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SEMRise / SEM Network

Children ensnared by prostitution generally fall between the ages of 12 and 17–although children as young as 11 have been identified. Sexually exploited youth experience extreme forms of violence, physical and emotional in nature, at the hands of their exploiters and "johns". It has been noted that this population of youth frequently–if not in most cases-- have a history of sexual and/or physical abuse prior to being serially exploited. In addition, many of them are foster youth who are very often fleeing group home situations. The youth generally come into contact with the public systems as either 300s – dependents, or 600s–juvenile offenders. After coming into the County system, few specialized services or targeted interventions exist to address the complex and overlapping needs that this population of young people presents. The situation is further exacerbated by the lack of community awareness and few (if any) consistent cross-system assessment protocols; intake procedures, case management practices, and transitional supports necessary to address the needs of minors victimized through commercial sexual exploitation and related trauma.

Topics

About Us and Current SEMRISE /Sexually Exploited Minors (SEM) Network Activities

  • Providers began working together informally in 2004–started exploring the possibility of forming a group.
  • November – December ′04 Alameda County DA and Oakland Police Department requested that a meeting be held to share information, resources, and referral links.
  • First official meeting held Feb 14, 2005; Network formed. (See list of members).
  • SEM Network convenes monthly.
  • Executive Committee formed as of May ′06; meets monthly.
  • In the process of acquiring 501-C3 status for SEM Network– renamed "SEMRISE".

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How long has the SEM Network been together?

  • Providers began working together informally in 2004–started exploring the possibility of forming a group.
  • November – December DA and OPD request that we meet to share information, resources, and referral links.
  • First official meeting held Feb 14, 2005.
  • Network convenes monthly.
  • Executive Committee formed as of May ′06; meets monthly.

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Key SEM Network Objectives

Currently we are a Network of Providers and Systems Partners who are focused on three main objectives.

The creation of:

  • A continuum of SEM specific services to meet the pressing needs of this population of youth.
  • The Safe Place Alternative (SPA) – providing a safe place for initializing services, making a connection with appropriate, caring adults, and to begin the healing process.
  • Safe House-- away from the immediate area and from the immediate reach of exploiters.

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Where are we now?

SPA

  • Developed the SPA Model (step by step approach, working in conjunction with the OPD C-Care SEM Advocates, Juvenile Probation, Social Services and other youth serving providers);currently being implemented at Family Justice Center.
  • Measure Y funds Awarded May ′06; additional resources being identified for expansion of service model.
  • Interface points identified/formalized protocols established and in process of being formalized. (OPD/Sweeps & Juvenile Desk, Probation/Juvenile Hall, SSA/Assessment Center, Other)

Safe House

  • City of Oakland provided "challenge grant" of $225,000 ; County has committed to a match.
  • Property identified; in negotiation.
  • Formal planning process to be implemented Fall ′06; Business plan completed April ′08.

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Other SEM Network Activities:

  • Providing referral linkages, support and information to San Francisco and Contra Costa Counties.
  • Developed Media Statement/ Media Strategy focused on community awareness & youth perspective; Public Service Announcement created with SSA Human Relations Commission.
  • Established annual "Open" (Public) meetings in October 2006 for purposes of information sharing and networking among youth serving providers and other interested parties.
  • Youth Peer Projects/events developed in partnership with UC Extension/4-H Leadership.
  • 4th Week of April Proclaimed Sexually Exploited Minors Week by Alameda Board of Supervisors. (3 years running, now an annual event).
  • SACEY/SPA* program funded by City of Oakland, Measure Y and in partnership with AC Family Justice Center; service delivery launched September, 2006. (SPA physical location: AC Family Justice Center, Oakland.

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Key Definitions to Be Aware of:

  • Child Sexual Exploitation

"A practice by which a person, usually an adult, achieves sexual gratification financial gain or advancement through the abuse of exploitation of a child′s sexuality""

–Estes & Weiner, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in U.S., Canada and Mexico, University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work Center for the Study of Youth Policy 2001, revised 2002.

By United Nations estimates, there are as many as 300,000 sexually exploited children and youth under the age of 18 within the United States alone.

"Child exploitation is the most hidden form of child abuse found in North America today. It is the Nation′s least recognized epidemic." –Richard J. Estes, University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Work, Center for the Study of Youth Policy 2001, revised 2002.

  • Commercial Sexual Exploitation

"Exploitation of children entirely, or primarily, for financial or other economic reasons...exchanges may be either monetary or non-monetary, in every case, involves maximum benefits to the exploiter and an abrogation of the basic human rights of the children involved." –Howard Davidson, Director ABA Center on Children and Law, Presentation: Making Principles in the U.N.′s Optional Protocol a US Reality, 6/20/02.

  • Child / Juvenile Prostitution

"This exchange is exploitive because it comes about in relationship of unequal economic, cognitive and psycho-social power..." –Mia Spangenberg, Prostituted Youth in New York City: An Overview, ECPAT-USA, 2001.

  • Child Sexual Abuse

"Sexual activity involving persons younger than 18 years of age..."

"Most often perpetrated by an adult, such activities includes rape and molestation, pornography, and exposure of children to the sexual acts of others."

–The National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, 1996.

Defining child victims of sexual human trafficking in the U.S.:
Under U.S. Federal law, any minor under the age of 18 that is used for the purpose of exploitation through sexual servitude, regardless of the absence of economic leverage, manipulation, fraud, coercion, threats, force and violence is considered a commercially sexually exploited child (CSEC) under the law.

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