Human trafficking is a major world wide problem. Millions of children and adults are trafficked into sex slavery every single year. It is the third most profitable illegal industry after arms and drugs sales, raking in $32 billion in annual profits. In this series we are learning all about human trafficking. This post will cover how can we prevent being targeted for human trafficking, and how should we respond when we suspect it. I have added some amazing videos that aid in our understanding of how to prevent and report trafficking.
To further inform myself on the issue, I took OUR Rescue's free online training course which I highly recommend. It's only an hour long, and comes from an outstanding child rescue organization.
Now that you know what human trafficking is and some of the major signs, let's learn how we can protect ourselves. The first step is learning how to avoid being targeted by a sex trafficker. We know that these predators are masters at identifying vulnerable people (depressed, addicts, foster kids, few friends), or people in vulnerable situations (running away from home, travelling alone, etc.) so we must look out for ourselves and our loved ones. Making sure that your children and friends know you love them, and that you will always be a safe person that they can turn to can go a long way to squash vulnerabilities.
Just like other kinds of predators, traffickers do not fit a single profile. To identify one we must look for behavioural and tactical indicators. Traffickers can be male or female, any ethnicity, and they are all masters of manipulation and control.
Here are some of the tactics and behaviours used by traffickers:
They offer you expensive gifts or experiences
They ask you to keep inappropriate secrets, they want you to be secretive about your relationship with them
They make you believe you owe them a debt that must be paid off
They promise you fame or fortune, ask to take your picture, or offer your a 'job' as a model or actress
When asked how sex traffickers were able to control their victims, convicted offenders said "I sold them their dream, and told them what they wanted to hear".
They try to isolate you, or lure you into their car or house with some type of offer or ploy
They promise you a romantic relationship, friendship, or employment
They ask you to send them inappropriate images, videos, or pornographic content
They ask you to perform sexual acts for others for money. They may tell you that it's only temporary, until you can afford the life of your dreams.
They take advantage of your feelings towards them, guilting you to do things that you don't want to do to 'prove you really love them'.
The Process of Grooming
Traffickers gradually gain control of their victim through a process called grooming. The steps of grooming are:
Targeting a vulnerable individual
Gaining trust and information
Filling a need
Isolating the victim
Beginning the abuse
Maintaining control through threats or force
How To Help Your Children Avoid Being Groomed
One of the most important things you can do is encourage open communication about relationships with your children. Sex traffickers leverage secrecy to gradually gain control of their victims. Open communication about new relationships and the people in their lives is key. If your child is overly secretive about their new relationship with an older guy, this is a red flag.
Another important thing you can do is make sure that your child feels loved and taken care of. Especially in their preteen years from age 10-14 when they are most at risk of being targeted. Girls and boys at this age often go through a lot of changes, and may already be experiencing bullying or self-esteem issues. Having a grounded sense of belonging is very powerful for children and stops predators from having a void to fill.
Have open conversations with your family about what abuse looks like. Understanding that there are indeed people in the world who take advantage of others is an important part of developing a healthy caution, and encourages further education. Teach your children about the common lures abusers use, and how they try to exploit people when they are most vulnerable.