According to CourageWorldWide.com, there are 4.5 million young girls and boys across the globe who are sex trafficked. In the United States alone there are between 100-300,000 teens and children trafficked ranging from the ages of 9-19 with the average age of 11.
Many parents have this assumption that it doesn’t happen in their neighborhood. Unfortunately, that is not true. In fact, it happens in small quaint towns just as much as the big cities. The sex trafficking trade is becoming more daring. Previously their targets were runaways and the homeless. Today, they are reaching out in boldness, enough to take young people right from their driveways.
Many parents who have struggling and hurting teens do not realize that there may be a possibility that someone else is paying just as much attention to them too.
Pimps have become very good at profiling young girls (and boys). They know exactly who to target and manipulate as their next victim. So who are these sex traffickers?
They could be a man or a woman, a family member, a mentor, an older friend of your teen, a stranger, a gang member, a business owner, etc… The point is, there is no real description to go by.
So what type of pre-teens/teens do pimps target?
1. Girl or boy with very low self-esteem
2. Girl or boy with body issues
3. Girl or boy who has unstable home
4. Girl or boy who is alone at the mall or store
5. Girl or boy who is an outcast
6. Girl or boy who is depressed
7. Girl or boy who is naïve
8. Girl or boy who experiments with drugs
9. Girl or boy who dates older people
10. Girl or boy who displays emotional or physical needs
11. Girl or boy with sexual identity issues
Where do pimps find their next intended victim?
1. Social sites
3. School grounds
4. Shopping malls
5. Through friends or family
How do pimps manipulate their victims?
1. Give them gifts (jewelry, ipods/cell phones, clothes, food, etc…)
2. Offers a place to stay the next time they have a problem at home
3. Gives or shows tremendous amount of attention and love.
4. Makes many promises
5. Pretends to be lonely without them
6. Tells them that they have had no one to love them
7. Gets sympathy by sharing stories of troubled life
8. Uses threats – Will hurt family or them
9. Forces them through drugs and abuse
10. Makes them feel that only the pimp sees them as worthy
How do you tell if your teen could already be targeted?
1. Takes off without telling you where they are
2. Wears new clothes or jewelry, new cell phone
3. Secretive as to who they are talking to
4. Has been seen with an older male or female that you do not know
5. Gets a new older boyfriend or girlfriend
6. Abuses harder drugs or alcohol
7. Hangs out with wrong crowd (gang)
8. Spends more time than usual on the internet
Some of these signs are easy to see while others are not. But a parent’s instinct is fairly correct most times. The problem is that many parents, once they know, are unsure as to how they can resolve it.
First – have a good discussion with your teen about sex-trafficking and its dangers. Be blunt. Don’t sugarcoat it. They need to know the truth, especially when teens in crisis are more vulnerable.
Second – Set up a meeting with your local police (you can ask for a woman officer if you have a daughter) to discuss this growing problem and the risks that a teen might be in.
Third – Explain to your teen about a plan to keep them safe. Don’t go crazy invading all of their privacy but do share how communication with each other is very important in keeping safe.
Fourth – Ask the hard questions…Do they hang out with someone much older, are they getting gifts that they didn’t ask for, are they being encouraged to do things that are illegal?
Fifth – If your teen takes off because they are upset, pick a place in which you know they will be safe while they cool down or pull themselves together after some time to think.
It is imperative that you be careful in assessing your teen as to whether or not they are being primed as the next victim of sex-trafficking. When in doubt, speak to a police officer, or an organization that works with victims of sex-trafficking. There are plenty of symptoms that could easily read a different problem.
The issue that is most important is to let your teen know how much you care about their safety and to have guidelines in place so that they know what to look out for to protect themselves.
For more information, please contact Courage WorldWide. They are a great organization that rescues and helps heal sex-trafficking victims from children to adults.
Image Courtesy of Charmaine Swart of MorgueFile.com