MISSEY (Motivating Inspiring Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth), is included in this tour because it is an important Oakland resource aimed at giving survivors of human trafficking a “home,” both in the physical sense and in the metaphorical or social sense. There are few resources in the Bay Area that are designed specifically to help victims of human trafficking in this way. MISSEY offers support to survivors through several different programs. A case management system works to connect trafficked youth with jobs and opportunities that will help them overcome the circumstances that caused them to be trafficked in the first place. Prevention through the alleviation of issues that drive the underage sex market such as poverty, racism, and gender-based violence are addressed both for survivors and at-risk youth. MISSEY also has a mentorship program that connects survivors of human trafficking with local mentors. Finally, it has a foster youth program that targets at-risk foster youth, one of the populations most vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. The program’s goal is to ensure that foster youths are getting the support and resources they need to avoid becoming trafficked. MISSEY is one of the only organizations in Oakland to directly offer support for trafficked youth.
MISSEY is significant to survivors of human trafficking, as well as at-risk populations because it provides services that are not generally available to this population. Interventions by law enforcement tend to lead to the arrest and prosecution of commercially exploited youths rather than their pimps and Johns. The criminalization of victims further stigmatizes them and gives them an arrest record which can prevent them from seeking employment in the traditional economy. MISSEY is also significant to residents of Oakland because it offers volunteer opportunities to work with trafficked youth and works to break down stereotypes people may possess about victims of human trafficking. Instead of being seen as victims of a horrible crime, survivors are often seen as criminals by our society and law enforcement system. Because Oakland is such a hotbed of human trafficking, I am surprised that there aren’t more institutions like this that work to rehabilitate victims and give them a sense of belonging in society instead of criminalizing them.
By going to this location, tour-takers will learn about an important resource that is working to end human trafficking in Oakland. People will find a place where they can see the human “face” of trafficking, and donate their time, resources, or money to help fight human trafficking in Oakland. This location is designed to raise questions in people’s minds: why are there not more spaces dedicated to victims of human trafficking like this in Oakland, and why are arrest and prosecution the primary means of taking victims of trafficking off the street?