The A-block assembly featured a presentation from Director of Youth Safety and Outreach at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office Jacquelyn Lamont. Lamont’s presentation focused on the legal side of combatting the sex trade.
Lamont spoke about Support to End Exploitation Now, a program which helps exploited youth tell their stories and rejoin society. Lamont said that anyone can be victimized and often people do not believe minors who have been victimized.
Lamont’s slides featured the eyes of a number of young survivors and audio clips of them telling their stories and sharing positive messages. Lamont said communities can achieve positive outcomes by believing victims and making them feel safe when they speak about their experiences.
Lamont urged all students to visit the Support to End Exploitation website to better understand stories of survivors.
“The project shows a lot of really courageous kids from near their community,” Lamont said. “(They are) kids from Suffolk County and surrounding communities who have been through something difficult and have been strong enough to live through it and talk about it. It is really inspiring for any kid of any age to see kids being able to overcome challenges, so I would suggest checking out the project.”
The E-block assembly featured guests from Boston G.L.A.S.S., an organization that provides resources for LGBTQ+ youth including advocacy and health services. According to Tim Grady, who works at Boston G.L.A.S.S., the program works with many young people who have been victims of sexual exploitation.
During the assembly, the Boston G.L.A.S.S. representatives Jennifer Turner, Rene Rives and Tarik Spriggs first highlighted the differences between girls who turn to the organization My Life My Choice after being exploited versus the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth that Boston G.L.A.S.S. serves.
According to Grady, girls from My Life My Choice are more likely to have been exploited by pimps or gangs compared to LGBTQ+ youth. He said the LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to feel they have a “choice” in their situation, and that “independence” and “power” are the main motivating factors.
All exploited youth, Grady said, are at a higher risk of depression, addiction and anxiety, face societal stigma and are at a high risk of physical and sexual violence.
Additionally, the assembly focused on the methods of exploitation most commonly associated with LGBTQ+ youth. According to Grady, a family’s rejection of gender and sexual identity is often a catalyst children to leave home, leaving them vulnerable to be exploited. According to the presentation, while less than 10 percent of population identifies as LGBTQ+, 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The documentary “A Path Appears,” based on the book of the same name, was shown during the G-block SAHT assembly.
The documentary follows the story of sex trafficking in Chicago from all angles. The prostitutes are forced to walk through the streets in all seasons, including in winter snow, to sell sex. The film also highlighted National Johns’ Day, where the police set up fake sex ads as traps to catch “Johns,” the men buying sex.
The movie ended happily with a nonprofit organization in Tennessee that provides a safe house for former sex workers and a nonprofit called Magdalena Farms that provides these women real-life work experience so that they can get back on their feet. Lastly, the film ended with a question and answer session and discussion facilitated by leaders of the SAHT group.
During F-block, Executive Director of Demand Abolition Ziba Cranmer spoke about targeting the buyers of prostituted individuals. According to Cranmer, Demand Abolition is a nonprofit organization that focuses on ending the sex trade by focusing on the demand.
Cranmer’s presentation focused on her organization’s efforts to figure out how perennial buyers comprise the majority of the sex trades profit. Cranmer said Demand Abolition has posted advertisements on websites to better gauge who purchases sex.
Cranmer also said that the most effective way to end the sex trade is to teach men from a young age that sex should be based on mutual respect. According to Cranmer, Demand Abolition supports the “Nordic model” of criminalizing buying prostituted individuals rather than selling.
“We look at what is missing from most of the conversation about the sex trade, and that is the buyers and think about their role in perpetuating the industry,” Cranmer said. “They have to be part of the solution in addition to helping the victims and fighting the traffickers.”