowledge that CSEC exists outside of big cities, which it does, thanks to the Internet.
Also, she and Executive Director Peggy Gusz expressed concern that some of the other available CSEC-related programs missed the mark in the handling of these traumatized individuals. The fact that both women felt that those programs could do more harm than good shows how carefully they have been weighing the options.
During the meeting, LATO’s Founder and President, Dr. Clara Whaley Perkins, described the training and educational aspects of the Project to Katie, Peggy, and other staff members, plus Carrie Avery from Chester County Youth Center. Dr. Whaley Perkins described how the presentation to schoolchildren, alerting them to the red flags of luring, would differ according to whether the students were in middle or high school. She pointed out that a more in-depth exploration of sex trafficking could be appropriate for high schoolers, but would be too upsetting for middle schoolers. Dr. Whaley Perkins emphasized being sensitive to the capacity of the students to handle the information.
By the end of the meeting, the consensus seemed to be for CVC and LATO to collaborate in developing how the Teen Prevention Project could be tailored to address some of the resistance that CVC has experienced in trying to raise the level of community awareness, education and training.
Another meeting will weigh these obstacles, and also will determine whether a presentation to the Chester County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition might help to address any specific concerns that members may have expressed in the past.
Much groundwork is required to be laid for the Teen Prevention Project before the intended audience actually gets to see the film. Only then can the Project succeed in its goal of making its viewers more aware of, and less vulnerable to the lures of pimps.