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Forum to Address Commercially Sexually Exploited Children in Santa Clara County

Testimonies from Experts to Educate, Support Local Sexual Assault Awareness Month Efforts
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Today, the Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women and the Office of Women’s Policy is hosting a public forum on Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) in Santa Clara County.  The forum will take place today at 6:00 p.m., at the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors Chambers, 70 West Hedding Street, San Jose.
“It is unconscionable that every day children in our own communities are targets of crime. Commercial sexual exploitation is one of the most abhorrent and appalling crimes,” said President Mike Wasserman, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors and Chair of the Board’s Public Safety and Justice Committee.  “I encourage everyone to learn how to share responsibility for the safety and well-being of these young people.”   
The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that every day in the United States, including Santa Clara County, children and adolescents are victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.  According to the Institute for Medicine, estimates range from 1,400 to 2.4 million victims nationwide, although there is no true estimate of these crimes in the United States. 
“Many children who are sexually exploited have escaped unsafe home environments only to become victims of exploitation on the streets and in our neighborhoods,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Cindy Chavez, Chair of the Board’s Children, Seniors and Families Committee.  “We hope today’s forum is an eye opener, which motivates everyone to support agencies and organizations fighting this crime and bringing offenders to justice.” 
Because predominantly the victims that have been identified in Santa Clara County are girls, the Commission on the Status of Women seeks expert testimony to better understand and address this challenging issue that threats families and communities.
“These are complex issues,” said Chairperson Guadalupe Rodriguez.  “Identification of victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, and any intervention, above all, should do no further harm to any child or adolescent. We need to work together to ensure victims are promptly assisted.”
Commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors refer to a range of crimes of a sexual nature committed against children and adolescents. They include:
·        Trafficking, which includes recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, and/or maintaining a minor for the purpose of sexual exploitation;
·        Exploiting a minor through prostitution;
·        Exploiting a minor through survival sex (exchanging sex/sexual acts for money or something of value [e.g., shelter, food, drugs]);
·        Using a minor in pornography;
·        Exploiting a minor through sex tourism, mail order bride trade, and early marriage; and
·        Exploiting a minor by having her or him perform in sexual venues (e.g., peep shows or strip clubs).
In Santa Clara County, children are predominately exploited through trafficking for purposes of prostitution, exploitation of a minor through prostitution, and survival sex.
Participants in today’s forum include representatives from local government agencies such as the District Attorney, Public Defender, Probation Department, Department of Family and Children Services and the San Jose Police Department, and representatives from local organizations, including Community Solutions and the Bill Wilson Center.
Free Public Parking is available at San Pedro and at the “C” lot across from County building, at First and Hedding Streets.
Since 1973 the SCC Commission on the Status of Women has advised the Board of Supervisors on all issues relating to women and girls. The Commission has supported the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking with County funding, and continues to track and advocate for the needs of local victims of human trafficking since.
Since 2005, the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking has coordinated the collaborative effort among local law enforcement, human trafficking victim services agencies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and other partners to identify and rescue victims of trafficking in persons and successfully prosecute traffickers in Santa Clara County.
In March 2011, a workgroup was established through the Coalition partners to explore the issue of commercially sexually exploited children in Santa Clara County. The workgroup organized a Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) training for over 100 participants, is developing multidisciplinary team meetings for CSEC, and is in the process of creating a law enforcement response protocol, among many other achievements.
On June 21, 2013, the Board of Supervisors approved $140,000 for the Santa Clara County CSEC Service Response Team. Starting this year, a one-year contract with Community Solutions, administered and monitored by the Office of Women’s Policy, is providing comprehensive case management, including immediate crisis intervention and long-term stability for CSEC victims. The documentation of efforts and outcomes for this pilot will also lead to a greater understanding of the realities of commercially sexually exploited children in Santa Clara County and serve to strengthen our county-wide response.
Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Marina Hinestrosa, Office of Public Affairs (408) 299-5119; Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, Carla Collins, SCC Office of Women’s Policy (408) 299-5142/5152
Posted:  April 14, 2014