Sex trafficking can often be difficult to detect. Victims can hide their abuse, they can be reluctant to come forward and tell the truth, and common myths and stereotypes about what it looks like can affect a parent’s judgment. Anyone, regardless of race, age, gender, sexual preference or socioeconomic status, can be a victim of sex trafficking.
Thanks to the internet, kids are now more exposed than ever. Traffickers are masterful at deception, first by gaining a child’s trust online before convincing them to meet in person. Victims are often targeted in various online spaces, including social media apps, chatrooms, forums, dating sites and even online games.
Typically, when traffickers are using the internet to groom a victim, they:
Prevention is the easiest way to stop sex trafficking. Talk to your child and help them develop and maintain good self-esteem and healthy relationships. By doing so, you will reduce the risk that traffickers will target them. Other helpful tips include:
LISTEN AND BE PROACTIVE. Maintain open communication. Ask questions about how they feel about their peers and the people around them.
KNOW WHO IS REACHING OUT TO YOUR CHILD. Knowing who your child is talking to regularly will help protect them and allow you to provide guidance about someone who may be a negative influence. Many apps and games that seem innocent have chat features that can be misused by adults looking to contact children.
KNOW IT’S OKAY TO SAY “NO.” Teach your child that it is always okay to say “no.” Have a contact plan that includes a way for them to ask for your help to get out of a bad situation — without getting in trouble.
TEACH YOUR CHILD ABOUT SEX. By reinforcing and supplementing what your child learns in school, you can help them develop important attitudes and information about healthy sexuality.
KNOW WHERE AND HOW YOUR CHILD GETS NEW THINGS. Traffickers use gifts to lure in unsuspecting victims. Take a regular inventory of your child’s belongings and ask questions about expensive electronics, clothing, purses, makeup, hairstyles, nails, or items that you know your child cannot afford.
Protecting your children from the dangers of sex trafficking could save them from a lifetime of trauma.
by Stacey Sutherland
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