Youth Education

Making The Grade: Measuring the Impact of Our Youth Empowerment Program

Our Youth Against Child Trafficking (Y-ACT) Program is designed to educate, empower and develop the leadership skills of young people. Through our workshops, students learn about the  facts, misconceptions and risks of trafficking and are given the tools needed to identify the warning signs and resources to protect themselves and their peers. Y-ACT empowers youth to be the voices of their communities who are advocating against the commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.

In order to assess the impact of the Y-ACT program pre and post testing is used to examine the net change in overall comprehension and understanding of the material. Recently, we analyzed student responses from these tests from the 2017-2018 academic year and compiled them into a new report.  The program reached 2,187 students in public and private schools throughout NYC.   

The report shows students have a 23% increase in an understanding of child sex trafficking.  Alongside this increase in understanding, students shared how the workshop impacts their lives.  One student said “I liked how we learned something so severe is going on. Sex trafficking is a serious problem that can happen to anyone including me.”  The report highlights that students believe these programs are useful in their lives as 83% of students say they will use information from the healthy relationships workshop in their personal lives.  It is not only students that believe the program is useful, but teachers as well. Ninety-three percent of teachers said the child trafficking workshop was “extremely useful” for their students.

The 2017-2018 impact report highlights the increase in knowledge, awareness, and desire to learn more from the workshops.  But one student’s comments highlights what this program is all about. This student wrote, “today's lesson was really interesting and made me interested in this kind of topic. I wasn’t thinking about this kind of issue before.  I wasn’t paying attention but now I will and I’m interested. I want to hear more; I want to know more.” YACT has been a catalyst for this student and thousands of others to understand and advocate on the issue of child sex trafficking.

Is Grooming Teenagers for Prostitution “On-brand” for Teen Vogue?

At ECPAT-USA we teach youth through our in-school programming about how to avoid being groomed by traffickers who are always seeking new individuals to feed into the sex trade. Traffickers and pimps tell enticing stories to young people - many of whom are vulnerable because of their life histories of abuse and neglect. These stories involve the love and care the trafficker says he will bestow, and the great riches and success in store for young people if they just follow his lead. It is, of course, all lies and all manipulation that takes advantage of the youth and naïveté of young people who aren’t able to recognize a “recruitment conversation” when they hear one.  And now we have Teen Vogue helping the pimps.

The child exploitation grooming process is pretty well documented by now, and increasingly, the systems that need to know how to protect children from sexual exploitation are all on board.  Social workers, foster parents, criminal justice agents, health care workers and others have learned how traffickers use exploitative processes to lure their victims and passing on that information to those who are the most vulnerable to such tactics.

Not the editors of Teen Vogue. In a recent op-ed, space was given in their magazine to help out the pimps and traffickers by amplifying the message that these exploiters use to recruit teenagers.  The piece included language such as “purchasing intimacy and paying for the services can be affirming for many people,” which will only help lay the groundwork for pimps and traffickers trolling the internet, shopping malls or the streets to find homeless, sexually abused, LGBTQ or foster care youth.

As many survivors have attested, they were not empowered and they were not strengthened by being in the sex trade. Many were recruited well before they were 18 years old and their bodies were controlled by pimps and buyers. They suffered physical and mental abuse that affects them for years afterward.    

The retrograde and irresponsible message in the piece - from a magazine aimed at a teen audience - is that selling your body as a commodity to the highest bidder is something to be glorified and supported.  This message has already been communicated by the fashion industry - so maybe it is completely on-brand for Teen Vogue.  


Close Call in Park Slope Reminds Us: #AnyKidAnySchool

Just a week ago, ECPAT-USA released its new Public Service Announcement, Any Kid Any School, which highlights the importance of teaching children to be savvy and vigilant in the face of the pervasive reality of child trafficking. Within days, an incident occurred just a short distance away from ECPAT’s headquarters, drawing media attention to this issue.

This past Wednesday, the New York Daily News reported on an attempted abduction of a teenage girl in Park Slope, a quiet neighborhood in Brooklyn. According to the girl’s mother, speaking to ABC News the following day, her daughter was walking alone when a couple pulled up beside her in a Jeep. The woman called out to her, saying, “Hi, I really love your dress. Where did you get it? I would like to get one myself.” When the girl stopped to answer politely, the man in the Jeep jumped out and grabbed her, trying to drag her into the car. Fortunately, the girl was able to break free and run away.

As a parent in the area, I can attest to how shaken the community is by this event. Within hours of the incident, my child’s school sent out safety warnings, encouraging parents to speak with their kids about what to do if approached by a stranger and presenting guidelines on how to help them cope with the anxiety of knowing this happened in their neighborhood.

