Justice Institute of B.C.

Experiential youth

“Experiential youth” are youth who have experience being sexually exploited – that is they have traded sexual favors or acts for money, a place to stay, protection, drugs, or other things of value to them. 

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the rights of children to participate in decisions affecting their own lives.  Program and policy development are areas in which youth participation will ensure the relevance and effectiveness of these initiatives. Children and youth – especially experiential youth  – have valuable knowledge, experience and skills to share in working on these issues.

Including experiential youth in your program development, organizational planning, or other community work can present many ethical and logistical challenges.  Some of the questions you should ask yourself are:

How are experiential youth being protected from re-living their past traumas? 

What resources are being provided for experiential youth to debrief, to gain skills, and to be supported as they contribute to the project or organization?

Are the experiential youth far away enough from their experiences of exploitation to be able to speak to the issue without putting them at risk of further harming themselves?

How are the youth being ensured confidentiality and safety when talking about their experiences?

Some strategies that programs have undertaken to address youth participation are:

  • Youth-driven programming
  • Youth advisory board
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Significant employment opportunities for experiential youth
  • Core staff positions occupied by youth
  • Hiring boards with youth in decision-making positions
  • Activities determined by the youth participants
  • Allocation of funds determined by the youth participants
  • Youth involvement in evaluating the success of programs
  • Youth mentorship opportunities
  • Production of media projects which reflect the social reality of sexual exploitation
  • Youth theatre presentations and other arts-based educational tools

The following resources will be helpful as you make decisions about your own policies and guidelines for the involvement of youth, particularly experiential youth, in your work. 


Declaration of Accountability On The Ethical Engagement of Young People and Adults in Canadian Organizations

This document is a tool to assist organizations that are currently engaging with young people and those that are beginning the process to reflect on their organization's structures, culture and capacity - both human and financial - to respectfully engage with young people.

Engaging Young People in Leadership and Decision Making

This report was developed by McCreary Youth Foundation to provide information for organizations and communities committed to activating youth voice.  The report includes information on youth voice, leadership development, and active citizenship.  It outlines important philosophies regarding the effective engagement of young people in leadership and decision making.

Giving Youth a Voice: Experiential youth in the North Okanagan (Summary Report)

In 2004, this study was conducted with youth who had been sexually exploited in the North Okanagan.  The focus of the report is on creating meaningful opportunities for exploited youth to voice their experiences.

Addressing the Sexual Exploitation of Our Youth:  Building Community Capacity for Effective Response

This report was written by CASEY, a Prince George working group for community-based action research.  It enabled and supported experiential youth to participate safely in designing solutions that will work within the Prince George community.

So You Want to Consult With Children?  A Toolkit of Good Practice

Save the Children Canada has created this guide to involving children in meetings, research and project development, outlining essential elements of good practice.

So You Want to Involve Children in Research

This is a related guide from Save the Children Canada looking specifically at the ethical guidelines for involving children in research.

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