Jennifer Martin (Toronto Metropolitan University)
Shannon Brown, Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto
Topic: Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking: Specialized Training in Social Work
Accompanying the professionalization of social work has been increased specialized training of social workers on emergent issues facing their client base. The exponential increase in online child sexual exploitation (CSE) and trafficking presents a daunting challenge for social workers. In an increasingly digital and borderless world, these crimes against children are becoming easier to commit, more extreme in nature and growing in scale. This presentation will discuss findings from a national gap analysis of services conducted for the Department of Justice Canada and an evaluation of a well-established government-funded program providing counselling to victims of online CSE and trafficking and their immediate non-offending family members. The findings confirmed the critical role of trauma-informed care and evidence-based counselling in social work practice serving victims of these crimes. Yet, social workers we interviewed in both studies confirmed the lack of evidence-based knowledge available to them that could inform their approach to addressing the trauma associated with online CSE and trafficking. Like social workers interviewed in other jurisdictions, our participants were emphatic that they needed specialized education and training in online CSE and trafficking. In response, we are developing the first specialized graduate program in online child sexual exploitation and trafficking in Canada that will move social work practice forward in the areas of prevention, intervention and policy and advocacy through the development of knowledge and research methodologies in tune with the lived experiences of survivors of online CSE and trafficking. This presentation is a call for the recognition of online CSE and trafficking as a crucial area in social work practice requiring additional research, education, and specialized training in keeping with the professional standards of the field.