However, it is vital to remember that for all the media attention this incident has received, the vast majority of child trafficking doesn’t take the form of forced abduction. Far more commonly, traffickers target vulnerable children and employ insidious methods of psychological and emotional manipulation. Those methods may involve flattery and sweet-talk—which was indeed a factor in this recent incident—as well as promises of love or money, threats, and isolation from their communities. Because most incidents don’t involve public displays of violence, and because they often target underserved populations, they don’t typically receive media attention. For example, in 2016, several local media outlets reported on girls who had gone missing from lower-income neighborhoods in the Bronx. However, it wasn’t until twelve young girls had gone missing over the course of two years that the media began to report on the issue.

 
It is vital to remember that for all the media attention this incident has received, the vast majority of child trafficking doesn’t take the form of forced abduction.
 

Even here, in New York City, it can be easy to fall into a “That could never happen here” mindset. Unfortunately, it can happen anywhere—to any kid, at any school. ECPAT’s mission is to create a world in which no child is bought, sold, or used for sex. Part of that mission involves training young people to be leaders within their own communities, to help stop trafficking at the source. If you haven’t already done so, please take the time to view our PSA, and share it through social media within your own community.

Trafficking Hidden in Plain Sight

Trafficking Hidden in Plain Sight: New PSA Shows What We Fail to See

ECPAT-USA Releases Public Service Announcement “Any Kid Any School” Kicking Off Campaign Empowering Youth to Identify Trafficking

Today EPCAT-USA launched "Any Kid Any School," a Public Service Announcement and campaign that aims to educate and mobilize students, parents, and communities to take action against child sex trafficking in the United States. This powerful PSA sends the message that trafficking can happen anywhere, to any child at any school.

According to ECPAT-USA Executive Director Carol Smolenski, "This is not just a problem in other countries. American children are sex trafficked right here in the United States and we must equip our youth with knowledge and skills so they stay safe. We want to train our young people to become the next generation of empowered activists. We want theirs to be the generation that finally ends child sex trafficking for good."

The United States Department of Education reports that school-age youth are at risk for trafficking, and may be recruited through social media websites or after-school programs, at shopping malls and bus stations, in clubs, or through friends or acquaintances who recruit students on school campuses. High schoolers are not the only minors at risk—pimps and traffickers may prey on children as young as nine years old. 

"Any Kid Any School" highlights the urgent and ongoing need for all individuals, and especially young people, to recognize the signs of trafficking. In response, ECPAT-USA manages a Y-ACT (Youth Against Child Trafficking) program, in which middle and high school students are told the facts, misconceptions, and risks of trafficking. Armed with the tools to identify the warning signs and proper resources to protect themselves and their peers, these young people become advocates for anti-human trafficking efforts in their own communities.

This project was generously funded by Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, and produced in collaboration with BRIC Media Arts, the leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn. ECPAT-USA's Carla Licavoli served as Creative Director and Producer for "Any Kid Any School," with Janai Smith, also of ECPAT-USA, serving as Youth Manager and Producer. The film's Supervising Producer was Tony Horn of BRIC Media Arts, with Shaun Seneviratne directing.

To watch the Public Service Announcement and learn more about the campaign, visit ecpatusa.org/anykidanyschool.

Join ECPAT-USA in Stopping Sex Trafficking Before It Starts This #GivingTuesday

In the past year, cases of sex trafficking have been reported in all 50 states in the U.S. So, for our #GivingTuesday campaign this year at ECPAT-USA, we wanted to focus on how we can stop these cases of sex trafficking from happening before they even start.

Our Youth Against Child Trafficking (Y-ACT) program is our largest prevention program. We believe that through empowering our primary stakeholders, America’s children, we will be able to stop child sex trafficking before it starts. Our youth program trains students to be the foremost advocates in their communities, educating them on the facts, misconceptions and risks of trafficking. Where there is education, there is prevention, and through Y-ACT, youth are able to use their voice and knowledge to educate and empower others about the issue.

“I don’t know if I can stress how lucky I feel to have been a part of the Y-ACT program,” said Ryan Onodera, a Teaching Fellow at a New York school who implemented the Y-ACT program in his classroom last year.  “I feel more aware and more appreciative of what I have.”

At the end of the 10-week program, Onodera’s students spent a few hours in a local park educating the public about the risks of sex trafficking in their community. He said that when the students approached an individual who didn’t speak English, they started translating what they had learned into Spanish.

“Some of my students, in class you see them and they can have shy tendencies: they don’t want to talk to people, they don’t want to engage,” he said. “But then you get them out in the real world in real situations, and they really shine in unexpected ways.”

All of the donations received by ECPAT-USA on #GivingTuesday will be used to expand and improve our Y-ACT program. We’re hoping to raise $7500-enough to educate and empower 100 more students.

To donate to the campaign, click here.

To learn more about the Y-ACT program, including how to bring it to your school, click here.