The fastest-growing criminal industry in the world isn’t only cultivating in dark corners of the earth, it’s happening outside our convenience stores, at our bus stops, and down the street from the restaurants we frequent. Human trafficking, exploiting a person for monetary profit through forced services, is a form of modern-day slavery that confronts us in alarming proportions as a 9.5 billion dollar national business.

It gets worse. The commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is a particular epidemic, with as many as 300,000 American children becoming victims each year.

According to an Oakland Local article posted last June, law enforcement officials estimate that, on any given night within the Bay Area alone, 100 kids are being sold for sex, with Oakland churning out the majority of these cases. This powerful and heartbreaking illegal commerce fueled the 2006 founding of the Oakland-based nonprofit, Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting, & Serving Sexually Exploited Youth (MISSSEY) which is dedicated to providing holistic rehabilitative and developmental services to CSEC.

This organization has done groundbreaking work in confronting the growing CSEC crisis. Necole Daniels, Direct Services Manager of MISSSEY, says that MISSSEY alone is serving 100 girls at any one point in time, while also educating the public and other service providers through trainings and workshops about youth who are being commercially sexually exploited in Alameda County.

And remember when the compelling anti-CSEC billboards went up this past January throughout Alameda county? That was in collaboration with the DA’s initiative HEAT, a unit specifically designed to target offenders and raise awareness about sex trafficking.

Who are the children being commercially sexually exploited? On a national level, 95 percent have been victims of past sexual abuse. On a local level, over half have been removed from the custody of their families. 88 percent have run away from home, and within 48 hours of being on the streets, 1 in 3 teens will be picked up by an exploiter. They’re as young as nine years old, and many of them have developed Stockholm Syndrome, making it difficult for law enforcement and social services to bring CSEC away from their toxic environments.

On Saturday, June 21, MISSSEY will hold its annual Inspire Change gala in downtown Oakland, which Daniels describes as, “Not only a fundraiser, but a chance for allies to come together on behalf of Oakland youth who are in need of serious support, and the gala is a way for CSEC voices to be heard without putting the girls who have been prostituted on display.”

Money generated by the gala will be going to increase MISSEY’s capacity to provide services that are already in place, and also used towards creating a training institute to more systematically teach educators, law enforcement, the judiciary, and human service providers about the “who, what, and where of CSEC”, and within each specialty, deepen their ability to reach out to help the children who have been sexually exploited.”

For more information on MISSSEY’s Inspire Change gala and/or to purchase tickets, click here. To learn more about Alameda County’s efforts in stopping the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and how your community can join the movement, visit HEAT.

About The Author

Simone writes about the currents circulating beneath mainstream, with a focus on non-profit developments and at-risk youth enrichment. Outside of freelancing for Oakland Local, she works in the foster care system of Contra Costa County and nerds out on literary magazines. Simone also spearheads the Community Voices section of OL. Contact her at simonelarson@oaklandlocal.com

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