WASE Forward leaders and advocates with Washington Senator Claire Wilson
BEST is a proud co-founder of Washington Against Sexual Exploitation (WASE Forward), a Washington state initiative working to promote policies and practices that enhance support and justice for adult sex trafficking survivors.
Washington was the first state to make human trafficking a crime at the state level in 2003 and has since been passing survivor-centered policies that support the well-being, healing, and justice for survivors. But currently, many of the service providers across the state are operating on shoestring budgets. WASE Forward is advocating for increased funding for services for adults of who have experienced sex trafficking.
Prevention and awareness are key when addressing the issue of sex trafficking, but it's also important that once a survivor exits their trafficking situation, they have access to services to rebuild their lives. WASE Forward’s leadership consists of experts with program, research, and lived experience of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. Their goal is to create policies and services that are made by survivors for survivors, and it’s important that the leadership team reflects the communities they serve.
WASE Forward faced their first major setback in the 2022 Washington legislative session when the bill they drafted stalled in session. Since then, the WASE Forward leadership team has drafted another bill, Substitute Senate Bill 5114, and for this session they have been working tirelessly to outreach the community and meet organizations who serve the identities of those most affected by sex trafficking.
The bill is sponsored by Washington State Senator Claire Wilson, and it would create a network of healing, support and transition services for adults with lived experience of sex trafficking. If passed, the healing and transition services funded by this new bill would include advocacy, safety planning, housing, substance use disorder treatment, medical and behavioral health services, legal advocacy, translation and interpretation services, education, job training, employment support, outreach, and emergency financial assistance.
The bill requires at least one community-based organization to operate and service survivors in eastern Washington, and at least one organization in western Washington, but multiple social service agencies may be funded. If passed, Washington state would be investing millions to provide more services for adult sex trafficking survivors.
So far, the bill has passed unanimously in all legislative committees, and it passed in the Senate in early March. Chiyedza Mvundura, WASE Forward’s program manager said, “WASE Forward is important because we are focusing on legislation, advocacy, and education. We have very supportive legislators at the state level, but we are working to make them aware of how to better serve vulnerable communities who need services like job training, healthcare, and housing to exit the commercial sex industry.”
Chiyedza said she is proud of the work this group has accomplished since that last session. “We’ve been able to gain support from organizations that don’t work directly on sex trafficking but who serve marginalized identities that intersect with our work like the LGBTQ+ community and Black and Indigenous women. Their support is invaluable, and it allows us to better communicate to our legislative body about the needs of vulnerable people here in Washington.”
Besides BEST, WASE Forward partners with over 30 organizations in Washington, and this past December, WASE Forward was recognized by the Seattle Human Rights Commission with a special award for Organization Human Rights Leader. This is a big accomplishment only two years into its inception.