Research Sheds New Light for Battling Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
With commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) at a crisis level in Atlanta and other American cities, The Schapiro Group is conducting groundbreaking research that provides policymakers, law enforcement and social service agencies with important insights for combating the CSEC tide.
The nature of CSEC renders conventional study methods inadequate; johns are desperate to hide their involvement, and frightened adolescents expect harsh consequences if they talk. The Schapiro Group has overcome these obstacles by studying CSEC through an economic lens rather than using a criminal or victim perspective. This approach has pulled back the curtain to reveal the dynamics of CSEC as an enterprise.
The Schapiro Group’s innovative research program has documented a major shift toward the Internet and escort services, and away from street solicitation, for procurement of underage girls. “Our studies were the first to confirm that the most common marketplace for sex trafficking is no longer traditional public places,” says President Dr. Beth Schapiro. “It has moved decisively online. This research has changed the conversation about where to focus with respect to CSEC.”
The multi-faceted studies have been led by Dr. Alex Trouteaud and Senior Strategist Dr. Rusty Parker of The Schapiro Group. One project, called the Georgia Demand Study, actually operated a dummy escort service, and provided direct contact with johns that illuminated how CSEC “shopping” occurs. Through careful design of the conversation, The Schapiro Group was able to quantify the incidence of expressed preference for underage partners.
One key finding was that, even when given three explicit indications that the desired partner was a minor, 47% of johns continued their pursuit. Somewhat surprising was that more than 90% of inquiries for adolescent girls came from residents of metro Atlanta, rather than being weighted toward tourists or “fly ins” to Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. Also, johns were more likely to be 30-somethings than the “dirty old men” of stereotypes.
The Georgia Demand Study builds on quarterly tracking studies that The Schapiro Group has conducted since 2007 to assess the CSEC crisis. The initial research was sponsored by the Juvenile Justice Fund of Fulton County (www.juvenilejusticefund.org), which has led the metro Atlanta fight against CSEC since the late 1990s and is widely recognized for its CSEC expertise. JJF established A Future. Not A Past. (www.afuturenotapast.org) to expand the focus statewide, and commissioned The Schapiro Group to design and conduct the quarterly tracking studies. Those studies continue today and are now sponsored by the Georgia Governor’s Office for Children and Families (www.children.ga.gov). From this growing body of research have come insights that are shaping public policy. Police, prosecutors, legislators, child welfare agencies and others are using the findings.
According to Jen Bennecke, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, TSG studies play a pivotal role in Georgia’s aggressive anti-CSEC agenda. “Georgia has really stepped out in a way that shows we are serious about helping children who are being exploited. The statewide response incorporates this critical research with resources and services to address the multidimensional needs of exploitation victims.”
No organization can match The Schapiro Group for breadth and depth of CSEC research expertise. The tracking studies integrate multiple sources of input including Internet and escort agency monitoring as well as observations in hotels and other public places known for prostitution. With CSEC recognized as a growing national dilemma, the Women’s Funding Network has commissioned The Schapiro Group to lead similar projects in Michigan, Minnesota and New York, and the Dallas Women’s Foundation has recently engaged TSG to replicate the work in Texas. Collectively, the findings are helping to inform this issue nationally and even internationally.
According to Deborah Richardson, Chief Programs Officer of the Women’s Funding Network (www.womensfundingnetwork.org), studies by The Schapiro Group are providing vital information for efforts to implement anti-CSEC public policy (www.afnap.org). Richardson used the multi-state tracking studies in testimony at the first ever Congressional hearings on domestic minor sex trafficking, held in September 2010. She says, “There has never been an occasion when we presented these findings that people were not appalled. The ultimate answer is to build a public will for absolute non-tolerance of exploiting children for sex. The work of The Schapiro Group is a critical step in educating the public that this is a major crisis.”
To Beth Schapiro, the CSEC studies are among the most gratifying assignments the firm has taken on. “This work puts us on the front line of one of the most compelling issues of our time, protecting children and youth from predators. And we have grown as a firm by finding a solution to some unusual research barriers. I’m proud that we’ve pushed the envelope on how to study a difficult problem, and even more proud that we’re making an important contribution to this particular crisis.”
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We’re Proud of Our Clients
Mindy Binderman has been named Executive Director of the newly-formed Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Schools (www.geears.org).
Healthcare Georgia Foundation (www.healthcaregeorgia.org) released HealthVoices: The Mental Health System in Georgia: The Perfect Storm. To read more, click here.
Georgia’s innovative Work Ready program (www.gaworkready.org), under the leadership of Debra Lyons, Director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, was recently featured in an article in Georgia Trend. To read more, click here.
Laura Keyes, Principal Planner at the Atlanta Regional Commission (www.atlantaregional.com) has been elected President of the Georgia Planning Association.
The Atlanta Women’s Foundation (www.atlantawomen.org) has selected Cindy Brazell, a partner at Kilpatrick Stockton, as its new board chair.
Joan Garner (www.garnerforcommissioner.com) easily won her runoff election to the Fulton County Commission and will join the Commission in January.
Georgians for Passenger Rail (www.georgiarail.org) recently launched its new website.
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TSG Serves the Community
Stepping out… TSG was a proud sponsor of 7200 Steps to Stop Demand, a 5k race/walk sponsored by A Future. Not A Past. Runners included TSG Senior Strategist Rusty Parker, who quickly passed his boss walking at a more leisurely pace.
More numbers… TSG was also a proud sponsor of the hugely successful Atlanta Women’s Foundation (www.atlantawomen.org) Numbers Too Big To Ignore luncheon.
Operators are standing by…
TSG staff members volunteered for WABE’s fall funding drive, an act of supreme dedication that required being at the station at the crack of dawn! All things considered, it was well worth their time.
At your service…Welcome Magazine selected TSG President Beth Schapiro as one of its MECCA award winners, in recognition of community service. To read more, click here.
More service... Beth spoke at the Women’s Leadership In Public Service Institute sponsored by Gainesville State College (www.gsc.edu) and the Center for American Women and Politics (www.cawp.rutgers.edu). The program teaches college women about politics and policy making to inspire them to get involved in leadership roles in public service.
Forever cool…Beth continues her involvement in Cool Girls (www.thecoolgirls.org). She serves on their Advisory Council and was recently selected to serve on the organization’s Marketing Committee.
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