Any discussion of immediate needs for victims of sex trafficking must include the topic of law enforcement training. There can be a wide gap between the young person labeled teen prostitute and the police.
The initial exchange between a child or teen victim and an officer sets the tone for all subsequent interactions between the minor and other law enforcement, advocates, and social service providers. Without receiving compassion or empathy from the police, a child may come to view anyone involved in his or her case with contempt and distrust, thereby compromising the child’s openness towards after-care services.
Proper and thorough training for all levels of law enforcement is the best way to prevent any initial mistreatment to or misunderstanding with a child victim. This training must include the perspective of a survivor of child sex trafficking, as well as survivors of other forms of human trafficking. An officer must know that, even if a potential child or teen victim presents as uncooperative or belligerent, the officer must respond with discipline not discrimination.
Learn more at Holly Austin Smith’s Washington Times article: Law enforcement training: The missing service for victims of human trafficking.