Victim Specialist Discusses Role Fighting Human Trafficking
When the FBI investigates crimes, federal law requires that we offer assistance and services to victims. Through our Office for Victim Assistance, the Bureau has approximately 130 victim specialists working in every FBI field office in the country, and many of them regularly deal with children who have been sexually exploited.
We don’t enter any victim’s life at a good time, whether it’s a bank robbery or a child exploitation case. We have the ability to come in and help them deal with the impact of the case. We can’t undo what happened. There’s nothing I can do to make that go away and pull it away from their memory and their current situation. What we can do is spend a ton of time giving them good wraparound services, connect them with community providers, helping them reunite with family, and rebuild from where they are. And up and onward. So we can't go back.
Our mandate is make sure victims are informed their rights, to inform them of the status of the case, kept appraised of any public hearing, public aspect of the case, any progress that’s going to be relevant to them, and that their coordinated service options are there for them.
Our job is to meet the victim where they are at. If the victim will accept a sexual assault exam, if she will go for STD testing, for counseling, even clothing. We give them what they are able to receive, we give them what the law allows and that’s where we have to leave it. When the victim is ready, they need to know that we are there and we’ll give it to them when they are ready.
But as long as they keep in touch with me, I know that somewhere down the road they are going to be ready for services, and we can connect them. And honestly, that’s all we can do, because you can’t want it more than someone else.
A lot of our girls feel like they are stuck. The girls don't always feel like they can go home. Because at 16 years old if you’ve been forced to have sex with a couple hundred people you don't have everything in common with your peers that you did before.
Kids might look at you different. You’re going to go to school. The school counselor says, wow, you’ve been prostituting. And that’s kind of where it stops. It’s awkward for them to re-acclimate into their environment, especially when it wasn’t ideal before but now they’re more ostracized.
So we have to focus more on getting the wraparound services, helping them re-acclimate, and honestly it’s totally worth it. It’s a ton of work and energy. Every kid is worth that.
You can't give up. They’re kids. They can't make good decisions because no one is helping them do that. We can at least connect them to community resources, be there to keep reinforcing and redirecting that. It works.
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