By the Young Women’s Empowerment Project (YWEP)
SEP. 2007 • Issue 6
This document was created by YWEP, a group of girls and young women in Chicago, aged 12 to 23, with experience in the sex trade and street economies. Based on their firsthand knowledge of what has worked – or not worked – for them both as young girls looking for help and youth organizers offering help, these guidelines can help adult activists and social service providers make their efforts more respectful and effective. In the Chicago area, YWEP offers trainings and popular education for girls, as well as trainings for adults (through the Harm Reduction Training Collaborative). They can be reached at 773-728-0127. On its website, www.youarepriceless.org, YWEP offers this document and other resources to download.
YOUTH WORKERS – WANT TO HELP GIRLS IN YOUR YOUTH PROGRAM WHO TRADE SEX FOR MONEY OR SURVIVAL NEEDS?
1) Ask young people currently involved in your program about what they know on this issue. Ask on a one-to-one basis or call for a group to ask what they know.
2) Create a welcoming environment to tell you about it – keep disclosures private (don’t let other youth know, and staff should only talk in private when necessary) and make it known that you are open to listening without judging.
3) Do not have negative consequences for disclosing to staff, like losing level, suspension, or making youth leave your program. Work together to find what the young person wants or needs in their life.
4) Do not assume you can tell if someone has been involved. Ask and listen first.
5) Actively discourage youth and staff from making negative, hurtful comments or putdowns about youth who are believed to be involved in trading sex for money or sexually active with more than one partner at a time.
6) Provide options; don’t just say it’s wrong. Young people feel bad enough already – they need real options and resources.
7) Be aware that youth are NOT the source of the problem. Adults create the demand, control the money, make home life unsafe to the point that youth need to leave, sexualize youth instead of providing real opportunities and don’t care enough about youth to stop.
8.) Provide harm reduction options for youth involved in your program while they are still involved in trading sex for money or survival needs, including options to take care of their health and someone to talk with who doesn’t emphasize exit. This builds trust and makes youth healthier upon exit.
9) Be aware that exit from the sex trade is a process. The need to deal with emotions and life issues, the need for survival, job possibilities, and life skills, and the need to find support to make that change all take a long time. There are no quick changes or magic words.
10) Offer outside assistance like counselors or the Young Women’s Empowerment Project to girls who are impacted by the sex trade – but don’t require it.