April 5, 2022
StolenYouth and Amazon Partner to Fight Sex Trafficking
The average age of a child sex trafficking victim in Washington state is 14 years old. Once traded, children spend around two years being bought and sold, multiple times each day, before first seeking help and services, according to the research of anthropologist Debra Boyer.
The market for child sex trafficking is transacted through not only physical trade, but increasingly on the internet. Online activity facilitates a global marketplace for the trade, which makes detection, protection, and prosecution difficult. In King County alone, during any 24-hour period, there are approximately 2,000 to 2,500 adults looking to exploit children for sex—with the supply of children anywhere between 500 to 700 at any point in time.
No child should be the victim of sex trafficking. That is the core belief of StolenYouth, a Seattle-based nonprofit on a mission to end child sex trafficking in Washington state and beyond. StolenYouth’s unique coalition model harnesses the collective work of other nonprofits, law enforcement, policymakers, and government stakeholders to dismantle the marketplace exploiting children.
Since 2012, StolenYouth has granted more than $7 million to its carefully selected coalition of service providers focused on prevention and education, connecting victims to services, and empowering survivors. Notably, StolenYouth has been integral in establishing a 24-hour response collaborative for victims needing emergency services. StolenYouth also funds a trafficking prevention education program, which has impacted over 3,000 King County students, and has developed an innovative, targeted technology that has disrupted over 17,000 online purchases of children and youth by sex buyers thanks to Project: SugarFree.
StolenYouth could not engage in this important work without the help of donors and committed board members, and we are fortunate to have a partner in Amazon. A key member of the StolenYouth team is our Board Chair, Kara Hurst. Kara is the vice president of Worldwide Sustainability at Amazon, and she joined StolenYouth’s Board of Directors in 2020. She now serves as the Chair of the Board, with the vision of growing StolenYouth’s innovative model to provide a greater scale of service to this important cause.
Stolen Youth recently had the opportunity to ask Kara a few questions about her involvement with the organization.
Q: How did you get involved with Stolen Youth as the board chair?
Kara Hurst: I joined the Board of StolenYouth in April 2020 after having several discussions with founding members and having been a supporter of the terrific work the organization was doing. I was so impressed with the humble approach this organization takes to lifting up survivors of trafficking, honing in on the most vulnerable populations in our community, working through the expertise that is already in place and on the ground, and in general trying to be of service to the community. It was an honor to be asked to be on the Board and, shortly after, to play a leadership role to chair the Board and help to take StolenYouth into our next era.
Q: How did you develop a passion for the work the organization does?
KH: I’ve worked on the issue of human trafficking for a number of years through various industry groups, including the hospitality industry, and through my work at Amazon, where we have developed our Global Human Rights Principles and supported education throughout the company on trafficking issues. I’ve learned from listening to nonprofit groups with expertise and am glad to note that we also support terrific organizations such as Truckers Against Trafficking. I’m passionate about working on this issue because, one, I think it’s absolutely critical that we acknowledge it’s happening in our community and that the most vulnerable people—our children—are being exploited in this horrendous way. Once you know that, you cannot help but to act and to see what you can do to stop it.
Q: The issue of child sex trafficking is often perceived as an international issue, but in fact it’s also a hyper-local issue. Why is this so important?
KH: The exploitation of children unfortunately happens in every community around the world. Understanding and acknowledging that fact is a critical step to getting to the core of the issue -and to recognize how this is manifesting in your community. Organizations that we work with in a coalition model know the most about how this is happening in Seattle and Washington state, online, and in other communities around the United States and the world. Relying on their expertise to then show us what is most needed is critical to combatting trafficking.
Q: The work you do professionally at Amazon is focused on tackling major issues, one of which is the climate crisis. We often feel powerless as individuals to make a difference. How can we support this cause and have an impact?
KH: Everyone can play a role, and the more people that offer their time, skills, resources and support, the quicker we can help to put a stop to this very complicated and insidious issue. Similar to any complex issue that affects people in multiple sectors—government, the private sector, the public—you have to take a look at what lever you are best suited to pull. If you can use your time to raise awareness, that is so important. If you have tech skills, you can help to scale solutions that are available to intervene and address what is happening online. If you know how to lobby and work on policy, then you can contact your local officials and asking what they are doing in your community to combat trafficking. And finally, all of this takes time and energy from so many hard-working individuals and organizations, so contributing financial resources is another very essential piece. It’s a system, and we need all of the parts to work together!
In addition to the leadership Kara provides to StolenYouth, Amazon recently provided a monetary gift to the organization. StolenYouth’s partnership with Amazon will enable a stronger focus on its prevention program infrastructure and an expansion of its impact. A key objective is to direct resources toward packaging successful programs, such as Project: SugarFree, into statewide models. This will enable StolenYouth to help protect kids across the state of Washington and further disrupt the activities of traffickers. Thank you to Amazon for the generous gift, and to Kara Hurst for her tireless work with StolenYouth!