Introducing our 2018/2019 Grant Partner: Saving Innocence
Amber Davies, Senior Director of Clinical Programs for Saving Innocence, is very familiar with statistics such as these. Saving Innocence has been advocating for children victimized by the sex trafficking industry in Los Angeles since 2010. Over the years, the foundation has provided services for 784 children who have been trafficked and has impacted 946 individuals through prevention and intervention workshops. In 2017, it administered care to 324 Los Angeles County youth and expects to serve another 300 to 400 in 2018. In addition, Saving Innocence has supplied training and technical assistance to eight states. Dressember is thrilled to be partnering with Saving Innocence by contributing funds for front line services to help rescue young survivors and provide resources to help them heal.
Born from founder Kim Biddle’s horror that children were being arrested for prostitution, Saving Innocence has worked with STAR Court, (Succeeding Through Achievement and Resilience), since 2012, and is the only agency supporting trafficking victims to be approved for First Responder Protocol.
“There is no such thing as child, teenage or underage prostitution.”
"It was common for kids to be arrested for prostitution and the john would be let go with a citation, if that," says Davies. (A john is someone who patronizes a prostitute.) “The law in California just changed in 2017. We are no longer arresting children. We no longer even talk about children as prostitutes. There is no such thing as child, teenage or underage prostitution. It is referred to as CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children).”
The 2018 Dressember grant will allow Saving Innocence to hire more case managers, each one of which can offer rescue and restoration services to approximately 25 young survivors at a time. Case managers respond within 90 minutes of a crisis call - 200 such calls are expected this year. They work with law enforcement and social workers to develop a plan and secure placement for the child. They make sure his or her material needs are being met and that the child feels safe.“Rapport is built in the first seventy-two hours,” according to Davies, and then the case manager meets weekly with the youth to support him or her and make sure the child’s voice is being heard.
“Sometimes the social workers are making decisions based on what they normally do, and they don’t necessarily take into consideration that this child is afraid of her trafficker,” Davies says. "When these children have been so highly traumatized, we have to make sure that we are working really hard at building trust with them again. That's no small feat because they don't really trust anybody."
Case managers also advocate for the youth in court, where it’s especially important to keep the child’s needs at the forefront. Often, the victim is afraid to face his or her exploiter and needs a supportive presence. Case managers often intervene when the trafficker uses intimidation tactics in the courtroom.“We’ve had kids who don’t want to be in normal clothes, because they don’t want the exploiter to think they are there willingly. They would rather be in jail clothes or juvenile hall clothes. There are nuances and complexities to some of these relationships and issues.” Saving Innocence also assists the children in setting goals and learning how to rebuild their lives and rebuild connections. Graduations, birthdays and other milestones are celebrated, and survivors often keep in touch with the case workers even after their cases have been closed.
Dealing with such terrible situations every day can lead to vicarious trauma, and Saving Innocence is careful to extend care to its employees, as well. Training, paid time-off and assistance with mental health treatment are provided.
According to Davies, being a part of such a close group of people with the same goal is very important for remaining mentally and emotionally strong. “We have a really tight team and we support each other. This [human trafficking] is a part of our society and we want to be a part of the solution.”
Over the years, the foundation has provided services for 784 children who have been trafficked and has impacted 946 individuals through prevention and intervention workshops. In 2017, it administered care to 324 Los Angeles County youth and expects to serve another 300 to 400 in 2018.
As a Dressember advocate, your participation directly supports organizations like Saving Innocence, which make it possible for survivors of human trafficking to recover and lead meaningful lives. "It's about the kids,” Davies says. “This week, for example, there was a child trafficked in Texas and it was going to take weeks for funding to be approved. As a nonprofit, we're able to fill in those gaps. We were able to reunite her [with her family] within 12 hours of being picked up. We act as a part of a team,” she continues. “We couldn't do it without all of our partners. We can do some of the crisis response, but it's going to take everybody to really fight the cultural aspects of it. It's the undervaluing of women, which is why we're so excited about the Dressember partnership."
Davies and her team are true heroes, and we owe them a great deal of thanks for the work they do. Please consider putting on your own superhero cape, (or dress), by registering for the Dressember 2018 campaign.
“Join us in being part of the solution. Join us in saving lives.”
Raise your voice against slavery this December!
Commit to wearing a dress or tie every day in December. You'll challenge yourself, expand your knowledge on modern slavery, and be equipped to lead your community in the fight to end human trafficking. Registration is open for Dressember 2018 and fundraising has already started! Be a part of the impact for our local and global partners by creating your campaign page today!
About the Author
Jeanette Bouchie is an adult services librarian at the Vigo County Public Library, where she has worked for 18 years. She is also a freelance writer and is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Dressember to increase awareness of human trafficking. She also enjoys reading, tap dancing, traveling, getting dressed up, and attending the occasional comic con.