Support to End Exploitation Now (SEEN)
SEEN Report 2012
From "The Life" to My Life: Sexually Exploited Children Reclaiming Their Futures: Suffolk County Massachusetts' Response to Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC). Read the SEEN Report 2012: Executive Summary or the full report SEEN Report 2012.
What is SEEN?
The Support to End Exploitation Now (SEEN) is a ground-breaking partnership among more than 35 public and private agencies who believe that only genuine collaboration can yield positive outcomes for exploited youth.
Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is child abuse. It's a crime. It is a violation. Yet, until the creation of SEEN, this form of exploitation was virtually unrecognized in Suffolk County; its victims seemingly invisible to both professionals and the community.
In 2001, a young girl in Boston was murdered. Following her death, her life and her story began to emerge: a childhood of abuse with involvement in the child protection system, placement in a residential group home, chronic running away, prostitution and, ultimately, murder by an unknown assailant. The tragedy of this child's death spurred conversations among agencies charged with protecting and serving vulnerable children: law enforcement, criminal justice, child protection, youth services, street outreach and others. Everyone knew of girls like this young victim. Everyone could recount attempts to reach out to a girl to offer shelter, support and safety. But, no one reported feeling effective. Early conversations grew into action, and SEEN was established.
Child abuse "best practice" is premised upon the philosophy that "no one agency can do it alone". Yet exploited youth were not receiving the benefits of a comprehensive response. Nor were professionals mandated to report child abuse notifying the Department of Children and Families of these child victims. Additionally, ongoing conversations revealed misperceptions and historical disagreements between agencies about how a child might be treated – or mistreated - if entered into the "system".
Exploited youth are not strangers to criminal justice and social services. Many were introduced to child protection agencies at a young age due to abuse and neglect. Runaways frequently fall prey to the lure of love and security falsely promised by pimps. A strong sense of loyalty to the pimp and intense fear of violence often blinds a teen from seeing herself as a victim and prevents her from seeking help. To meet her many needs – medical, mental health, legal advocacy, protection – several agencies are required.
SEEN is changing the system. We have forged solid and unprecedented partnerships between prosecutors and defense attorneys, social workers and probation officers, street workers and police. The Suffolk County District Attorney's office has made a public commitment to treat exploited youth as victims – not as offenders – with the goal of pursuing the adults who exploit these young girls. We have created a community-wide response model that is built upon mutual understanding and trust, and the belief that youth empowerment and offender accountability are not mutually exclusive.
The Commonweatlh of Massachusetts H03808
An Act relative to the commercial exploitation of people
View SEEN Brochure
- Empower child/teen victims to leave their exploiter and utilize opportunities to regain control of their future and life;
- Ensure victims' physical and psychological safety;
- Ensure victims' access to resources and services, including: medical care, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, educational opportunities, job skills training, mentors/advocates, and more;
- Enforce offender accountability by apprehending and prosecuting adults who exploit youth; and
- Address the larger social issues impacting at-risk youth.
- A Multidisciplinary response
- Centralized referral mechanism
- Identification of a team point person: The SEEN Case Coordinator
- Ability to respond quickly
- Coordinated communication among providers
- Provider accountability
- Outreach and education
- Tracking of referrals and outcomes
What is Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)?
- Sexual abuse and remuneration in money, goods, or services, or the promise of money, goods, or services;
- Defined by an element of organization and/or intent, and/or the context of the commercial sex industry;
- The child is treated as a commercial and sexual object;
- CSEC is a form of violence against children.
- Street prostitution
- Erotic/nude massage
- Escort services
- Phone sex lines
- Private parties
- Gang-based prostitution
- Interfamilial pimping
- Forms of Internet-based exploitation
Indicators of Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSEC)
- Multiple reports of running away with no explanation as to whereabouts or running out of state;
- Unexplained absences from school for a period of time;
- New clothes or accessories with no explanation;
- Large amounts of money with no explanation as to how obtained;
- Receiving phone calls from older males;
- Sexual activity;
- History of sexually transmitted diseases;
- Police reports of child located in areas known for prostitution;
- Journals of child documenting exploitative activity;
- Sudden changes in behavior; and
- Excessive Internet activity.
