Mayor Mike McGinn today called on Village Voice Media to meet with him and the Seattle Police Department to discuss strengthening their policies against underage sex trafficking in their print and online advertisements. “This is a serious and disturbing issue. We’ve received a growing number of reports that Backpage.com is being used to exploit children,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “It’s just wrong. We’re asking them and other sites to meet with us to find ways to protect children from exploitation and help keep our communities safe.” The Seattle Police Department has identified the use of the adult services section of Backpage.com as a contributor to the problem of child exploitation. Specifically, they are an “accelerant” of underage sex trafficking. The problem exists in both the print and online version of the Backpage.com service. Underage sex trafficking is a growing problem in Seattle and around the country. A 2008 report from the City of Seattle’s Human Services Department estimated 300-500 children under the age of 18 are being exploited for commercial sex in Seattle and King County. Children as young as twelve have been exploited and runaways are particularly vulnerable. The report noted that the internet has been increasingly used for sexual exploitation. For the full text of the news release click here.
Beginning on March 1, 2011, the Seattle Human Services Department will realign its operations to better meet the needs of constituents and the community. The work of former divisions including Youth Development & Achievement, Early Learning & Family Support, and Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Prevention will be restructured to become two divisions: the Community Support & Self-Sufficiency Division and Youth & Family Empowerment Division. The Community Support & Self-Sufficiency Division will encompass all of HSD’s programs that assist individuals and families as they work toward self-sufficiency. The Youth & Family Empowerment Division will take a more holistic approach to providing services from early childhood to young adulthood, including paths to post-secondary training – college, vocational training, apprenticeships into skilled trades, or other employment. For more details about these and other changes please read this special edition of Life Lines newsletter.
Seattle PostGlobe reporter Eric Ruthford recently reserached, wrote and posted a remarkable series of articles on the issue of prostituted youth in Seattle.
For a link to the first article, please click here. This piece has links to all the other articles in the series. For more information on Seattle’s response to this growing concern, please visit this Web site.
The Seattle Foundation, one of the nation’s largest community foundations, recently launched a new Web site, the Giving Center. The site provides information for prospective donors on 675 nonprofits doing a wide range of work. Financial and evaluation information is included for each organization described. Launch of the site was covered in the Seattle Times and New York Times.
Pimps and the youth they abuse are well-known elements of juvenile prostitution. In their guest column for the Seattle Times, Terri Kimball with the Seattle Human Services Department and King County Senior Dep. Prosecutor Sean P. O’Donnell note a new Washington law that cracks down on the overlooked role of “Johns” involved in the commercial sex abuse of minors.
For the latest news and information about the Seattle Human Services Department, see the June 2010 edition Life Lines e-newsletter: http://www.seattle.gov/humanservices/lifelines/archives.htm.
The Seattle Human Services Department has published (online) its 2009 Annual Report. The report provides a snapshot summary of the department’s accomplishments and outcomes in 2009 in data, photographs, and inspiring stories of people who have turned their lives around with the help of City-funded programs.
As of the end of January, the City had raised enough money to fund the initial year of operations for a pilot residential recovery program for prostituted children, the first of its kind in the state.
The total cost for the two-year pilot program is nearly $1.5 million. To date, the City has raised $1.2 million, including $150,000 from the Gates Foundation, $10,000 from the Women’s Funding Alliance and $10,000 from the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation. Stone Gossard and Mike McCready of the Seattle rock band Pearl Jam are among a number of major private donors.
Funding for the project was originally planned to come from King County, but that funding was sharply reduced last fall because of the county’s budget shortfall. Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess and the Seattle Human Services Department turned to private funders to make up for the loss of county funds.
The new program will provide residential recovery services for prostituted youth age 14 to 17 in King County. The Seattle Human Services Department will contract with YouthCare to serve up to 20 prostituted youth per year in a homelike setting with around-the-clock staffing. Specialized prostitution recovery services will include counseling for traumatic stress, chemical dependency treatment, survivor support groups and health education. Clients will also receive medical care, life skills training and support for education, job skills and job placement. United Way of King County will fund a two-bed shelter program as part of the recovery program.
The inception of the program dates back to 2008, when the Human Services Department commissioned a study by researcher Debra Boyer, Ph.D., who estimated that there are between 300 and 500 prostituted children in King County, some as young as 13 years old. Prostituted children are subject to severe physical and psychological abuse from pimps and “johns.” They often experience mental illness and substance abuse problems. Recovery from the resulting trauma requires extensive and highly specialized services provided in a safe setting.
The Human Services Department was also recently awarded a special grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to fund a prostituted youth advocate who will be located at YouthCare.
Private donations to fund the second year of the project are still being accepted. Donations are tax-deductible and checks should be made out to the City of Seattle Prostituted Children Rescue Fund and mailed to the City of Seattle Prostituted Children Rescue Fund, c/o Seattle Human Services Department, PO Box 34215, Seattle, WA 98124-4215. The City also accepts credit card donations to the fund which may be made by calling the City of Seattle’s Treasury Department at (206) 684-3911. Ask that your contribution be deposited in the Prostituted Children Rescue Fund.