Trauma Informed Care: Understanding Trauma and the Impact of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

Tiffany Brandt, PhD & Emily Robbins, LCSW | September 19 | 11:30 AM-12:30 PM

Topic: Direct Service | Knowledge Level: Beginner, Intermediate | Location: Ingman Room

The commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is a widespread social problem. However, true estimates of the incidence and prevalence of the problem are challenging to determine due to inconsistent definitions and difficulty identifying victims (Salisbury, Dabney, & Russell, 2015). Best estimates to date suggest that approximately 25,000 to 100,000 children are at risk for CSEC each year in the United States (Mitchell, Finkelhor, & Wolak, 2010; Willis & Levy, 2002). As such, continued efforts to better understand, assess, and provide services for victims of CSEC are warranted. Certain risk factors for CSEC have been identified and include physical, psychological, and sexual abuse and neglect; witness to domestic violence; drug/alcohol use; running away from home and homelessness; involvement with child protective services and law enforcement; and development of risky sexual behaviors and sexually transmitted infections (OJJDP, 2002; Varma, 2015). Given the vast array of traumatic events, this population experiences, development of mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder are common (Hossein et al., 2010). Thus, evidence-based assessment and treatment to help adolescents address these difficulties are also needed.  Recent research provides guidance for implementing trauma informed care when working with commercially sexually exploited youth. This presentation will provide information regarding how child maltreatment, homelessness, illegal behavior, and other risk factors can lead to CSEC, as well as information regarding current methods of identifying youth at risk for CSEC and ways to provide support for professionals working with this population.

Presentation Objectives:

·  Discuss current information in the field of childhood traumatic stress as it relates to commercial sexual exploitation of children

·  Describe initiatives to develop a screening process to identify youth at risk of commercial sexual exploitation

·  Explore a state-wide initiative to help serve youth who have experienced CSEC in a trauma informed manner and support providers working with this population

About the Presenters