According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, Human Trafficking--- a fancy term for SLAVERY is “…the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.”
For many, it may be hard to believe that human trafficking, the actual selling and purchasing of human beings happens right here in the land of the free and home of the brave. But it does. Since human trafficking is largely a hidden crime, there is no way to get an exact number as to how many lives it really affects. However, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, generating $150 billion dollars in profit each year. According to The Polaris Project, the organization that operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there are hundreds of thousands of human trafficking victims right here in the United States, dwelling among us, hidden in plain sight.
So despite our inability to give you an EXACT number of children who are trafficked in the United States each year, we declare that ONE IS TOO MANY. I am Jane Doe, a Netflix Documentary that chronicles the legal battles of several mothers who were outraged that their underage daughters, some as young as 14, were bought and sold for sex on the predatory website known as backpage.com--- mirrors a society that has begun to normalize human bodies as being nothing more than commodities… even children. For that reason we as parents and community kin must vow to educate ourselves, our children, and our nation on how to keep our youth safe from slave masters aka traffickers and other predators.
Here are 3 steps we can take to keep our children safe:
1. Assume the responsibility of the protector- According to Common Sense Media, an organization that exists to educate parents and guardians about safe technology usage for children discovered that 69% of kids in the U.S. have smart phones by age 12. We also live in a day where parents want to give their children the space to grow, evolve, make their own decisions and learn from their own mistakes. However there are some mistakes that they just can’t afford to make right now. ALL SOCIAL MEDIA can put your children at risk to be targeted and contacted by traffickers. Our prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that helps us with making decisions isn’t fully developed until our mid-twenties.
Trusting your child to always make good decisions while using technology isn’t giving them privacy, it is negligence and could potentially put their safety at risk. I know, ‘it could never happen to your child’. Tell that to the thousands of parents who said that same thing, or to THESE PARENTS (click to watch) who were certain their children would never invite a potential trafficker into their world, and were devastatingly wrong. We at Project Mona’s house have found that MSpy, and SaferKid applications have helped parents across the country to monitor their children’s actions on social media, and with their overall phone use in general. Even if you cannot afford those apps, you should have full access to their phone and randomly check it from time to time. We don’t say this because you shouldn’t trust them, but because there are people in the world that will target your child, who at this age don’t have the life experiences needed to discern a dangerous situation all the time. YOU ARE THE PROTECTOR. They need that more than they need you to be their friend… assume your position. PROTECTED BY PARENTS… STAND BACK!!!
2. Don’t be naïve, your kids already know- Some parents put off having important conversations about sex, abuse, the power of consent, rape, and trafficking because they feel their children are not ready. A good friend of mine said her daughter came home while in the fourth grade talking about how other children were fantasying about the sexual things they wanted to do to each other.
Last April, I was in NYC at my niece’s 13th birthday party when she told me things that the boys in her school said they wanted to do to her. Parents, it’s time to have the talk. If you don’t, then sadly someone else may define for them what is appropriate and inappropriate. Someone else may be able to prey on their ignorance and exploit them which will only create more hardships ahead. Talking to your children about sex and violations against their bodies helps to create and shape their boundaries which forms a knowing within them, that they can come to you if someone crosses them.
3. Kill Stranger Danger- I know, I know, stranger danger is a term that we’ve used for years, and have passed along to generations behind us. We need to expand our thinking on that topic. Teaching our children that stranger danger is all they need to be cautious about may potentially place them right in the hands of those who want to hurt them the most. How? I’m glad you asked. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline
“…the most pervasive myth about human trafficking is that it always - or often - involves kidnapping or otherwise physically forcing someone into a situation. In reality, most human traffickers use psychological means such as tricking, defrauding, manipulating or threatening victims into providing commercial sex or exploitative labor.”
Some child victims of trafficking, at one point or another, have grown to know, and for whatever reason trust their trafficker. Using stranger danger as the measuring stick for security is rendered powerless once an exploiter gains the trust of your child and therefore can no longer serve as a safeguard. We need to teach our child than sometimes strangers are not the only dangers we face and to always be aware, honest about their feelings, and not to keep secrets from you--- no matter how angry they think the truth may make you.
We have a better chance of protecting our children by having healthy conversations, working hard to create safe spaces for children to converse with parents/guardians, and to be active in their lives in and outside of the home.
I don’t mean to brag, but the tips that I just gave you are great! However, we must be honest, these HELP us protect our children, but they don’t guarantee a trafficker will never interact with our child on any level. Continue to stay watchful, prayerful, and up to date with pertinent information on keeping our children, our communities, and ourselves safe.
Remember, awareness will always be the first step to prevention. So stay aware. One way you can learn more, and constantly stay abreast of new information or trends is to sign up for our FREE webinar called Human Trafficking 101. You can register right on our website.
If you’re reading this, I know you love your children, family, or community members. KUDOS to you. Despite what this world will try and make you think, you’re a good mom, dad, guardian, auntie, uncle, cousin, etc.. Let’s keep fighting forward… TOGETHER!!!
Yours in the fight,