A new statewide protocol in the state of Washington aims to bring consistency to dealing with underage victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Drafted by the Center for Children & Youth Justice, the protocol is one of the first of its kind in the nation. The Tri-Cities, through its Tri-Cities Coalition Against Trafficking task force, is one of five cities and counties statewide where task forces are being trained to use the protocol.
The protocol focuses on dealing with and providing resources to underage children who are sexually exploited. The protocol’s key goals include establishing standards for “first responders,” the people who first make contact with the victims, so they can better identify the problem, provide resources and get victims to a safe location and training and educating the different task forces in the state to make sure they are pooling resources.
“This is the first (protocol) around our state that has our credibility because they reached out to people who were involved,” said Linda Smith, former congresswoman and president of Shared Hope International. The nonprofit’s main focus is ending sex trafficking. “They didn’t do this in a vacuum. They went to community after community and they listened,” said Smith.
“Washington is taking on a huge change,” she said. “If you think about coming here to buy commercial sex, we are going to get you and put you in jail.”