Providing Victim Assistance

Operation Cross Country VIII

June 23, 2014

The Portland FBI Child Exploitation Task Force recovered one minor and made contact with 20 adult prostitutes during the recent Operation Cross Country undercover operation. For many that might seem like the end of the storybut for the victim specialists, that initial meeting with the sex trafficking survivor is only the beginning of what can be a long relationship.

“They may be adults now—but most of them entered this life as a young teen. Over the years, they have been unable to break the cycle of violence and abuse on their own. We want them to know that we are here and ready to help them if they are willing to take the first step toward a better life,” says Erin Ludwig, a Portland Division FBI Victim Specialist.

FBI special agents and local police officers hold a briefing in motel parking lot during an Operation Cross Country undercover operation in 2014.

Operation Cross Country VIII involved a series of child sex trafficking stings run by FBI task forces and local partners in 106 cities across the U.S. in June 2014. Across the nation, the FBI and its partners recovered more than 160 children during this week-long law enforcement action. Once agents or officers “recover” a child, victim specialists surround that girl with a network of services in an effort to help her escape a life of abuse and violence. Adult prostitutes are also offered the option of receiving victim services.

“We need to remember that these victims are vulnerable—that’s why they were exploitation targets in the first place. Fear of retaliation, fear of what people will think of them, and fear of violence have kept them in abusive situations,” says Shannon Meyer, a Portland Division FBI Victim Specialist.

FBI Victim Specialists team up with their counterparts in local police departments as well as social service providers in the area. Together, they immediately offer the victim items to meet her basic needs, including food, clothing, and shelter.

Over time, they can provide her access to counseling, mental health services, medical assistance, long-term housing, and advocacy resources.

“Victims of violence are resilient when given the tools they need. When agencies work together, we have a better chance of meeting those needs,” says Victim Specialist Ludwig.

The full list of Operation Cross Country victim service providers includes:

  • LifeWorks NW
  • Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC)
  • Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS)
  • Beaverton Police Department Victim Services
  • Multnomah County Department of Human Service/Child Protective Services
  • Multnomah County Department of Community Justice
  • Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office Victim Services
  • Washington County Department of Human Services/Child Protective Services
  • Washington County Juvenile Department
  • Lane County Department of Youth Services
  • Lane County District Attorney’s Office of Victim Services
  • Lane County Department of Human Services/Child Protective Services
  • United States Attorney’s Office Victim Assistance Program
  • FBI’s Office of Victim Assistance

The FBI has more than 150 trained victim specialists working throughout the United States, providing crisis intervention, information, and services to victims. In FY 2013, they assisted more than 95,000 victims and provided more than 250,000 assistance services to victims.