March 9, 2011
Law student advocates for sexually exploited girls
Commercial sexual exploitation of children is a growing problem in the United States, and University of Iowa law student Kate Walker is hoping to help its victims.
“There are so many girls from troubled backgrounds being exploited,” said Walker, a third year law student (3Ls) who will specialize in youth law. “I want to use my legal and advocacy skills to secure the girls the services they need to lead safe, healthy and productive lives.”
After Walker graduates in May she will partner with the National Center for Youth Law in Oakland, Calif., where she will work with under-served, sexually exploited girls in Alameda County. The Des Moines native hopes to provide access to mental health care and support services to many of these girls in need.
“On any given night, between 100,000 and 300,000 children are on America’s streets being sold for sex,” Walker said. “Arrests of minors for soliciting nearly tripled from 2008 to 2009.”
Oakland is one of two major hubs for child sexual exploitation in the United States, she said. To reduce the statistics, Walker plans to improve these girls’ lives by using direct legal representation and community collaboration. She will also partner with the juvenile court, the District Attorney's office, and other community and legal advocates to initiate a Girls Court in Alameda County, modeled after similar courts in Honolulu and Orange County, Calif.
Walker said the Girls Court would address the gender specific needs of girls who have been commercially sexually exploited in Alameda County. Right now, she said many girls who are detained on solicitation charges spend a significant amount of time waiting in juvenile hall. The Girls Court, she said, will holistically address each individual girl’s needs, and link her to community-based mental health and other support services she requires.
She hopes to provide individual advocacy on 30 to 40 cases and encourage community advocates to participate. She also plans to recruit legal advocates and train them about these support services in order to secure long-term tools for future care.
Before coming to the UI College of Law Walker attended Pomona College, one of the Claremont Colleges in southern California, where she studied public policy analysis with a focus in psychology. During her three years as a student at the UI, Walker focused her work on children in California’s foster care system.
“I have worked with disadvantaged people, and specifically children, in many capacities,” she said. “In each role I have used law to defend my clients’ rights and gain access to programs and services that promote fairness and justice.”
Walker has worked with several nonprofit legal organizations, including the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), the Alliance for Children’s Rights, and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles.
Walker’s plans to advocate in youth law were made possible in December, when she received an Equal Justice Works (EJW) Fellowship. The EJW awards fellowships to graduating 3Ls to complete a two-year project providing legal services and advocacy to under-served populations. Walker’s fellowship is sponsored by Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw & Pittman, a San Francisco law firm.
“I still can’t believe I got it and I’m really excited for the challenging work ahead,” Walker said. “Without the help of several professors at the law school and encouragement from my loved ones, I would never have had this amazing opportunity.”
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500; Writer: Tiffany Hung
MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, firstname.lastname@example.org, 319-384-0010 (office), 319-541-8434 (cell)