Panel Discussion – Our Youth at Risk For Sexual Exploitation

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On January 17, 2017, the HT/CSEC Committee hosted a panel discussion entitled, Our Youth at Risk for Sexual Exploitation.  Over 55 members of the community heard from five experts in the field of human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children that it can and does happen anywhere — even in our bucolic suburban neighborhoods.

Below is a summary of the event. A full video of the panel discussion is available on the JLNW YouTube channel here: http://bit.ly/jan17panel

Mimi Rocah, Chief, WP Div., US Attorney’s office, explained how sexual predators have easy access to children through the anonymity of the internet and social media. She showed a video illustrating how easily a young person can fall victim to “sextortion,” whereby a predator blackmails a child to acquire sexual content (photos/videos) of the child, obtain money or engage in sex with the child.

Phil Goldstein, Director of Programs, Westchester Dept. of Social Services, is working to change the perception that CSEC is a problem in only low income, urban neighborhoods. “It happens in any socio-economic class, all across Westchester,” explained Phil. He spoke of “vulnerabilities,” explaining that children are most vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Add other factors; e.g., LGBTQ, runaway, cognitive disabilities, isolation or loneliness, and their risk for exploitation increases.

The over-arching theme of the discussion was to educate yourself on the issues, and if you see something, say something. Pound Ridge Police Chief, Dave Ryan, spoke passionately telling the audience, “child sexual exploitation is child abuse, and each one of us has an obligation to report that child abuse.” He went on to say that there’s some level of child sexual exploitation and human trafficking going on all around us in every community.

Rounding out the discussion was Rebecca DeSimone, Director, Human Trafficking Program at My Sisters’ Place & Janmarie Brown, Director, Gateway Program at the JCCA (our direct service partner,) who discussed the services their organizations provide to help victims cope with the trauma of CSEC and HT. They explained the importance of responding in a non-judgmental, safe way if we encounter an individual who has been exploited.

Our thanks to our panelists and to our moderator, Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, Engagement Editor, lohud.com and Journal News. The full panel discussion is available on the JLNW’s YouTube Channel.

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888