The Time to Act is Now.
A message from victim advocate, Bonnie Clairmont (Ho-Chunk)
Our children are gifts to us and as such we have a sacred trust responsibility to protect them from all acts of violence. There is a crime that is hitting tribal communities everywhere and that is the crime of commercial sexual exploitation or sex trafficking. Although it is not a new crime, our precious Native children and adolescents are being targeted because they are poor, homeless, runaways, victims of prior sexual abuse and in the foster care and child welfare system and all too often targeted because no one is being vigilant over them.
We can no longer come from a place of denial, complacency and unwillingness to engage in needed discourse because the traffickers are stealing our children! We must take the blinders off! The time to act is now! They are being sold for sex in exchange for money, drugs, a place to live, nice clothes, tattoos and all this is happening right now in our communities, in private homes where children should be safe and protected. Sadly, many are often revictimized by the treatment they get from service providers when they are treated as criminals and not as victims. We must all take a strong stand together first by opening our minds, our hearts, to be vigilant, to speak out by educating everyone around us and by gathering up and sharing our resources, by working together across jurisdictions and across disciplines.
We need to work together to stop this violence, by putting in place adequate protections, strong policies that will guide everyone in their response to this horrific act of violence, developing culturally appropriate services for those who are harmed, adopting strong tribal laws that will ensure our children are treated as victims and not as criminals and laws that hold those harming our children accountable. We need to educate one another, caregivers, parents, foster parents, service providers and more importantly we need to educate our children about this crime to give them tools and words on what they can do if approached and how to help their peers. They need to know that the adults are listening and are ready to step in to help them. We need to send a strong message to would be perpetrators that we are watching and that our children are not for sale!