For over a decade, I've worked with Canadian survivors of sex trafficking. I want to share with parents how they can protect their daughters.
Parents need to understand what the signs are to ensure their daughters are safe. All young girls can be targets for predators. Girls who are being bullied at school, struggling with changes on the home front or otherwise dealing with self-esteem issues are especially vulnerable.
Older boys, who befriend a young girl are the gateway. They groom their targeted victim. The "grooming" process starts when the predator lavishes her with praise and convinces her that he is her biggest champion and her boyfriend. All the while isolating her from her family and support groups and making her totally dependent on him, the perpetrator.
The Signs To Watch For:
There are several classic signs that someone could be preying on your child:
- Does she have a new older boyfriend that she doesn't want you to meet?
- Is she having out of character outbursts that are beyond what you expect from an adolescent?
- Has she stopped hanging out with her old friends and dropped out of any clubs she used to love?
- Do you suspect she has she been lying to you?
- Does she show up with new clothing, or lavish gifts like pieces of jewelry she cannot afford?
- Have her marks dropped in school?
- Is she staying out late without explaining where she was?
- Is she constantly on the Internet and refusing to tell you who she is chatting with?
- Do you know who her contacts are on her computer?
How Sex Trafficking Works:
It's important to understand the mental manipulation that the girls experience. Predators tell these young girls that they are "in love" and that someday they will be married and have lots of nice things. However, when the victim is completely under his control, things turn ugly.
Demands are made to the girl to pay back what she owes him. That means all the lavish restaurants, the drugs and any expense incurred during their relationship has to be paid back.
The predator will force/coerce the victim to service other men sexually to pay back her debts. Often the young girl suffers in silence because at this point, she is isolated and her relationship with her parents and her siblings is broken.
At this point, the perpetrator has her completely under his control. The violence and threats are prevalent. The predator will threaten their victims that if she tries to run or get help, he will hurt her family. The predator will take the girl's identification, monitor her phone and control her money. The girl is trapped. This is how the majority of the victims are conditioned.
Preventative Steps Parents Can Take:
- First, be vigilant and talk about the threats that are out there with your daughter!
- Monitor what your child is doing online.
- Insist on meeting her boyfriend, especially if he is older.
- Talk to other parents and teachers. Encourage teachers to talk about the threat and the signs at school.
- Know where your daughter is going and what she is doing.
- Know who she is hanging out with. Insist that you meet them. Predators will tell girls anything they want to hear, and will coach them how to cover up what's going on.
Education is our greatest weapon. Make sure your child is educated and aware of how human traffickers work. She will protect herself against being lured.
And finally hope and pray that your child is safe and never has to experience the horrors of sex trafficking