Where there is the buying and selling of children for sex, there are drugs. Period. It’s not difficult to understand that traffickers give kids drugs to get them addicted so they can lure them into being bought and sold for sex. Then they incapacitate them with drugs so that they won’t try to run and so they’re incapable of fighting.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the parents often become complicit in the trafficking of their own children. After selling everything they have for a hit of the drugs that have destroyed their ability to think and behave logically, addicted parents barter with the only thing they have left— sex with their children. In fact, some parents sell their children to traffickers in exchange for the drugs that have destroyed their lives and the lives of their children.
This isn’t just in the dangerous neighborhoods you’ve seen portrayed in episodes of Law & Order. This is happening in places you might never have imagined—the upper and middle class neighborhoods where parents addicted to pain killers have exhausted their refills and have ventured into the unknown territory of drug dealers and traffickers for which they are woefully ill prepared. These are amateur drug addicts are dealing with professional drug dealers, the results of which are tragic.
The huge issue that many people haven’t considered is that the opioid epidemic throughout the US means that parents who use drugs aren’t watching after and protecting their children. Incapacitated parents are oblivious to what’s happening to their children, so their children are at greater risk of being groomed and lured into trafficking right before their glassy eyes.
So what’s the answer? What in the world can we do about such an enormous, pervasive problem?
We can explore the question: What can we do to protect children who are living in an addiction environment?
That is the question that is the subject of the upcoming Ensure Justice Conference at Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice on March 2-3, 2018. Professionals from law enforcement, education, mental health, child welfare, the faith-based community, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and concerned individuals will collaborate to seek solutions for protecting children who aren’t adequately protected at home.
Children at risk of being trafficked right here in our own neighborhoods (please don’t think that this can’t happen in your sweet little community), are seen by many different people, and yet are lured in right before our eyes. Teachers who see kids regularly see changes in behavior, school performance, energy, attitude, and appearance. Coaches, tutors, carpool moms and dads, pediatricians and other medical people, and neighbors see kids, but more often than not miss the subtle (and not-so-subtle) clues that indicate that a young person within their influence is in danger. Even when they do notice something that’s different or “off” about a child, they don’t know what to do. No one wants to make an allegation that can’t be un-made, that can tear apart a family or a friendship.
Although it is a huge issue, it is possible to do something about it. One idea is to launch the LOVE IS ACTION Community Initiative, which gives everyone in the community an opportunity to engage with others in ways that are safe and that utilize their “no big deal,” meaning, each person can do whatever is no big deal for them. One of example would be a person who likes to bake could bake birthday cakes for neighborhood kids. There are as many ideas as there are people who care about kids. We hope you’ll join us at the Ensure Justice Conference on March 2-3 at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California to share your ideas.