A new anti-trafficking curriculum for K-12 children and teenagers aims to prevent sexual exploitation among the youngest and most vulnerable.
The Foundation United is piloting the S.P.E.A.K. Up (Student Prevention, Education and Advocacy for Kids) curriculum in several school districts across the country as experts warn that youth sexual exploitation is rising due in part to the pandemic and greater online access.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Childrend (NCMEC) reported a record-breaking year in 2020, with more than 21.7 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation to its cyber tip line.
The U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking reports law enforcement authorities often find that victims are coerced into being filmed for live stream or webcam pornography.
Elizabeth Fisher Good, the founder of The Foundation United, told CBN News that the S.P.E.A.K. Up curriculum educates and promotes awareness of sex abuse and trafficking among teachers and staff in schools as well as children.
"It's something that has never been done before because it's a systemic, train-the-trainer program for the entire school system," she said.
"So, not only are children getting new language, new words, new phrases, ways to look at it, ways to talk about it. But it actually educates everybody from the superintendent down to the principal to the lunch room ladies to the school bus drivers to the workers because somebody might notice," Fisher Good explained.
Fisher Good said that initial presentations have encouraged students to report abuse and trafficking as they begin to process their own experiences.
"The children are empowered. The system is empowered. In our very first rollout we had four children come forward just in one grade to share what they had kept inside as secrets," she noted.
"So, we're excited because it's intervention rather than waiting for these children to go down a long, dark path," Fisher Good added.
Researchers at Michigan State University and Yale University have collaborated with The Foundation United to develop the curriculum and will help to measure outcomes.
The organization offers extra resources on trafficking for teens and their families. It's also developing a curriculum for churches.