Do masks make kids targets for human trafficking? I’m sure you’ve seen posts like this one all over social media.
We tell you over and over again about the very real problem of child trafficking in Ohio, do masks just give you another thing to worry about? This article isn’t going to tackle whether or not it’s a good idea to require masks for kids. Does it work? Is it practical? I’m not sure I have the answer to that. One thing I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about is human trafficking, especially child sex trafficking.
And I can tell you that whether or not your child wears a mask pretty close to zero bearings on whether or not they’ll be a victim of child trafficking, because traffickers aren’t who you think they are. If you don’t like that conclusion, don’t stop reading. I’ll assume you care way more about the safety of kids that you do about masks. Let’s talk about who traffickers really are and how you can protect children.
Traffickers Are Not Strangers
We’ve reported on multiple horrific cases of children and babies trafficked for money and drugs in Scioto County and all over Ohio. Three women are headed to court this week in Scioto County for bringing children to be raped in exchange for drugs. Larry Dean Porter and his accomplices are under indictment for trading pills for the privilege of raping little children and taking videos and pictures.
Strangers did not grab these children up and traffic them. Parents and guardians transported them straight to these alleged predators and allowed them to rape them in exchange for drugs and money. Mysterious men in white panel vans don’t grab up masked children and Walmart and sell them into sex slavery, parents do this.
The children most at risk, according to human trafficking experts are those in unstable home situations. Factors that make parents a target for traffickers are:
- Domestic violence
- Drug Use
- Mental Illness
It’s no coincidence that child sex trafficking boomed in our area along with the opioid epidemic.
Beware Of Friends
Child Sex Predators often target families in need by offering to be a friend. They might offer drugs to an addict, a place to stay to a desperate parent trying to flee domestic violence or school clothes to a family fallen on hard times. Traffickers will also romance a lonely single parent to get to the kids. Experts call this process “grooming.”
Sometimes the children are abused without the parent’s knowledge. Sometimes the parent is so desperate to feed their addiction or just to keep a roof over their head, they allow it to happen.
The best way to protect kids is to encourage parents in those situations to seek help. If you are in that situation, get help before someone targets your kids.
Watch Your Teens
The average age of trafficked kids is between 14 and 16. Most of these kids leave home willingly after traffickers use a careful process to lure them away.
Experts tell me social media is their number one recruitment tool. They watch for kids who post about problems at home and spend months developing a friendship with them. Traffickers also use kids their own age to recruit targets, sometimes right at their own schools.
And don’t count out that family friend who’s always there to lend a hand. Predators often offer a shoulder to cry on to unhappy teens. They’ll also gift them with the latest clothes or gadgets. So keep an eye out for unexplained gifts and make sure you carefully monitor all their online activity.
Especially vulnerable to traffickers are teens living with their grandparents, a common situation in Ohio. It’s important that grandparents take the steps to educate themselves about social media.