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The Response for Minor Victims/Survivors of Sex Trafficking

Guest Blog by Sarah Florman | Trafficking Policy Coordinator at SVJI @MNCASA

Why do communities need to have a response in place specifically for sex trafficking? The response to sex trafficking, particularly for victims/survivors who are minors, differs from the response to other types of sexual violence in a few specific ways.  The primary difference is the age of the victims/survivors.  Because of Safe Harbor and child abuse laws, most sex trafficking response focuses on youth under the age of 18.  As a result, the core disciplines of a trafficking response are a bit different, and should include, in addition to the traditional SART disciplines, agencies and organizations that are specifically youth-focused. These agencies are important because they are key points of disclosure and/or other parts of the system minor victims likely will have to interact with at some point.

These include:

  • Child protection and child welfare
  • Juvenile corrections and probation
  • Schools
  • Youth-serving advocates and service providers

Other important considerations related to the age of victims/survivors of sex trafficking are consent, confidentiality, and mandated reporting.  Laws surrounding consent for youth under 18 are often different than those for adults, and some services require parental authorization.  There may also be requirements for parental notification when youth are victims of a crime.  Federal law requires suspected sex trafficking to be investigated by child protection, and this has led to some nuances in how different states address reports of suspected sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of children.

It’s crucial that team members are aware of their state’s mandated reporting laws, and understand each team member’s role and responsibility regarding mandated reporting and confidentiality. SARTs work hard to ensure their response is survivor-centered and trauma-informed. Providing a response aligned with the SART’s mission and values requires a thorough understanding of the team’s responsibilities with mandated reporting and confidentiality, and the impact those responsibilities may have on victims/survivors of sex trafficking.

These are some big considerations for a SART to address! It can be intimidating to imagine working through these considerations alongside your SART’s other work. Next week, we’ll talk about the range of ways your SART can structure your community’s response to sex trafficking while still supporting your team’s overall response work.