2018 Founders Fellowship
The 2018 recipients was Rebecca DeVerter and Mariah Hosie, law students at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law
Rebecca DeVerter, International Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Even back in 2010, as an undergraduate student studying international affairs and development, I was shocked to learn about the disparity women and children, especially young girls, face worldwide. Upon learning this harrowing fact, I vowed to make it my life’s mission to work towards the advancement and empowerment of women and girls both domestically and abroad. My internship experience with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) helped take me one step closer to that goal, and helped to equip me with valuable skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.
ICMEC prides itself on making the world a safer place for children through research, advocacy, training, and collaboration. During my time at ICMEC, I was honored to have the ability to see first-hand the dedication and hard work put forth by everyone in the office. Not only was I able to build on my independent research skills, but I also learned more about the value of team work and became more skilled at working in a group setting in order to fulfill a common goal. The skill sets provided by everyone in the office help to produce quality work that is used around the world in order to develop stronger legislation and policies to protect children from exploitation and abuse.
My internship responsibilities included doing research for ICMEC’s annual publication, entitled Child Sexual Abuse Materials: Model Legislation and Global Review. Much of my research focused on the area of data retention, and how that affects law enforcement efforts to combat the production and proliferation of child pornography around the world. In addition to researching data retention, I was also charged with the task of researching how statistics pertaining to child pornography have changed since the last edition of the report of published. It was heartbreaking to see that throughout the years, young girls are still the most common victims of child pornography.
Besides conducting this research, I was also able to participate in communicating with embassies in order to ensure that ICMEC’s research was accurate, which helped me to learn even more about global policies towards child pornography. Despite the fact that there is still much progress that needs to be made on a global level to properly combat, and hopefully to eventually eradicate, child pornography, it was enlightening to see just how much progress has been made throughout the years. One thing that remains true, however, is that young girls still remain one of the most vulnerable groups in the global community. Realizing this fact helped to affirm my passion for working towards the empowerment of females of all ages, and my work at ICMEC helped make me realize that progress is attainable.
In addition to conducting research for the Child Sexual Abuse Materials report, I was also presented with many other opportunities to work towards the empowerment and protection of all children. National Missing Children’s Day fell during the first week of my internship with ICMEC, and we were invited to a ceremony at the Department of Justice advocating for missing children. At this ceremony, the father of a young woman who had tragically gone missing and was murdered by someone she knew spoke to the crowd about his daughter’s life as well as how girls in particular face many dangers and are very vulnerable members of our society. His empowering speech sought legal reform advocating for more protections for children in general, especially those who go missing and are typically written off as runaways. His passion for making the world safer for children, especially young girls, was incredible to experience, especially so early on in my internship. To this day, his speech is something that resonates with me, and was something that I carried throughout my entire internship experience.
As previously mentioned, one of the ways ICMEC spreads awareness for the rights of children is through educational programs. ICMEC provides education to law enforcement and medical personnel, teaching them how to detect and address child abuse and exploitation. ICMEC also provides educational programs to teachers around the world, teaching them how to see the signs of child abuse and how to address that within their communities. During my internship, I was able to learn about the various educational programs and resources that ICMEC provides.
Learning about the educational programs was an incredible experience for me, because it made me realize how complicated the issue of child abuse is, but also showed me the various resources that are available to assist children. By participating in this educational program, my fellow interns and I were inspired to discuss the differences between boys and girls and the various expectations and stereotypes placed upon these groups. We had tough conversations about what society expects of girls and how that affects girls as they grow up, and different ways to combat these negative effects.
In addition to learning about child pornography, missing children, and child abuse, I also learned about sex trafficking – particularly the sex trafficking of women. I was able to learn through different webinars the resources available to combat sex trafficking, but I also learned about how the laws can often be unfair towards the victims of sex trafficking, especially young girls and women. It was unbelievable for me to realize just how hard it is to prosecute crimes of sex trafficking, which only serves to perpetuate the suffering of the victims. Despite the fact that sex trafficking was not the sole focus of my internship experience, I grew increasingly passionate about making the justice system fairer to female victims of sex trafficking.
