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More Than Cookies: Girl Scouts Battle Prostitution

FBI Director Robert Mueller presents GSACPC’s Barb Strachan with the Community Leadership Award. Images by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar and others.
Arizona Pine-Cactus Council Recognized by FBI Director Robert Mueller for Work in Helping Sexually Exploited Minors

By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine .com

April 12, 2011 — Every year, Girl Scout Cookies are eagerly awaited by the masses.

Most people buy them for selfish reasons — for the sheer joy of opening a box of Tagalongs or Do-Si-Dos and eating them all. Others might buy an extra box or so to help the girls of the troops take trips or learn about becoming strong, active, modern women.

Few, however, are probably aware that the Arizona Cactus-Pine Council of the Girl Scouts use some of the funds generated by cookie sales to help minors who are stuck in situations that are polar opposites to the uplifting, nurturing atmosphere of the organization. Through a partnership formed through the Innocence Lost Phoenix Initiative, the Girl Scouts—Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, has partnered with the Department of Juvenile Corrections to address a population of prostituted children.

The program, called Adelante Jovencitas (Young Women Moving Forward), is a mentor-ship effort intended to help “build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.”  The educational prevention program is applied to underage females who have been sexually exploited and are incarcerated at the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections’ Black Canyon School. The program was recently recognized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its Director, Robert Mueller with a Director’s Community Leadership Award.

The 16-week course is designed to decrease risk of victimization of minors by addressing issues related to  domestic minor sex trafficking, including crime and violence, education, gangs, health, homelessness, sexual exploitation, and substance abuse. A collaboration by Catholic Charities’ DIGNITY program and Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, Inc., the program aims to avoid stigmatization by being offered to all girls at the Black Canyon School and incorporates unrelated issues.

According to Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, Child Sex Slavery in Arizona, a report published in December 2010 by Shared Hope International and authored by Linda A. Smith, Taryn Rachel Mastrean and Samantha Healy Vardaman, the issue is unfortunately alive and well in the Grand Canyon State. According to the report, The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)of 2000, and subsequent reauthorizations, defined all minors involved in commercial sex acts as victims of trafficking, including minors who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Since 2005, there have been 110 arrests of juveniles for prostitution in Maricopa County. The state has seen a combined 136 total juvenile prostitution arrests in that time.

Read the report Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, Child Sex Slavery In Arizona

According the reports authors, the victims are rarely identified until they are already in the system.

“The reality is that many domestic minor sex trafficking victims are detained in the criminal justice system under charges of prostitution instead of receiving the services they need and to which they are statutorily entitled,” the report reads.

But in Phoenix, the tide is hopefully turning thanks to the Girl Scouts and others.

“For over a decade key activists have championed the cause of child sex trafficking in Phoenix. In 2006, the horrifying exploitation of one Phoenix girl, now commonly known as the “dog crate case,” prompted community members and city leaders to rally to the cry against those selling and buying children for sex,” according to the report. “The issue continues to rise in priority within Arizona due to the efforts of community champions, notably Cathy Bauer, Peggy Bilsten, Cyndi Holt, Lucia Howard, Jodi Liggett, Patrick McCalla, Janet Olsen and Barbara Strachan. These community leaders deserve special recognition for their aggressive
efforts in protecting our youth.”

Indeed, all involved in such a noble and worthy cause should be exalted.

And, the next time a Girl Scout knocks on the front door or is out selling them at the supermarket, buy more than you need.

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