We so often are asked about the crisis process at when we are called out to work with a youth. ...
In the last two weeks 8 children have been freed from sex trafficking and given a chance at life! Our victim specialist responded to each call from law enforcement in the middle of the night, within an hour of receiving the information. With Freedom Bags in hand, our staff took incredible time to stabilize and comfort each child individually. Their ages ranged between 13-17 years old. All of the children were American born and from Southern California.
One of the children, Tessa*, was in junior high school at the time and was basically raising herself at home. Love, attention, clothing and food – all basic needs of every child – were not provided to her by her family. Then one day the trafficker (in his 30s) approached her while walking to a store in her neighborhood, posing as a guy in his early 20s, who thought she was “sexy” and “worthy of attention”. Over the next couple of weeks he wooed her, grooming her with his charm, promising her a great life filled with love, protection, a shopping spree, and the opportunity to never feel alone again.
When this child was rescued, she was broken, angry, confused and shut down. She had bruises and burns all over her body and hadn’t slept in days. Yet, she did not know herself to be a victim, believing her trafficker was her boyfriend (who also happened to be abusive, forcing her to sell her body to 5-10 strange men every day “to pay the bills.”) Using her defense mechanisms, she put up emotional walls, displaying a “tough girl attitude” with the police, not trusting that they were out for her good.
But when Saving Innocence specialized victim advocates responded, sat down with her, gave her a blanket and some food, and looked her in her eyes to really listen to her story, she opened up. She revealed her history of abuse and neglect, and began sharing her story of how life with her trafficker had spiraled out of control. She felt like she loved him, but was terrified of him, and didn’t believe there was any way out of her situation without him killing her. Because our advocates demonstrated we cared about how she was and how to help her, she felt safe enough to reveal critical information that lead to a safety plan for herself, and enough evidence to arrest the trafficker to get him off our streets – making our neighborhoods safer for us all.
The First Responder collaborative model is working in Los Angeles, and working at an extremely high success rate. Partnering with Long Beach Police Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Probation Department, and the Department of Children and Family Services has changed the game for those who are trafficking children in Los Angeles. With our outlined partnerships and county policies in place, we have created a strategic system to find the children, dispatch specialized victim responders, and collaborate with DCFS and Probation to determine safe long-term rehabilitation.
Over the past couple of years we have helped 216 children, and with the First Responder program we are needing to provide crisis response at an increasing rate every week! Please do what you can and donate today so that we can continue our work, and more lives can be saved.
*Names of victims have been changed to protect their identity