By HTP Editorial
Saving Innocence is a nonprofit dedicated to ending the sexual exploitation of children and to restoring “the cultural values of innocence and human worth.” The organization works closely with communities, law enforcement, social services and schools to raise awareness about the sexual abuse of children and to support survivors. It offers Prevention training for professionals, Crisis Recovery for victims, and longterm advocacy to Empower survivors to reclaim their lives.
In the following Q & A with Hidden Tears, Alan Smyth, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, discusses some of the successes and challenges that Saving Innocence has encountered in the fight to abolish the child sex trade.
Q & A
Saving Innocence has seen exponential growth this year as an organization. To what do you attribute this?
Sadly, our growth is in response to the growing need. LA County is expanding their services and we are scaling up with them. In 2016, there were 35% more reported trafficking cases in California than in 2015. My hope is that one day Saving Innocence would be out of business. Unfortunately that does not appear to be happening anytime soon. As the need increases, our donor base is being asked to increase as well.
What are some of your new initiatives and projects that we should know about?
LA County is expanding the territory they are serving with the First Responder Protocol, which is our 90 minute response to the site of a minor sex trafficking victim. As they expand, we will be expanding with them. Additionally, we have recently been approved to become a Foster Family Agency where we will be able to recruit families to take in our clients. This will a be huge addition to our services. Finally, we have been asked by the state of Texas to be on the ground with them long term to provide training and consultation to their NGO’s and law enforcement on the model we have created here in Los Angeles.
Do you think Americans are finally getting the message that child sex trafficking is not just an “oversees” crisis, but one that is in our own backyard?
I think we are just getting going on this. There are more and more media productions, news sources and policies being created which are helping more people to understand this crime. Sadly, we still have a really long way to go, but I believe we are headed in the right direction.
How can media companies like the Hidden Tears Project support the work you do?
We always appreciate the support from Hidden Tears and others. I’d say, just keep doing what you are doing and keep telling the story. Time and resolve are the only barriers to everyone knowing about this crime and then doing something about it. One key for media companies is to make sure they are doing everything possible to tell the story with as much accuracy as possible and with as much dignity to the survivors as possible.
What do you see as your biggest challenge right now in the fight to end child exploitation in the U.S.?
The biggest challenges right now are the general awareness of the severity and of the reality of this crime and the necessary funds to do everything that must be done. Once we reach the tipping point of public awareness and outrage, we will see a dramatic change in the trajectory of this crime.
What’s the best way for the average person to get involved?
To learn more about Saving Innocence, click here
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