YAKIMA, Wash. — Child sex trafficking task forces across the state are learning a common set of terminology and practices at a series of workshops during April and May.
The Center for Children and Youth Justice, a Seattle-based child welfare organization, is offering training for police, social workers and school officials who participate in task forces designed to combat domestic sex trafficking of minors in communities throughout the state.
Called Project Respect, the trainings aim to establish a common protocol for how to recognize and respond to kids who might be victims of the sex trade. Among them are to treat the children as victims not suspects, take them to shelters instead of jail and make resources available to them, the center said in a news release.
Law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, legislators, social workers and others teamed up to devise the protocol during meetings last year.
A training in Yakima is scheduled for May 29. Other communities hosting trainings are King County, Spokane, Whatcom and Skagit counties and the Tri-Cities.
One of the major themes is to change perceptions so that society views children caught in prostitution as victims, not criminals.
“Children and youth don’t choose prostitution,” said Terri Kimball, manager of Project Respect. “They are the victims of manipulative adults. Yet, law enforcement, the courts and society often fail to recognize that they have been coerced into prostitution and respond to them as criminals.”
Local experts say such prostitution is often linked to street gangs.
Advocate groups rate Washington’s laws against human trafficking as among the toughest nationally.