Teenage sex trafficking in America is happening at incomprehensible proportions. It is estimated that up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year, according to Ark of Hope for Children.
Here are a few tips to help keep your teen safe from sex traffickers.
If your child walks or rides the bus to school, talk specifically about safety rules and have a set check-in time for him/her to call you when he/she gets home from school. Engaging in role play with him/her can also be beneficial. Act out different possible scenarios and see how they react. Don’t forget to give helpful feedback as well.
Avoid labeling your child’s clothing or backpack. You don’t want a stranger to be able to call out your teen’s name easily.
Consider providing your child with a pre-programmed cell phone so they can reach you and the police if the need arises. Have a secret code word or phrase that doesn’t sound suspicious to an outsider which they can use to alert you that they’re in a dangerous situation.
If they are at a party, make sure they know to never leave beverages unattended. Many recruiters will infiltrate high school parties and attempt to drug their victims.
This article on Scary Mommy goes over more ideas on how to keep our children safe online.
“Every child feels insecure at some point in their lives. If a sex trafficker finds them online when they are feeling low, they are at risk,” said Sergeant Nikkole Peterson, who works in the Human Trafficking division in St. Paul, Minnesota... “In a lot of cases, a trafficker makes contact with a girl online after weeks of watching their social media accounts,” Peterson explains. “A teen (usually female) will post something about a fight with their parents or boyfriend and it begins. These predators will befriend them; tell them they shouldn’t be treated like that, that they are special.”
Once trust is established, the trafficker moves in, even if that relationship is manifested entirely online. “The goal is for his victim to become dependent on him for validation. Then, he poses a financial problem that only she can solve,” Peterson says. “Often, the trafficker will ask the victim to perform a sex act ‘just this once’ to help them out of a financial bind.” As soon as it happens once, they have their hook. It quickly becomes, “If you don’t do it again, I’m going to tell your parents, humiliate or beat you, or worse,” Peterson explains.
The LoveEd Movement provides outreach and education for older teens and millennials on the dangers they face on and off-line as well as viable solutions for helping older teens and millennials make healthy relationship choices.
Please check out our Compassionate Dialogues Curriculum for teachers and school personnel to use with pre-teens, teens and millennials who are experiencing distress, depression, or are suicidal or homicidal.