sensitive topics prematurely may expose the child to unnecessary duplicative interviewing, cause
re-traumatization, and disrupt the future potential for the child to divulge the information in a
supportive therapeutic environment, with the support of a qualified clinician.52
To the extent that the GAL requires information about the child’s CSEC experience to
carry out his or her work, the GAL should consider whether such information can be culled from
other sources, such as reports the child has already made to police, social workers, or forensic
interviewers. In fact, it may even be beneficial for the GAL to collect and compare various
alternative reports, perhaps creating a timeline as needed, prior to discussing the events directly
with the child. In this way, the GAL can avoid the harms of duplicative interviewing and re-traumatization described above, while targeting his or her investigative efforts on areas where the
facts remain unclear.
Notwithstanding these parameters, there are circumstances in which it will be necessary
and unavoidable to discuss a client’s experience of exploitation with the client directly. GALs
should be mindful to frame these discussions using non-judgmental language that does not guide
the child toward any certain response. For example, instead of asking “Are you prostituting
yourself?” an advocate should consider reframing the question as, “Have you ever done
something sexual in exchange for something you needed?” The California Child Welfare
Council has produced a useful guide for professionals interviewing CSEC youth, which includes
an Appendix with a host of sample questions.53 GALs should employ the sample questions
provided in such resources in formulating their own set of questions in a way as to be sensitive to
the traumatic experience of their clients.
C. Legal Issue Spotting
Child advocates may be appointed to represent CSEC youth in a variety of legal postures,
including dependency, delinquency, and status offender proceedings. As previously discussed,
commercially sexually exploited children are often first identified as children in trouble when
they are referred to the legal system for truancy or runaway behaviors.54 Both activities indicate
that a child may be a victim of human trafficking.55
One initial and ongoing task for GALs will be to assess whether the current legal venue is
in fact the appropriate one to meet the child’s needs. Nationwide, CSEC reforms are beginning to
approach CSEC cases through methods other than the punitive model traditionally applied to
court-involved youth.56 However, the majority of jurisdictions have not fully implemented this
new approach, and in many jurisdictions the shift to a non-punitive approach has not yet begun.
Thus, the GAL must consider whether the youth’s court case is designed to address his or her
needs in a meaningful way, rather than punish behavior.
Consider, for example, the case of Michelle, an eleven-year old child whose first contact
with the local court occurs after her arrest on charges of solicitation and prostitution. During the
course of her investigation, the assigned GAL speaks to several neighbors in the community, all
used, however, when the social environment is reasonably stable and the child has acquired sufficient emotional regulation skills to
tolerate talking about the trauma.”).
52 U.N. OFFICE ON DRUGS & CRIME, ANTI-HUMAN TRAFFICKING MANUAL FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE PRACTITIONERS: MODULE 3, at 2,
10 (2009), available at http://www.unodc.org/documents/human-trafficking/TIP_module3_Ebook.pdf (“Avoid early interviews
wherever possible. An early interview of the victim will in many cases overstrain the victim’s capacity to remember and to cope with
the overwhelming memories and may jeopardize the consistency of the statement you obtain.”).
53 See WALKER, supra note 26, at 74-77.
54 Truancy and running away are considered status offenses. See COAL. FOR JUVENILE JUS TICE, supra note 29.
55 See supra text accompanying note 29.
56 See, e.g., Brown, supra note 5 (discussing the implementation of a “Girls Court” linking CSEC victims and vulnerable girls to
“social service agencies, providing informal Saturday sessions on everything from body image to legal jargon, and offering a team of
adults whom they can develop and trust”).