Sex trafficking. You hear about it on the news, and see it on social media. Would-be abductors lurking in parking lots or stalking down store aisles, waiting for opportunities to steal children and lure teens away from their families.
Traffickers target children because of their vulnerability and innocence. The average age of entry into prostitution is 12 to 14 years old. Traffickers are known to recruit at schools, malls and even through social media. Recruitment takes many forms: kidnapping; solicitation by other women or girls recruiting on behalf of the sex trafficker; the “boyfriend” approach of appearing romantically interested while slowly coercing them into prostitution; and even the “daddy” form where men promise to care for and be a daddy to girls who long for protection and provision. As parents, we need to be vigilant. Our children’s safety depends on it. Below are five things that you can do to help prevent your child from being lured away by a trafficker:
Set a high standard of “LOVE” within your home.
The way we define and express love shapes our children’s self-image, confidence and opinions of future relationships. Treat them the way you want them to treat their future spouses, and how their future spouses should treat them. Help your children distinguish between real love and empty promises with cheap gifts.
Talk to your children about sexual abuse.
Let your children know that if anyone has or ever does hurt them, they can talk to you. This is the most important thing you can say. Don’t assume they have not been hurt by sexual violence before. Leave the door open for your child to talk about past circumstances that they haven’t shared with you. Be a comforting presence. Don’t ever belittle situations they choose to share with you.
Talk to your children about sex trafficking.
Discuss ways children and teens are targeted for sex trafficking. Let them know that traffickers specifically try to pursue young girls and boys with promises of a better life – whether it’s promises of love and attention or promises of nice things. Traffickers can be male or female, even classmates. Traffickers may even use kids to recruit other kids. Teach children and teens to trust their gut instincts; if a situation or interaction feels weird or too-good-to-be-true, GET OUT OF IT.
Talk to your children about the dangers of social media.
It is important to provide practical safety tips to children and teens like: don’t share personal information on the Internet; don’t accept Facebook requests from people you don’t know; NEVER share naked photos of yourself with anyone; and tell a parent or a trusted adult if you feel threatened or uncomfortable online. Also, children need help in defining friendships. Social media has distorted our children’s understanding of what friendship means. A Facebook “friend” is not the same thing as a real-life friend.
Pay attention to your children.
Monitor your children’s social media accounts and look for ways to meet their friends and their friends’ parents. Be alert to boyfriends who are much older, or friendships that tend to isolate your child from other friends or family. Notice if your child has new clothing items, makeup products, cell phone or other items and ask about how they acquired them.
In 2016, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims.
Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally.
In a 2014 report, the Urban Institute estimated that the underground sex economy ranged from $39.9 million in Denver, Colorado, to $290 million in Atlanta, Georgia.
How Do I Report a Suspected Incidence of Human Trafficking?
To report an immediate emergency
Call 911 or contact your local police department or emergency access number.
To report suspected trafficking crimes, get help, or learn more about human trafficking from a nongovernmental organization
Call the toll-free (24/7) National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 (1-888-373-7888).
Text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).
Submit a tip online at http://www.traffickingresourcecenter.org/