This semester I have had the privilege to work on a project for Shared Hope researching alternative processes to the traditional juvenile justice procedures, like dependency and delinquency, that juvenile trafficking victims may be able to go through.
Before I started this project, it never occurred to me that when these juveniles are brought through the system, many times after being brought into custody by a law enforcement officer, their status as a trafficking victim is not taken into account during the proceedings. If these juveniles are not being recognized for what they are – victims – then they are not going to truly get the treatment and help they really need.
It gives me hope when states have recognized the need to care for trafficking victims differently and treat their specific needs. However, only certain states actually offer specialized services specifically for trafficking victims.
It would be a major step, and extremely beneficial, for each state to offer specialized services for victims because of the unique trauma that trafficking victims have faced.
The more states that recognize the unique needs that juvenile sex trafficking victims have, the better it will be for those victims that end up going through the juvenile justice system as a consequence of their victimization.