- Injuries from beatings or weapons;
- Brands or scarring indicating ownership (such as tattoos);
- Indications of drug or alcohol use; and
- Emotional instability.
How to spot signs of CSEC: Red Flags
- Visible signs of abuse;
- A change in physical appearance;
- Tattoos without explanation;
- Unexplainable absences from home or residential program;
- Multiple pagers and/or cell phones;
- Using language from "the Life";
- Involvement with a male who is older, controlling, has a street name, gives her cash;
- A history of multiple sexually transmitted infections and/or pregnancies;
- Frequent truancy from school;
- Interest in pornography or other parts of the sex industry;
- New friends;
- Disconnection from her family or other caregivers; and
- Loss of interest in age appropriate activities.
*Information adapted from Girls Education and Mentoring Services (G.E.M.S) and the My Life My Choice Project of The Home for Little Wanderers
GUIDE TO RESPONDING TO EXPLOITED YOUTH
What to look for?
- Step 1: Any youth who discloses or raises concern that he/she may be trading sex for shelter, food, money, drugs, etc. Risk factors or signs may include: frequent running away, has new clothes or accessories with no explanation, has been associated with a known pimp or prostitute, has been located in an area known for prostitution has scars or "branding"(i.e. tattoos/pimps name).
What to do?
- Step 2: File a report of suspected child abuse with DCF (51A). If you are not a mandated reporter, you can file a 51A or contact the SEEN Case Coordinator directly.
What will happen?
- Step 4: DCF will likely screen-out the report and make a discretionary DA referral. If there are also protective concerns with the child's caretaker, the report may be screened in for an investigation.
- Step 5: The DA referral will be sent to the SEEN Case Coordinator.
- Step 6: The SEEN Case Coordinator will contact by phone or email each provider connected to the child and convene a Team conference call (ideally within 48 hours of receiving the referral).
What will my involvement be?
- Step 7: During the conference call, each Team member will share what he/she knows about the child's experience of exploitation, including (if known) level of involvement, nature of recruitment, connection to the perpetrator and stage of recovery.
- Step 8: The call will result in "action steps"in the following areas: shelter/placement, interpersonal support, mental health care, medical/health care, criminal investigation of the alleged perpetrator and perpetrator lethality. Follow-up steps in each area will be articulated and a Team member will be identified as the person responsible for executing these steps.
- Step 9: The Case Coordinator will facilitate ongoing communication among the Team, primarily via email. Team members will forward updates or changes to the MDT plan to the Case Coordinator who will then inform the rest of the Team.
Why is this process necessary?
Sexually exploited youth have a variety of needs – that no one agency or discipline can meet. This Team response ensures (1) each victim will have access to the programs and services of the SEEN partnership (over 35 agencies in Boston region), (2) no victim is further victimized by the system and a lack of proper communication and coordination, and (3) pimps and other offenders are held accountable.
SEEN Partners/ Local Resources
Boston Police Department Human Trafficking Unit
Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Chelsea Police Department
Children's Advocacy Center of Suffolk County
MA Department of Children & Families
Child-At-Risk Hotline 800.792.5200
MA Department of Youth Services
My Life My Choice/Justice Resource Institute
Revere Police Department
Winthrop Police Department
Youth Advocacy Project
A Future Not a Past; Atlanta GA
Children of the Night; Van Nuys CA
Hotline: 800.551.1300 ~ Main: 818.908. 4474
Girls Education and Mentoring Services (G.E.M.S); New York NY
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
24hour Hotline 800.843. 5678
Polaris Project; Washington DC
Shared Hope International; Vancouver WA
Elizabeth Bouchard, SEEN Case Coordinator