Sex trafficking can happen to anyone, regardless of age, culture, income, or gender.
Victims are often lured by someone they know. Whether by males they consider to be their boyfriends or through friends who are victims themselves, sex traffickers are recruiting teens across the globe.
Traffickers are master manipulators; traffickers lure victims with promises of love, security, acceptance, and a better life.
So when it comes to protecting our kids, it takes a village armed with knowledge and the courage to ask for help.
Continue reading for steps to help empower our youth to stay safe and, if necessary, to seek help if they encounter traffickers.
Empowering teens with knowledge & language
When it comes to difficult situations, teens don’t always feel comfortable turning to their parents or guardians. However, regardless of their situation, young people need to know where to get help even if they are too afraid to ask.
As parents or guardians, a ‘no-questions-asked’ policy might feel challenging- after all their priority is to protect their kids. Even for the most open-minded guardians out there, it can be hard to loosen the tight grip sometimes.
But regardless of differing parenting philosophies, all will agree that kids need to know where to seek help and safety should they find themselves in trouble.
Here are a few tips that are vital for your teen to know about the severity of trafficking. Explain to them that:
- Sex trafficking is NEVER the victim’s fault
- It’s ALWAYS ok to ask for help, regardless of the situation
- They can come to you any time, no matter what they have done- even if they ‘broken a rule’. This is when they need you the most!
Many trafficking survivors say they didn’t even know how to describe what was happening to them at the time of their luring and abuse. It’s vital to equip young people to be able to verbalize what is happening to them.
Here is some language you can teach your teen that they can use to verbalize what is happening to a trusted adult should they ever need to:
Your teen can use phrases such as:
- “I am being forced to do things I am not comfortable with, that I do not consent to.”
- “I have a gut feeling is that this isn’t right.”
- “I feel disrespected or powerless.”
There is a phrase: ‘when you know better, you do better’. Knowledge is power for our teens. Regardless of age, a person who is armed with knowledge is armed with the power of options. And as parents, we can gift our kids with the knowledge to know better and do better so they are proactive in keeping themselves safe.
Knowing the signs of trafficking and the next steps:
Knowing the signs of sex trafficking is a key preventative measure against sex trafficking. The following are a few tactics of a trafficker that you make your teen aware of.
Traffickers will often say things like:
- “Don’t tell anyone”
- “It’s our secret.”
- “You owe me.”
- “I need you to do something just this once, for our future together.”
Educating your teen about the language of a manipulator is another powerful form of prevention. Get to think about these phrases and why might someone really say these things to them. Discuss why someone might ask them to keep something a secret. Equip them to think critically for themselves.
The next step is encouraging them to listen to their feelings and trust their gut.
Following are a few red flags to help your teen become aware of.
Encourage your teen to seek help when feeling:
- Like they’re being made to do things they’re not comfortable with ● Disrespected or powerless
- That they don’t have any control
- That they don’t have a choice or other options
Asking for help can be difficult, and it’s important for your entire family to feel safe. If you suspect your child is being trafficked, here are ways to connect with support and services:
If there is an emergency situation, call 9-1-1. Victims of sex trafficking may often disappear for extended periods, and if you are unable to locate your child, contact your local police immediately to file a missing person report.
To empower parents and communities against the dangers of sex trafficking, the Parent Coalition to end Human Trafficking website serves as a resource and starting point against this worldwide crime.