The Gevirtz School will host the training “Sexual Trauma & Exploitation of Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Involved Youth” on Monday, August 31 from 10 am – 12 noon in Education Building 1201 on the UC Santa Barbara campus. The training will identify efforts and demographic information in Santa Barbara County related to victims of sexual exploitation. It will cover the physiological/emotional effects of early childhood traumas, tactics used by perpetrators, specific risk factors, role of social media, as well as focusing on a biopsychosocial approach to prevention, intervention, and restoration.
Hosted by Dr. Jill Sharkey, the training will be led by Lisa Conn and Dr. Carrick Adam. Conn, Supervisor of Juvenile Justice and Mental Health Services, and Adam, a pediatrician, treat youth at the Santa Maria Juvenile Hall and see first hand the effects of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) on the survivors. They have partnered with Dr. Jill Sharkey from UCSB’s Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology, who consults with Santa Barbara County Probation on their efforts to improve services to girls on probation.
Santa Barbara County is tackling the issue of Human Trafficking, particularly the sexual trafficking of children or commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). California ranks as one of the top four U.S. human trafficking destinations and the Central Coast is a natural transit corridor between larger metropolitan areas. Although consistent data are only beginning to be tracked, an examination of the issues found that there are hundreds of survivors of such exploitation in our County, even among children who were born and raised here.
In recognition of the significant problem of human trafficking in Santa Barbara County, the County District Attorney’s Office formed a Human Trafficking Task Force to assess the scope of the problem locally, offer training, develop protocols, and improve response. Thanks to a grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation, a needs assessment of domestic child sex trafficking was conducted by Kary O’Brien, Kyli Larson, Erika Felix, and Megan Rheinschild. Results revealed that between 2012-2014, 45 unique confirmed child survivors were trafficked in Santa Barbara County, with an additional 80 suspected child survivors and 461 children who are “highly vulnerable” to being sexually trafficked. At the time of the needs assessment, no agencies or organizations in Santa Barbara County had a formal agency protocol to address the crime or help the victims, who have experienced severe trauma and need intensive therapy and wraparound services.
Although there is not currently dedicated funding to address domestic commercial child sex exploitation, initial steps have been made by community leaders: 1) The District Attorney’s Office and Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department applied for a $1.5 million grant (over 3 years) to fund services for victims and investigate cases; without this grant service needs can rely only on volunteers. 2) The County successfully prosecuted its first case against a sex trafficker, Brannon Lawrence Pitcher, who received a 38-years to life sentence. 3) Exploitation Prevention Coordinator Kyli Larson with Uffizi Order has been leading volunteer groups to educate hotel and motel groups on the problem. 4) Commitment and recognition from our The District Attorney’s Office has ensured that a child who someone pays to have sex with cannot be charged with prostitution as children cannot consent to sex so they cannot prostitute. 5) The District Attorney’s Office has started a CSEC court for victims of CSEC who have also been in trouble with stealing, drugs/alcohol, runaway, truancy, etc.