PORTLAND – Over the weekend more than 100 teens were rescued nationwide in a sex trafficking sting. But resources for those girls might be hard to come by now that they’re free.
“Whether there’s a sting or not, this happens on a weekly basis,” said Kevin Donegan, of Janus Youth Programs.
The organization offers a short-term, seven-bed facility for children involved in sex trafficking, who are almost always caught and dropped off by police.
“The youngest I’ve seen is 11 years old,” Donegan said.
Last year, Janus helped 40 such girls try to regain a childhood stolen from them.
He said the girls often return several times because the psychological attachment to their pimps is like domestic violence on steroids. It can take years to break the cycle.
And the resources can be sparse, said Erin Ellis of the Sexual Assault Resource Center.
“For every one child we work with, they have 10 more friends that are trying to access our services,” she said. “But we don’t have the capacity.”
If these girls are lucky, they will also be assigned to a case manager from SARC. For many of them, that could be one of the first trustworthy adults in their lives.
“We start helping them put together a case plan,” Ellis said. “What are the resources that they need in order to be successful? Each small success builds on another one.”
SARC recently received a federal grant to build a transitional program for 18 to 23-year-olds. That means new staff, and the ability to take on more of the younger girls, as well.