As parents you vow to protect your child from any harm that may come their way. This alone can be the most fearful aspect of parenting as one is not aware of all of the dangers out there. Human and sex trafficking is a real danger and as we have learned this week in the nation’s capital, children are going missing daily! In order to protect your children, one must know what trafficking really is, how it occurs, and how quickly it can occur.
1) Educate yourself on human trafficking.
The first example of trafficking for most that comes to mind is the movie Taken. While abduction of this nature can take place while overseas, it can also take place right here in America in our backyards! Human trafficking is estimated to be a 30 billion dollar industry described as modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. So one does not have to be abducted to be a victim of trafficking. One can go home every night and still be a victim if they are being forced to do something against their will. For example, a victim can be videotaped performing a sexual act against their will and forced into compliance to repeat the act again with the threat of releasing the video. The shame, fear, embarrassment, and trying to protect their family maintains the compliance.
2) Trafficking begins with seduction.
A relationship is formed, the victim begins to trust the perpetrator and once trust is gained the perpetrator is able to manipulate the victim to do what they want. Perpetrators stalk their prey and look for people who are susceptible due to psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship or lack of an emotional support system. The more isolated one is, the more they become the perfect victim. The seduction and fear of consequences by the perpetrators can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.
3) Be a vigilant, nosey, all up in your child’s business parent!
Look for a change in behavior, attitude, and appearance. Do not write it off as a phase that your child is going through! There is always a reason for change! The adolescent years are where you must supervise the most! Yes encourage independence, but within reason! At this stage, acceptance is the most important thing to your child because they are developing their self identity, are always auditioning for an imaginary audience (they think everybody is looking and judging them) and social influence is at an all time high during this stage of development. Monitor their online activity, as this is the easiest place for seduction to occur. Have an honest conversation with your child about the dangers and that it is not their job to protect you from shame and embarrassment if they are forced into a situation like described above. Manage your frustration with their change in behavior, as they may not be able to easily verbalize what has happened to them. You becoming frustrated diminishes a safe space for them and they will only think that you just don’t understand, further isolating them. Be mindful of any indication of substance abuse as this is often used as self medication to mask the pain. Again, be vigilant, look for changes in their behavior, provide them with emotional support, and let your child know that they matter to you!
If you or you suspect that someone may be a victim of Human trafficking, please call the human trafficking hotline at
or text HELP or INFO to