it starts with youth
PLAYGROUND continues to be a powerful tool and is still used by organizations such as the American Bar Association as part of workshops and trainings, but over the years, our team noted major gaps in prevention education and a lack of resources for teachers, parents, and caregivers who want to support the children in their lives.
THE NEED FOR PREVENTION EDUCATION
According to a study by Portland State University Professor, Chris Carey, between 2009 and 2013, the average age of sex trafficking victims in Portland was 15.5. The youngest victim was just 8 years old . The Dallas Women’s Foundation reports that more girls are commercially sexually exploited in one month in Texas than there are teen girls who die by suicide, homicide, and accidents combined in one year. While an absence of research means that we don’t know the exact number of trafficked children in the United States, the CDC reports that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18, creating greater vulnerability for further exploitation.
Add to these startling statistics that sexting, sextortion, and sexual assault are on the rise and the urgent need to act is clear. Children increasingly find themselves in vulnerable situations, often fearful of imagined repercussions of seeking help. Caregivers and educators may lack the training to identify signs of sexual exploitation or to respond to at-risk children in trauma-informed ways. The result? Our kids are more often penalized than protected.
Perpetrators and traffickers count on the absence of education about healthy sexuality. They use disguises online with impunity, confident that our kids miscalculate the safety of their digital worlds. They exploit emotional vulnerability among our teens. Their threats to expose, violate, bully or otherwise harm our kids work because many young people believe offenders when they say they have no choice.
Nest Curricula (The Nest Program for the Right to Healthy Relationships and the Nest Program for the Right to Safe Childhood) are powerful counterforces to these trends. At their heart are instructional materials designed to address the very gaps in knowledge and skills that traffickers and perpetrators exploit. Recognizing the importance of evidence and evaluation, Nest works closely with researchers from the RISE team at New York University. Located in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, members of the RISE team have deep expertise in developing, implementing, and evaluating innovative approaches to prevention and intervention with youth.