A vital step in educating people about sex-trafficking is to dispel the many myths surrounding it. For this article's purpose, I will address just one because I believe it has tainted the way parents view sex trafficking and their understanding of how susceptible children are to being trafficked.
The myth is that sex trafficking involves kidnapping or violently forcing someone into selling sex. The truth is most trafficked victims know their trafficker and are groomed or manipulated into selling sex much more subtly than popular movies depict. Yes, some sex trafficking situations include a violent grabbing of someone off the streets, but reports indicate that it is only roughly ten percent of all trafficking cases.
The reality is most girls trust the wrong person, who then coerces them into selling sex. Sadly, that can even include a parent. I have heard stories of girls whose own parents forced them to have sex with someone to pay off a debt or obtain drugs.
The danger in believing this myth is that people tend to think if they keep their kids away from the mall or the playground, they are safe, but in reality, the most dangerous place for kids to be is on their computer or smartphone. Kids can be recruited through social media sites, false advertisements, and job opportunities such as modeling or acting, to name a few.
Traffickers tend to prey on young people who are economically or socially vulnerable, such as those living in poverty, on the streets, or who have experienced abuse or addiction. They pose as a friend, offering to meet a need or just a sympathetic ear. In some cases, traffickers may use another young person to befriend and recruit their victims. Although runaway and homeless youth are particularly vulnerable, there are also several examples of victims who were groomed and recruited while living at home and attending school. Many victims claim their trafficker groomed them over several months.
When a trafficker gains their victim's trust, they no longer need to use physical force to exploit them. Typically they wait till they have an explicit image or damaging information about the victim they can use against them. Typically by this point, the victim experiences guilt, shame, and fear that prevents them from talking to their parents about what's happening.
Knowing how sex trafficking most often happens is critical in helping parents have conversations with their children to prevent them from becoming a victim.
*much of the information in this article is provided by the Polaris Project (www.Polarisproject.org)