By Ellyn Bell and Minouche Kandel
Many people know that the Bay Area is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US. What most people do not know is that the FBI ranks the Bay Area as one of the worst 13 areas in the country for child sex trafficking.
Many of these children have been abused or neglected, and the majority have involvement with the child welfare or juvenile justice systems. Lesbian, gay, and transgender youth are more likely to have engaged in commercial sexual activity, in part due to homophobic home lives that pushed them onto the street.
Some youth may not have a pimp, and engage in "survival sex" to meet their basic needs. Sex work can be a dangerous occupation, often resulting in serious trauma. This is particularly true for persons who enter into sex work before the age of 18.
by Ellyn Bell
The words child and prostitute should never be used together in the same sentence, at least and certainly not in the context of the word “child” modifying the word “prostitute”.
But altogether too often, and of recent, we have seen these two words together. And although they have caused a reaction in many, that reaction has been difficult to fully comprehend. [Click here, here, and here for examples].
This is because the underlying assumptions are completely lacking clarity, and we have no common understanding of the root of the problem. On one hand, we know that by law, those who are under the age of 18 are in most states considered “children” and legally cannot consent to their own exploitation sexually.
On the other hand, it’s complicated. While some youth are being forced into the sex trade, many others believe that they are choosing their lifestyle—and for all practical purposes they may be. But our sympathy as a society wanes when we hear this type of thing and it doesn’t make for a good story.
The SAGE Project’s mission is to improve the lives of persons who have experienced or are at risk of sexual exploitation, human trafficking, violence and other forms of trauma.
SAGE provides comprehensive trauma-informed and healing services which include:
- Peer Counseling
- Case Management
- Mental Health Therapy
- Psycho-Social, Life Skills and Process Groups
- Harm-Reduction Focused Substance Use Counseling
- Acupuncture and other Holistic Healing Services
- First Offender Program/Restorative Justice for Buyers Program
The SAGE Project also seeks to affect larger societal change through advocacy and training, increasing public awareness and providing the tools needed to engage the local, national, and international communities around issues of sexual exploitation, human trafficking and trauma.