Ensuring Commercially Sexually Exploited Children are treated as victims, not criminals
Hundreds of children and youth are forced into prostitution every day in our state. Most come from homes where they were physically or sexually abused. Vulnerable, alone, and often homeless, they are lured into prostitution by adults who promise them shelter and safety, love and acceptance, only to prey on their fragility and youth.
CCYJ believes these victimized youth need help and compassion, not arrest, incarceration, and a return to the streets. That’s why we initiated Project Respect–to ensure that commercially sexually exploited children are not criminalized in addition to being victimized and traumatized. To achieve this goal, Project Respect coordinates the implementation of the Washington State Model Protocol for CSEC, developed alongside over 200 partners across the state.
Eight regional task-forces throughout Washington, in Clark, King, Spokane, Yakima, and Whatcom Counties, as well as the Tri-Cities region, have already implemented the Model Protocol – and we are working with stakeholders in four additional counties toward implementation. The protocol fundamentally shifts the relationship between the justice system and youth – decreasing arrests of victimized youth, reducing the number of youth who are forced to return to prostitution, and increasing the prosecution of exploiters.
We are building a statewide, coordinated, and victim-centered response to commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC)—identifying, engaging, and helping them to recover from the exploitation and coercion they have endured. We—along with hundreds of partners across the state–are improving the lives of Washington’s youth. What is more, the Washington State Model Protocol for CSEC, developed by Project Respect and its partners, is increasingly recognized nationally as a model for engaging professionals in a trauma-informed response to this vulnerable population.