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Avenues of exploitation

As a follow-up to the Nov. 4 keynote address at Washington State University Vancouver by Nicholas Kristof, the Public Affairs Lecture Series committee hosted a panel on sex trafficking in the Portland-Vancouver metro area, Nov. 7.
Three local individuals, Christopher Carey, Sergeant John Chapman and Stacie Beckerman, who focus their work on sex trafficking, spoke on the panel.
The panel spoke to a full room of students in the Dengerink Administration Building, Room 129. One class in particular, Political Science 321, American Public Policy, made a point to attend in their entirety on the direction of the instructor and moderator of the panel, Whitney Hafer, adjunct professor of public affairs.
Two students in attendance, Erica Zutz, majoring in public affairs, and Elizabeth Brodie, majoring in public affairs said that they both thought the panel presentation was important and informative. Both individuals also stated that the individuals who spoke on the panel were very well chosen.
“More time was needed though for each speaker. They have so much knowledge to share and didn’t have enough time for that,” said Brodie.
Christopher Carey, former deputy district attorney and currently an associate professor in the school of community health at Portland State University, spoke about his work with Commercial Exploitation of Adolescents and Children. Carey’s talk focused on the statistical reality of sexual exploitation and trafficking. Carey stated the average age of a sexually exploited child in the Portland area is 15 and a half. However, this number only captures these adolescents once they have been caught, not at what age they started to become sexually exploited.
Carey also stated that of the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents in the Portland metro area, 27% are African American, 5% are Hispanic, 27% already have children of their own, 50% were exploited by street gangs, 27% had a history of sexual exploitation in the family and over 62% of these individuals were struggling with addiction. Carey’s said that to be very clear, the statistics he reported were based off of cases in the system regarding sexual exploitation and that there is a high rate of unreported cases in this field. These high-risk statistics create, what Careycalled, “avenues of exploitation.”
Sergeant John Chapman started his portion of the talk saying, “[sex trafficking] is happening here, in Clark Country.” Chapman shared his knowledge of the local sex trafficking problem and the warning signs that everyone can watch for to fight sex trafficking; transient adolescents, runaways, inappropriate relationships between underage girls and men in their twenties, girls with items in their purses ranging from large amounts of money, condoms, Viagra or hotel keys and girls with tattoos resembling a brand.
Chapman said the understanding of the sex trafficking problem has evolved since he started working with the police. At first, the prostitutes were considered the problem and were arrested.
Now, Chapman says, “our goal is not to punish them [the prostitutes or sexually exploited individuals] but to help them get to services.”
Lastly, Stacie Beckerman, assistant U.S. attorney for district of Oregon who prosecutes federal sex trafficking as a member of the gang and sex trafficking unit, further highlighted the concept that sex trafficking is about coercion and exploitation. Beckerman shared stories of adolescent girls who found themselves in over their heads and stuck in sex trafficking.
Beckerman also focused on the societal problem that allows sex trafficking to flourish, high demand. Beckerman said that sex
traffickers enter into the industry because it is low cost, high demand and the Internet and new technologies make operations easy.
Backpage.com and tnaboard.com were just two websites Beckerman put on display to exemplify how easily sex trafficking could be conducted, and to show that advertisements on these websites were for girls in the Portland-Vancouver metro area.
For students interested in information about getting involved with the fight against sex trafficking, two events have been scheduled as follow-ups. Nov. 8 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Firstenburg Student Commons will be the Engage-In, sponsored by the VanCoug American Democracy Project. On Nov. 14 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the Dengerink Administration Building, Room 129 will be the showing of the sex trafficking documentary, Playground, sponsored by the Public Affairs Lecture Series.
For more information about these events visit the Public Affairs Lecture Series Facebook page, and the VanCoug American Democracy Project Facebook page.
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