TBRI for Commercial Sexually Exploited Youth
A Partnership with the Office of the Texas Governor
By: Dr. Karen Furman
The problems of commercial sexual exploitation of youth and child sex trafficking are both urgent and complex; solutions are multi-faceted. Part of the solution involves transforming cultures of care in the organizations and communities that serve these youth. The Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development has been in partnership with the Governor’s Child Sex Trafficking Team since 2017.
What is Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Youth?
Commercial sexual exploitation of youth (CSEY) is a term that is used for children/youth sexually exploited under the age of consent (age 18) in a commercial transaction. The child is treated as both a sexual object and a commercial object. Victims can be exposed to a range of abuses such as: prostitution, pornography, stripping, phone sex lines, and internet-based and streaming exploitation. Domestic minor sex trafficking is a specific type of sexual exploitation defined under federal law as “…the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a child for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.” The definition also includes “…recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a child for or benefiting financially from the commercial sex act of a child.”
How prevalent is CSEY in the State of Texas?
Given its illegal nature, it is difficult to know the true extent of the problem. Many, if not most, trafficking cases are unreported. According to a 2016 report published by the University of Texas at Austin there were, at the time of data collection, approximately 79,000 minor and youth victims of sex trafficking in Texas.
How has Texas responded?
Governor Abbot’s Child Sex Trafficking Team (CSTT) was created during the 84th legislative session (2015) to create a holistic response to Child Sex Trafficking in Texas.
CSTT’s mission is to build sustainable capacity, enhance expertise, promote policies, and create new and leverage existing collaborations to:
Protect children and youth from sexual exploitation by building their awareness of and resilience to child exploitation and by curbing demand for child sex trafficking.
Recognize sexual exploitation by raising public awareness and by implementing screening tools to identify potential victims.
Recover victims with protective and empowering collaborative responses.
Support the healing of survivors through a variety of trauma-informed and responsive services and supports.
Bring Justice for survivors by holding exploiters (traffickers, buyers, and those who profit from exploitation) accountable.
What is KPICD doing?
The KPICD has provided training, consultation, and evaluation to numerous organizations representing different sectors across Texas seeking to implement TBRI. Service sectors involved in this project include juvenile justice, law enforcement, trafficking advocacy, education, child welfare, courts, CASAs and community support groups as they learn to successfully transform a culture into one that heals trauma and potentially prevents victimization. To date, over 3100 individuals in over 550 organizations throughout the state have been trained in TBRI to provide trauma-informed care to children and youth who have either experienced trafficking or are at-risk.
What are our findings?
- In early 2021, staff in partnering organizations were invited to participate in a survey. Respondents completed the Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL), which measures burnout, secondary traumatic stress, and compassion satisfaction, and the TBRI Use measure which asks respondents to rate how frequently they use different TBRI strategies (never, sometimes, often, or almost always). Preliminary analysis suggests that more frequent use of TBRI strategies (ranging from often to almost always) is associated with low burnout and high compassion satisfaction.
- In one partnering organization that has been implementing TBRI, staff reported feeling better equipped to handle behaviors and feeling that they are part of a team. From 2018 – 2020, moderate incidents decreased by 95%, and serious incidents decreased by 61%.
- Another of our partnering organizations reported that over a two-year period of time, they have seen decreases in room restrictions, which staff attribute to being better equipped to deal with minor incidents on the unit rather than sending youth into isolation. Staff also noted a decrease in resident-initiated separations, due to youth feeling safer with and more connected to staff and peers.
If you would like more information regarding this project, the following resources may be of interest:
- The TBRI® Podcast, Season 2, Episode 4 – “Building Trust-Based Relationships with Survivors of Sex Trafficking” with Kimberly Glaudy and Ally Matteson
Busch-Armendariz, N.B., Nale, N.L., Kammer-Kerwick, M., Kellison,B., Torres, M.I.M., Cook-Heffron, L., Nehme, J. (2016). Human Trafficking by the Numbers: Initial Benchmarks of Prevalence & Economic Impact in Texas. Austin, TX: Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, The University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Karen Furman is the Project Liaison for the Child Sexual Exploitation of Youth Project (CSEY) at the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development (KPICD), and she has her EdD in educational leadership from TCU. She has been associated with the CSEY project since early 2018, when she began work at the KPICD. Prior to her work at the KPICD, Dr. Furman retired from a North Texas school district as a deputy superintendent. During her twenty-three year tenure in public education she advocated for children, serving in several district-level administrative roles, as a school counselor and as a teacher. She is the mother of three grown children, grandmother of two girls, and dog-mom to two pups.