DOJ Seeks to Improve Victim Services in Efforts to Combat Child Exploitation

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The U.S. Department of Justice released a report this week aimed at professionals who work with victims of sexual exploitation.

The U.S. Department of Justice released a report this week aimed at professionals who work with victims of sexual exploitation.

WASHINGTON — The federal government wants to develop better ways to ensure children who are victims of sexual exploitation get the care they need to heal and lead healthy, productive lives.

Professionals who work with those children need to understand risk factors for exploitation and how to address trauma in children who already have been exploited, the Department of Justice said in a report released Tuesday.

“The journey to health and recovery for victims of child exploitation does not end with the offender’s arrest. In fact, that is often just the beginning,” DOJ wrote in "The National Strategy on Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction."

The report includes a series of recommendations to improve quality and access to services for young victims, including:

  • better coordination between public and private partners that are helping children;
  • new guidance for the field;
  • funding for demonstration projects that can find best practices for helping children; and
  • the creation of a housing stability program for children who cannot return home or have aged out of foster care and do not have a place to go.

The recommendations are one piece of a larger report that looks at DOJ's existing efforts to combat child exploitation and assesses the threats currently facing children, such as child sex trafficking, child pornography and child sex tourism.

[Related: Sexual Exploitation Victims Urged to Come Forward, New Anti-trafficking Envoy Says]

The report “reaffirms our unwavering commitment to ensuring that every child in America is able to reach his or her potential, free of violence and abuse,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in a speech at the National Law Enforcement Conference on Child Exploitation on Tuesday.

The threat assessment, based on interviews with 1,000 investigators, law enforcement managers, prosecutors, analysts, victim service providers and others focuses on threats that have emerged since the last version of the report was introduced in 2010.

For example, the report said child sex trafficking has been affected by classified advertising websites such as Backpage.com and social networking sites that can be used to recruit children. The report also looks at evolving threats online, such as “sextorion,” in which offenders obtain an image of information from a child and coerce them into providing sexually explicit images, sexual favors or money.

DOJ is releasing a public service announcement that focuses on the issue of sextortion specifically. The PASA, made with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, directs individuals to report tips about suspected exploitation to www.cybertipline.org.

“No matter what form child exploitation takes – from the kind of sextortion we’ve described to the trafficking of children for sex – and no matter how technologically advanced it is – whether it’s hidden on anonymous networks, in the cloud, or behind a wall of encryption – it demands the full attention of law enforcement, policymakers, community leaders and  service providers alike,” Lynch said.

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