Sunday, March 13, 2011

Janus Youth Programs and the Sexual Aassault Resource Center partner to end Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

Chanel 12
Portland, Oregon

Portland has been in the spotlight as a hub for child sex trafficking, but now efforts are stepping up this week to fight the problem and help the victims. A fund of $285,000 approved by the city in November has been put to use. This week, three new case managers from the Sexual Assault Resource Center will begin work helping victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
“We receive calls on our cell phones all night long,” says Ester Nelson, of SARC, who supervises the advocates. She says they currently manage more than 170 cases and the number of victims doesn’t appear to be getting smaller. “It’s just overwhelming -- the system’s ability to respond,” Nelson says. Nelson says treatment starts by building a respectful relationship with the victims and assuring them that they deserve the services available to them. “It doesn’t take much. You just need a person to believe in you and say, ‘We believe in you,'” she says.
The other portion of the funding will help Janus Youth Programs with shelter staffing. Twelve beds are currently available for at-risk youth. “Over the past two to three months, we have hit capacity,” says program director Kevin Donegan. He says he would rather children sleep in the shelter’s office than go back to the streets. “Most people are not aware of the extent of the problem,” Donegan says. “It’s big.”
Increased awareness is a key component in combating sex trafficking, he says. Advocates agree progress has been made in treating the immediate crisis, but more must be done to find long-term solutions. It’s estimated at least 100,000 children are forced into prostitution in the United States each year, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

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