November 25, 2014  |  By  | 

See the Girl Summit Rallies Floridians to Build on Safe Harbor A leading national expert in ending vi- olence against girls, Malika Saada Saar, called on Florida’s child advocates to not back down rom rec- ognizing sex tracked children as victims o rape and abuse. Teir ultimate healing and restoration o bonds o trust that govern healthy lives should remain a top priority as the state debates how best to serve child victims recov- ered rom the sex tracking industry. Te call came rom Saar, ounder and executive director o the Rights4Girls project in Washington and keynote speaker at the recent See the Girl Summit in Jacksonville. Presented by the De- lores Barr Weaver Policy Center and Te Children’s Campaign, the summit drew 250 people — including at-risk girls, social workers, mental health proessionals, teachers and advocates – to ocus on juvenile justice reorm and sex tracked children as victims o rape. It highlighted Florida’s recent progress in helping victims, rather than criminalizing them as in past years. Saar, a human rights lawyer who worked to shut down Craig- slist ads that led to child tracking, called the distinction be- tween rape victim and child prostitute crucial to getting vic- tims needed treatment and therapy to reclaim their lives. oo oen, child welare systems do not properly identiy or help children who are tracked or sex – instead, seen as child prostitutes, they may be routed into the juvenile justice sys- tem where re-traumatization and re-victimization oen occur. But Saar’s visit to Florida in a lead up to the 2015 legisla- tive session is expected to rally child advocates around the good work already being done here, and ortiy their e- orts to prevent state lawmakers rom backsliding on pub- lic policy that’s good or girls. Tat progress began in 2012, with passage o the Sae Harbor Act heralded as landmark in its decriminalization o child victims o sex tracking. Once in place, victims’ advocates began the conversation around treating victims with sensitivity, understanding and pa- tience. Tey pointed to successul programs that provide trau- ma-inormed care and acknowledge the complex issues that must be addressed and understood – including runaway behav- iors that result rom victims’ exploitation and traumatization. It was that runaway behavior that prompted a legislative move in Florida’s 2014 session to lock up dependent children against their will – a move that Te Children’s Campaign, the De- lores Barr Weaver Policy Center, and other advocacy groups decried as a major reversal in child welare policy that would undermine the good intent o Florida’s Sae Harbor Act. Teir argument held sway, and today’s resulting legislation builds on the core o Sae Harbor to protect and restore the wel- are o victims. Among its provisions: a certifcation process or sae houses and sae oster homes and the creation o a state- wide council on human tracking within the Attorney Gener- al’s Oce. Tese and other provisions, advocates say, will keep Florida on track toward progress or our most vulnerable girls. “In no other context do we involuntarily lock up victims o rape and abuse or urther traumatization, yet under the guise o adults knowing what’s best or children, Flor- ida tried to go down that path last year. Te Children’s Cam- paign, the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, and allies throughout the state are prepared to deend Sae Harbor’s intent again this year, and every year, or as long as it takes,” said Roy Miller, president o Te Children’s Campaign. What’s needed, instead, is a concerted eort by all toward Flor- ida’s biggest challenge: creating a quality, voluntary service net- work based on research and best practices. It should be specif- cally designed to meet the needs o sex tracked victims, using mentor-survivors as frst responders, a proven model that is working in other parts o the country. You can help by joining Te Children’s Campaign, educating yoursel on our “Girls Agenda,” and preparing to lend your voice to the debate by supporting a fve-pronged approach in the 2015 legislative session to build on the successes o 2014. Our “Girls Agenda” includes: Defending Florida’s Safe Harbor Act - Envisioning a Voluntary and Research-Driven Service Network or Sex Tracking Victims - Improving Appropriations or Gender-Specifc Programs and Services - Fixing Florida’s Juvenile Record Laws - Reorming Florida’s Child Protection Investigations For more information please visit

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