Combatting the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
By Scott Stella, Lawrence Program Coordinator for Comprehensive Support & Stabilization
My director, Margy Nicholson, asked me a year and a half ago to attend a meeting in Lowell, a task force to fight the commercial sexual exploitation of children. I was curious and hesitant because two hours of even talking about such a horrible topic seemed a little horrifying. Sherri Barghi from Lowell Department of Children and Families (DCF) was the presenter and immediately engaged everyone in the room. I found myself getting angry inside because I could not believe people could traffic children and exploit them. After the first meeting, I realized that I needed to take part in something to help educate people and help children who are caught up in this horrible circle.
Between the first and second CSEC meetings, COMPASS sent more than twenty-five employees including myself to a My Life My Choice all day training. This training was about children and adults who have been caught up in the life of being exploited. This definitely was a tough topic and fueled my anger towards the situation. So instead of stewing I could hear my dad telling me, “ If you do not like something, do something about it”. The facilitators of the CSEC task force meetings asked me to be a part of the Steering Committee to start training people in the community and do more outreach. I immediately jumped at the chance. I immediately knew that my coworker, Amanda Kelley (Family Specialist), also COMPASS CSEC trainer, would be a huge asset to the committee; and she jumped in wholeheartedly. Now, a year later, the CSEC task force is gaining a lot of momentum. COMPASS, Lowell DCF, The Center for Hope and Healing, NFI Family Resource Center of Greater Lowell, The State Police, and The Lowell PD Gang Unit have been working together and forming a more solid curriculum to train collaterals (other service providers) in the public schools and the community.
In January, we had over sixty people attend our task force meeting! The need for support for children who are being exploited is at an all time high. It is more prevalent now within the communities COMPASS has been working in. With the emergence of social media, it has been easier for perpetrators and harder for parents and supporters. This is not just a city issue; it is in the suburbs and surrounding areas as well. Amanda and I are very appreciative of the opportunity to be pro-active in combatting the exploitation of children in the communities we serve.