I will always look back fondly on my experience at ICMEC. Not only did I have the honor of meeting incredibly hard-working people who all shared a common goal with me, but I learned a great deal about child exploitation and how to make the world a safer place for children. I left my internship feeling as though my work made a difference, but I know that there is still more that must be done in order to make the world a better place for young girls. I left ICMEC with a renewed vow to devote my life to the goal of empowering and advancing women not just in the United States, but throughout the world.
Mariah Hosie, Aequitas
This past summer I interned at AEquitas, The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women. This experience solidified my desire to create a career focused on understanding and aiding those suffering from gender-based violence issues. This internship was a great experience and I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work there thanks to AEquitas and the Women’s Bar Association.
At AEquitas I spent my summer researching and writing on topics concerning gender-based violence in the legal realm. These topics included subject matter that I did not initially connect with such issues and thus I learned a great deal that I will be able to take with me throughout my future internships and ultimately my career.
While working at Aequitas, I was assigned both Technical Assistance (TA) requests and long-term research projects. The TA requests I worked on covered a variety of topics such as no contact order violations, attempted rape laws in Idaho, Maryland strangulation laws, and child pornography federal laws. Each TA request was compelling and challenging.
As for the long-term projects, one project focused on corroborative evidence. For this project I had to research the laws in in all fifty States plus the territories. The focus was specifically on whether corroborative evidence was required with a complainant’s testimony in sexual assault cases. I was surprised and happy to learn that the majority of states do not require corroborative evidence, though it does help the case. It was interesting to research those States that do require such evidence, as most of them have a very limited scope in which corroborative evidence was required. For example, some states did not require corroborative evidence unless the story was physically impossible or so incredible that it defied reasonable belief.
This project was interesting for me, I enjoyed trying to figure out and understand the reasoning behind the states that required some form of corroborative evidence. I would hope that maybe one day it would change and corroborative evidence would not be required in such cases; today, we know that many times there is a probable possibility that the only evidence that will exist in a sexual assault case is the complainant’s testimony but that does not mean the assault did not occur.
Another project I spent a great deal of time on was an Annotated Bibliography on Trauma Informed Response in Gender-Based Violence and Human Trafficking. I researched the basic concept of trauma and the definitions that exist for trauma and the terms that are often associated with it. I also had the opportunity to learn about the science behind trauma, specifically the neurobiology of trauma and how the hormones affect the brain and processing, which in turn generates a variety of different responses and a combination showing how and why there is no one textbook response of a victim of trauma. Though there is no guaranteed way a victim could respond to trauma, I researched some general ways a victim could respond to trauma such as the basic fight, flight, or freeze response. From there I started researching the aftermath of the traumatic event for victims, and then began specifically looking at trauma in gender-based violence and human trafficking victims.
With trauma and the responses researched for the annotated bibliography, I began to investigate what a “trauma-informed response” was and the definitions generally associated with it. I learned and understood the benefits to a trauma-informed approach, the core principles that make an organization trauma-informed, and how to make an organization trauma-informed. I expanded that research to look into specific areas such as colleges, healthcare, and the criminal justice system, and what they have done and can do to create, maintain, and further their trauma-informed approaches to aid not only the victims, but professionals who assist these victims in their jobs.
This project was significant to me because I believe it can be a great resource for not only prosecutors, but also members of law enforcement and people in general. Understanding trauma and a trauma-informed approach can truly help with the healing process and prevent the possibility of re-traumatizing a victim. If everyone were to learn a trauma-informed approach, especially those directly working with victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking, there is a likelihood that the number of those reporting will increase, and once reported, there will be a greater chance that the victims will be able to access the support they may need.
During this summer I learned a tremendous amount about the legal issues in gender-based violence across the United States. I learned how each State approaches the topic differently and how that affects the laws each state creates. In my research, I found that we, as a country, are not as far behind on such laws as I thought, but that we still have great strides to make in assisting those suffering from domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other such gender-based violence. I hope that I can contribute positively to advancing our legal system to a place where it thoroughly and effectively serves our society.