For most, the holiday season brings “tidings of comfort and joy.” Yet for the thousands of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) in California, Christmas brings neither. While others celebrate "the most wonderful time of the year," these youth will continue to endure sexual and physical assault while suffering the dehumanizing trauma of being sold just like the other commercial transactions that peak in December.
The FBI identified the San Francisco Bay as one of 13 metropolitan areas in the country plagued by a high intensity of minors being sold for sex, one of the most severe forms of human trafficking according to the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Oakland’s WestCoast Children’s Clinic reported that 70% of them have experienced multiple episodes of maltreatment as children, including sexual and physical abuse, neglect, and family violence. 60% were first exploited before 14 years old and some were first sold in the local area as young as 10.
The acclaimed non-profit Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting, and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth (M.I.S.S.S.E.Y.), which serves these children in Alameda County, reports that 65% of them have been arrested for their victimization. The Alameda County District Attorney Office’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking (H.E.A.T.) Watch Program reports that “almost all” youth at risk of or being commercially sexually exploited “are currently involved in the probation and foster care systems.”
The California Child Welfare Council 2013 Ending the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Report emphasized the importance of caring and nurturing adults in both the intervention and recovery phases of separating CSEC from exploitation and their long-term success.
In its recommendations section, the report stated, “CSEC survivors who have successfully left their exploitative relationship often point to the emotional connections and trusting relationships they built with caring adults as significant factors in their recovery. In contrast, CSEC survivors identify significant difficulties with living in group homes. For example, in those placements, no one caregiver looks out for their well-being.”
Listed below are just a few of the many exemplary organizations whose work serves those affected by commercial sexual exploitation and offer mentoring, tutoring, outreach, and other programs that will let you bring tidings of comfort and joy to the vulnerable and victimized. This Christmas, you can decide to give a gift that can’t be purchased—life—to those who are being purchased.
Alameda County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
Love Never Fails
Help One Child
SafeHouse San Francisco
The SAGE (Standing Against Global Exploitation) Project
BAWAR (Bay Area Women Against Rape)
Allen Temple Baptist Streets Disciples
Alameda County Foster Adoption and Parenting