Recently we got to talk to Melyssa Webb and Dana Robb, two Big Ocean members who attended the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Summit held in Washington, D.C. in June. https://endsexualexploitation.org/cesesummit2019/
We asked them about their experience at the conference, learned more about what sexual exploitation is, and how we can help prevent it.
Here are our questions and their responses:
In your own words, what is sexual exploitation?
Sexual exploitation involves any activity that exposes the privacy of an individual in any sexual context, be it through sex trafficking, pornography or inappropriate comments.
Can you please provide us with a brief explanation of what the sexual exploitation conference is?
The sexual exploitation conference was an event in which participants could openly discuss the issues and concerns of the exploitation of women and children throughout the world.
There was discussion of what negative activities were taking place in various locations and how we can spot these offenses and work to pass laws to protect all people from being exploited sexually.
It’s a gathering of people interested and engaged in ending sexual exploitation of all forms.
What were your main takeaways from the conference?
My main take away was that we have to work in our own communities to bring awareness to the exploitation going on and create preventative measures through teaching children, youth and adults as to how people are groomed for exploitation and how to fight back.
I was encouraged by the number of organizations involved in this fight to end sexual exploitation and the remarkable successes that have occurred recently. There is hope. As long as good men and good women rise up, we can and we will make a difference. And I know that ultimately, we will conquer this fight against evil.
What steps can we take in our everyday lives to prevent sexual exploitation?
Awareness is key. We need to keep the discussion open and honest. We need to talk with our local law enforcement and schools about sexual exploitation and develop and awareness and plan of action.
We need to first become aware of what a big problem it is. We need to take efforts to protect our own children who are being targeted on every social media platform. We can also link arms with organizations battling the fight in our own communities. Become aware of the signs of exploitation. Share what you know with friends. Create safe places.
How can we help survivors of sexual exploitation?
We need to listen to the survivors of sexual exploitation. Their experiences, though horrific, will educate the community on how sexual exploitation creeps in and takes control. By listening, we can develop a plan of action to protect other individuals from becoming victims.
First, be sensitive to their situation. Some are open and want to share their stories, but for many it’s too traumatic and too difficult, so let them guide the conversations. It’s so important to be non-judgmental. Just be open and loving and give them opportunities to connect and develop skills and self-esteem.
How can we recognize sexual exploitation and human trafficking?
We need to be observant of our surroundings and the people we associate with. Are we seeing pornography on our home computers? Television?
Are our family members suddenly becoming withdrawn and staying away from home for longer periods of time? When in public, are there individuals who are photographing our family members with their cell phones?
We need to be careful of sending our children into public restrooms — even in stores — alone.
To learn more about sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and what you can do to help, visit:
The National Human Trafficking Hotline