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Global Summit Leaders Aim to End Sexual Exploitation

July 21, 2021 by Alexa Hornbeck

The Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Online Global Summit, hosted by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, is holding a week-long event, July 20-24, that brings together professionals from sexual abuse and exploitation sectors to discuss how to connect, educate and solve the tangled web of sexual exploitation.

“We’re not just about managing the trauma or trends, we need people to reject sexual abuse and exploitations whenever and wherever they see it,” said Dawn Hawkins, the host of the summit and senior vice president and executive director at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. 

According to research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 90% of public mental health clients have been exposed to multiple traumas. Their findings also show that 75% of women and men in substance abuse treatment have reported abuse and trauma histories.

The global summit which started in 2014, is hosting over 10,000 people this year from over 80 countries; professionals; political leaders; public health officials; police officers; and victims presenting research and sharing their voices.

One of the biggest issues being discussed by summit leaders, so far, is how to end the consumer demand for sexual exploitation, as studies show that 20% of men have purchased sex in their lifetime, and 6% of those men are doing this within a given year.

“I would say the majority of those … I arrested were the prostitutes, rather than the customer or demand base,” said Stephany Powell, who worked as an officer for the Los Angeles Police Department for over 25 years. 

A few of the sessions focus on early prevention of sexual exploitation by targeting children’s behaviors, such as how to protect children if their parents are pimps, or age-by-age recommendations for parents to develop porn-resistance in children using critical toolsets, mindsets and skill sets.

Other sessions focus on the economic impact of COVID-19 on women, and the increase in the number of men demanding access to women’s bodies online. This has been seen on platforms such as OnlyFans, an online subscription service which allows pimps and traffickers to insidiously recruit and groom women and girls into online sexual exploitation for payment. 

The event is also digging into the specific types of work in which individuals may experience higher risk of sexual exploitation, including residential facilities, the porn industry, massage businesses, and legal prostitution outside of the U.S. 

For women who live in territories prone to conflict such as India or Cameroon, the event highlights how those women are at higher risk of sexual exploitation, which has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sessions at the end of the week will focus on models of ending sexual exploitation which have worked in other countries, such as a Swedish survivor organization called Not Your Whore and a Danish study of adolescent experience in pornography and its impact on policy. 

Also, how cultural literacy in places like Budapest and Germany has improved legislation regarding sex trade and exploitation. 

The summit offers solutions for combatting trauma for survivors, through things like trauma-informed care, especially when this care is performed through the lens of implicit bias, or how to partner with churches to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation. 

Other targeted interventions in upcoming sessions will focus on behavioral changes through positive messaging, stress management, dismantling the “Madonna-whore” patriarchal construct, addressing compassion fatigue, trauma resiliency, and investing in survivor leadership. 

The summit will continue through the end of the week, with the goal of shedding light on the global lessons learned throughout history regarding sexual exploitation, so that the same mistakes will not be repeated in the future. 

“This summit is not about talking, this summit is about action and solutions,” said Hawkins.

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