April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. One of the worst kinds of child abuse happening in our country today is the prevalence of sex trafficking. Sexual trafficking encompasses youth who are targeted and recruited into prostitution, children who are abducted and sold into slavery, and children manipulated or sold into child pornography production. There are 1.5 MILLION victims of human trafficking in the United States alone. An estimated 350,000 of those are children. More money is made on the illegal sale of humans annually than the illegal sale of guns. It is fast overtaking the illegal sale of drugs. It is a major concern of law enforcement, nationally and locally, across our country.
Because trafficking occurs across multiple demographics of society, there is no one way to guarantee that your children will not be targeted, but organizations that depend upon charity and vehicle donations to help fund their efforts are helping teach parents how to protect their children. Operation Lookout, the National Center for Missing Youth is one such charity. Operation Lookout was started to raise awareness of child-safety and to help youth trapped in the billion-dollar-sex-trafficking industry. Your car donation to Homes for Children in Crisis can help these kids.
What You Need to Know
Human sex traffickers use tried and true means to recruit youth and children. If you know what to watch for you can offer your children protection.
- Traffickers target typical “teen” hangout spots: malls, theaters, schools, playgrounds, etc. Be sure your children are never alone in these areas.
- Traffickers target girls who are alone. Teach your children to travel in groups and make sure they are not alone in known danger areas.
- Keep track of your child’s email and messenger conversations. Traffickers try to gain a child’s trust by impersonating another child on the internet.
- 76% of all child trafficking cases begin with internet conversations.
- Find out everything you can about your child’s boyfriend/girlfriend. Traffickers often gain the trust of not only the victim but the victim’s family by lying about their age and background. Do your homework and get to know the family, affiliations, and community involvement of the person your child sees as a significant other.
- Know where your child is at all times.
- Establish a safe sign, like an asterisk, percentage sign, etc, that your child can text to you when they are in trouble.
- Add a GPS tracker to your child’s phone so that you can always find them.
- Establish check-in times with your children and set an alarm for it on your child’s phone.
- Thoroughly research and educate yourself about “modeling” agencies that want to recruit your child. Traffickers use this method to gain the trust and interest of their victims.
- Discuss, determine, and practice what your child should do when they feel threatened. Make sure that they understand that they should NEVER go with the trafficker to a second location, no matter how they are threatened.
- Don’t assume your child is “too young” to have these discussions. Traffickers target 8-14 year old children.
- Don’t allow your child to attend unsupervised parties. Traffickers target parties where they can easily separate a child and take them while others are busy and not paying attention.
- Teach your children to never leave a drink unattended at a party, even for a moment. This is an easy way for a trafficker to administer drugs to a potential victim.
No one else will watch over and defend your child the way that you will. Your children may balk at restraints on their time and activities, but our job as parents is to help our children live safely. Safety demands responsibility on the part of both parents and children.