Spot the Signs

Child sex trafficking is identifiable, which means that it is preventable. So, why are children still being bought and sold for sex right here in the good ‘ole US of A, right in our neighborhoods?!?

There are lots of answers to this question, including that some parents trade sex with their own children for drugs after the prescription and the money run out. Another is that there are kids who so desperately want to belong and be loved that they’re willing to go along with whatever their “boyfriend”(a.k.a. trafficker) requires of them. The undercurrent of every scenario involving child sex trafficking is the old adage that where there is a desire, there is commerce. In other words, as long as there are people who want to purchase sex with children, there will be people who will sell sex with children.

Stopping drug abuse that leads to parents selling their own children is a bigger problem than we can take on today. Building the worth and value of young people so that they will not be vulnerable to the lure of bad actors who pretend to make them feel as though they belong and are wanted is an ongoing challenge that will never fully end. But the one thing that we can, and MUST, do right now that has immediate impact is to watch for the signs that could mean that a young person is being trafficked or is being groomed for [brainwashed to go along with] trafficking, and then making the call that could literally save that young person from the unimaginable pain of being raped for money.

We’re launching a campaign to educate people on the 5 signs of possible trafficking and the 1 action to take. Of course there are many more than 5 signs, many of which we list below, but to make it effective, we need everyone watching for trafficking and making the call to shut it down in their neighborhood. If we give the general public 20 things to look for, they won’t look for any. But if we keep it easy to understand and recall, people will be more likely to make the call (or text) that could make all the difference.

If traffickers know that we are watching, they’ll be less likely to conduct their “business” in our neighborhoods. Yes, they’ll move elsewhere, but if we spread this campaign to every neighborhood in the US, eventually it will become too difficult to operate with impunity, as they do now.

WARNING SINGS THAT A CHILD IS BEING TRAFFICKED:

  • Signs of physical abuse such as burn marks, bruises, or cuts
  • Unexplained absences from school, truancy
  • Less appropriately dressed than before
  • Sexualized behavior
  • Overly tired or falls asleep in class
  • Withdrawn, depressed, or distracted
  • Brags about making or having lots of money
  • Displays expensive clothes, accessories, or shoes
  • New tattoo (tattoos are often used by pimps as a way to brand victims)
  • Older boyfriend, new friends with a different lifestyle, or gang involvement
  • Disjointed family connections, running away, living with friends, or experiencing homelessness
     

WARNING SIGNS THAT SOMEONE IS A TRAFFICKER:

  • Jealous, controlling, and violent
  • Significantly older than female companions
  • Promise things that seem too good to be true
  • Encourage victims to engage in illegal activities to achieve their goals and dreams
  • Buys expensive gifts or owns expensive items
  • Is vague about his/her profession
  • Pushy or demanding about sex
  • Encourages inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Makes the victim feel responsible for his/her financial stability; very open about financial matters

The one action to take if you suspect that a young person is being trafficked or that someone is a trafficker, is to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1888.373.7888 or text them at 233733. The hotline is staffed 24/7 and can accommodate 200 different languages. There is no reason not to call.

If you will be willing to watch for the signs and make the call, and share the 5 Signs and 1 Action graphics, we CAN stop child sex trafficking.

If you want to do more, consider joining the team that is creating free downloadable videos and other resources for small group meetings to educate people throughout the US, contact Rhonda Sciortino at rhonda@successfulsurvivors.org. Additional information can be found at www.gofundme.org/stopchildabuseforprofit and www.loveisactioncommunityinitiative.org.