My earliest memory of hearing the words “sex trafficking” was as a child when a family friend left for Cambodia to combat this horrible reality inflicted on many children in that part of the world. Little did I know that soon sex trafficking would be a reality right here in my own backyard, the United States. Sex trafficking is not a third world problem, it’s all of our problem, and it’s closer to you than you think.
According to the Polaris Project (an organization created to end human trafficking) most children who are trafficked for sex know and trust their traffickers. As hard as that is to believe, this means that vulnerable children are possibly living in your neighborhood, going to your church, and hanging out with your children at school. The idea portrayed in movies that girls are kidnapped in a white van and shipped overseas is generally not how it happens and is harmful to the reality that our young people, especially girls, are facing growing up right here in America. A sex trafficker could be a neighbor, a family friend, a coach, a club leader, a relative, or even a boyfriend (that last one should shock you, but it’s true!)
This is terrifying news, right? As a mother, it can be paralyzing at times when considering letting my daughter go out at night with friends. However, with knowledge comes power, and we all can make a difference.
Here are three easy ways you can help combat trafficking:
Educate Yourself. Take some time to educate yourself on what sex trafficking is and isn’t. The Polaris Project (www.polarisproject.org) is a terrific resource and a great place to start.
Pay Attention. Not just to your children, but also to other kids in your child’s life or to children you see every day in your neighborhood. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t just blow it off or explain it away. Lean in, ask questions, seek advice, and do something. A simple call to a local sex trafficking hotline can give you the information you need to take a step to possibly stop a child from being hurt.
Communicate. Especially with your kids about what sex trafficking is and is not. Of course, you will need to use language that your child can understand, depending on their age, but they are growing up in a world where this is a reality, and they need wisdom from you on what sex trafficking is so they can avoid becoming a victim.
According to Dr. Jim Burns, President of Homeword, kids get their first smartphone around ten years old, on average. Early exposure to the internet and social media is changing the world for our young people. With a multi-billion dollar industry intent on luring them into all sorts of sexually deviant behavior, parents need to step up our game to protect our most vulnerable.
Sure, this is scary, and it’s hard to take an in-depth look at what sex trafficking is all about. It’s even harder still to have conversations about it with our kids. But using our voice to speak into this epidemic can begin to change the course of the trafficking industry, one young life at a time. I’m up for that battle, are you?