Ask any parent how much their child is worth to them and they will almost immediately say that their child is ‘priceless.’ It’s what you would expect a loving parent to say.
Ask any sex trafficker, and they will tell you exactly how much your child is worth. They will put a price on your child’s head based upon their age, gender, vulnerability and other desirable factors for which the trafficker is seeking. Putting a price on your child’s head is their business.
Sex trafficking is a worldwide problem and it is gaining in popularity among those that buy and sell human beings for profit.
Sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. This statistic should be enough to send chills down the spine of any parent.
Many believe that sex trafficking only occurs with prostitutes in dark, seedy backrooms of brothels in some distant third world country. Think again!
In America, statistics show that over 293,000 children each year are snatched up and sold on the market for commercial sexual exploitation. These children are predominantly between the ages of 12-14 for females and between 11-13 for boys and transgender youth.
Traffickers, pimps, prey on your children in shopping malls, schools, bus stations, on the streets and just about anywhere children frequent.
Some parents may wrongly feel that sex traffickers can be easily spotted in a crowd and so there is no need to worry that they won’t be recognized for the criminals that they are.
In general, when people think of sex traffickers, they may often envision a stereotypical drug dealer standing on the street corner, deciding that today, he will begin selling children along with drugs to make more money.
Still other parents may believe that the average sex trafficker looks like the Hollywood version of a pimp with big jewelry and expensive cars selling kids for sex out of his home. They would be misguided.
Traffickers may also be the gang members of yesterday. Gang members have shed their interests in fighting over territory and have instead, focused their attention on an even higher producing commodity, your child.
Even still, while these examples may fit the description of some sex traffickers, all too often these traffickers are family members, friends, peers, foster parents or anyone who wants to profit from selling a minor for sex or as chattel to another sex trafficker.
In addition, reports of children who have gone missing from foster care with no record of what may have happened to them are all too prevalent in the news at any given time. Then there are those children who went missing but were never reported missing. Did they run away or were they coaxed or forced into becoming sex trafficking victims?
What is known is that, of the missing children reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NHMEC) who are also likely child sex trafficking victims, 67% were in the care of child welfare when they went missing.
What is also heartbreaking is that those children under the care of child welfare agencies that go missing may never be reported as such.
Most states don’t have laws which require their child welfare agencies to report a child as missing to the police. While there may be a requirement to list them in the FBI database, there is no guarantee that police departments will see these reports. These children will have no chance of being rescued from a child sex trafficker when no one is even looking for them.
Also, sex trafficking can occur in any state in the US. No state is safe from sex trafficking.
For example, in New York in August of this year, a couple was arrested for allegedly kidnapping two Amish sisters, ages 7 and 12.
St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells, said “There was the definite potential” of there being additional victims besides the sisters.
Wells said the motive behind the kidnappings was to “Take these girls from their home and victimize them.”
Were the girls victims of sex trafficking? The media and the police department may never disclose this information to the public.
Also, a man was arrested in North Carolina in August 2014 and charged with Human Trafficking Child Victim and Abduction of Children. The report states that police believe the alleged trafficker “recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided or obtained by any means,” a 17 year old female with the intent that she “be held in sexual servitude.”
Captain Jeff Wood, of the Burlington Police Department said, “They truly become a slave,” referring to those children who become victims of sex trafficking.
How can your child become a victim? It’s very easy.
Traffickers target those children who appear vulnerable, those that can be tricked, and those that are traumatized by the pimp. The pimp then uses psychological and often physical manipulation to get the victim to perform sex acts.
Children who lack emotional support from their parents are highly susceptible to believing that the pimp loves them and will care for them when others in their lives may have failed them.
Pimps will wait however long it takes to win your child over by buying gifts, telling them that they are loved, or by giving them a place to stay, for example. The victims often do not realize that they are being deceived. Rather they believe that the pimp is their boyfriend or new ‘father figure.’
Preventing your child from becoming vulnerable to sex trafficking requires that you take the time to communicate with your child on a daily basis. Not just in passing or while you are driving them to school or other activity.
Stop what you are doing. Turn off the television. Turn off your phone. Look at your child and without interference from the outside world, really listen to what your child is saying to you or what he/she is not telling you.
Know their friends. Their friends, who may be victims themselves, may lead your child into a world of sex trafficking because they have been ordered by their pimp to bring in fresh faces.
One city has declared war on sex trafficking.
The District Attorney’s (DA) office in San Diego, California, announced recently that they are cracking down on sex trafficking. DA Bonnie Dumanis formed the Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Unit with specialized prosecutors, investigators, paralegals, victim advocates and staff.
There has also been an initiative by the DA to promote awareness and prevention through a Billboard campaign and the creation of a “Girls Only” toolkit to help prevent girls from falling victim to sex traffickers.
Awareness, education, and parental involvement in your child’s life, hold the key to keeping your child ‘safer’ from sex trafficking. There is no guarantee that your child will ever be 100% safe from sex trafficking in his/her lifetime. The bounty placed on your child’s innocence is potentially too high for a sex trafficker to overlook.
Remember, if you aren’t there to listen to your child, sex traffickers who are increasingly using the Internet and social networking sites to gain access to your children will be glad to listen for you.
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