Over the last 6 years, Pedal the Pacific teams have raised over $850,000 (and counting!) for organizations leading the fight against sex trafficking and setting examples for survivor care. This year, the funds raised from the 2022 team will support both prevention and restoration programs at The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Below is an explanation of the programs that the 2022 funds will be supporting at NCMEC, and our heart behind why we think it's important.
It makes sense that child sex trafficking prevention would start with education - educating children about personal and online safety, child care workers (think foster care, social workers, etc.) about how to spot trafficking in their cases, police about recognizing the signs of trafficking in their day to day jobs, etc. But what stood out to us the most about NCMEC’s preventative efforts is how they think of the victim first. Child sex trafficking often spawns from child sexual abuse, and nowadays, a lot of that sexual abuse is in the form of photos and videos online. NCMEC refers to this as CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Material), and runs the nation’s CyberTipline, an online reporting system for this material. What we love about their approach is that they are using cutting edge technology to scan for CSAM online, and then they (actual people - heroes!!) work day-in and day-out to get it permanently deleted from the internet. They do this because they know that survivors suffer re-victimization when their photos or videos circle the internet. In fact, “67% of CSAM survivors said the distribution of their images impacts them differently than the hands-on abuse they suffered because the distribution never ends and the images are permanent.”
Because of this, half of the donations that go to NCMEC will support the Exploited Children’s Division’s prevention work and their efforts to remove CSAM from the internet, run the CyberTipline, and find victims that are in danger through their cutting edge technology.
NCMEC’s prevention services reach far and wide, and though I wish I could explain everything that they do, it would take me at least a week to go through it all, so you’ll have to check out their website to dive in more.
“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” - Alexander Den Heijer.
Lanae Holmes, a Director in the Family Advocacy Division at NCMEC, shared this quote with the 2022 team when trying to sum up the approach that NCMEC has when providing care to survivors. This hit home because it shows that NCMEC is centering the voices of survivors before their own. NCMEC hires survivors to be a part of an Expert Working Group, which is a fancy way to say they are paid to be consultants to NCMEC. Here’s a description of what the group does:
NCMEC’s CST Survivor Expert Working Group is made up of 15 independent Expert Consultants from across the nation representing diverse professional, experiential and cultural perspectives to help bring a child sex trafficking survivor informed lens to our work.
Not only does it help NCMEC in providing appropriate prevention and survivor resources across the nation, but it also gives a place for survivors to share their stories and put their voice at the forefront of the cause. We are excited that funding from the 2022 ride will support the Survivor Expert Working Group by supporting their onboarding, professional development, retreats, and compensation for their lived experience. This group will create industry specific guides on how to prevent sex trafficking and heal that will be shared across the nation for mental health professionals, caregivers, victim advocates, and survivors themselves.