Sex Traffickers – 5 ways they target teens and what you can do to protect your family. Sex Traffickers are targeting local teens but not in the way many parents imagine.
Local human trafficking expert Rhiannon Gill tells me the problem is much worse in our area than anyone imagines. “Sadly, this area has a bigger problem than is realized. According to a report by the University of Cincinnati that was published last year, the state of Ohio had over 1,000 cases of child human trafficking between 2014-2016 with a potential of over 4,000 cases during that time frame. The Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and Polaris report that 8 out of 10 trafficking victims are minors.”
But while many people imagine teen sex trafficking victims as being grabbed off the street by strangers, most times they are lured into that nightmare world by someone they know.
How do these predators target teens? Let’s look at five ways they go after your kids and how you can protect them.
Meet A Need
Gill says, “Many times they are groomed by their traffickers who provide something that the child needs to survive and then makes threats or manipulates the child to act.” Teens living in broken homes or ones where a parent has mental health or addiction issues are especially vulnerable.
Traffickers may offer hot meals, nice clothes, electronics, or just a shoulder to cry on.
Use Pros To Recruit
Sex Trafficking is a high-dollar business that uses the same methods that big corporations do to find new workers. Gill says, “They have recruiters, groomers, drivers, enforcers, and bosses. There are people in a trafficking network that have one job and that is to recruit.”
Traffickers often use attractive young people close in age to teens to lure them in. Sometimes even their own friends and classmates.
Woo Them For Months
Gill warns that traffickers are playing a long game and don’t mind waiting, “They will act as a friend for weeks and months to lure them in.” After months of constant contact, teens may feel confident that their new friend is a real person, maybe even their new boyfriend or girlfriend.
Once the teen agrees to meet the trafficker, they can be taken in an instant. “Usually when this is done, the child either thinks this person cares for them or is dating them. They may take them to get their nails done, or buys them expensive gifts. The child then feels indebted and the manipulation begins,:
Sex Traffickers are experts at social media and know how to look online for the right targets. Gill says, “They generally look for the teenagers and children who have profiles that unknowingly are screaming for attention. Girls who don’t seem confident, who complain of their home life being bad, or hating a parent online. They will act as a friend for weeks and months to lure them in.”
Kids may also be lured into sending sexually explicit videos or photos of themselves and then later blackmailed with the threat of the images being made public.
And it’s not just teen girls who are targeted by these predators. Troubled boys, especially those who are gay or transgender, are also targeted. Remember, it’s a business. They are an in-demand product in some circles.
Probably the most disturbing cases are the ones where a parent or close family friend takes part in trafficking a child.
“Sadly, we are just now putting a name to it,” Rhiannon Gill says, “ Children have been traded in the US for many years. Mothers who allow stepfathers to have sex with their children is trafficking.”
While some teen sex trafficking by parents is overt, other kinds are more socially acceptable.
Gill give this example: “A female aged 15 who has a boyfriend of 30 and the boyfriend is maybe a friend of the family who assists with paying the family’s utility bills. This is trafficking on behalf of the parents who are allowing it. A 15-year-old cannot consent in this state and the “boyfriend” is benefiting in a sexual manner from the 15-year-old who thinks this person has an interest in them. What do a 30-year-old man and a teen have in common? They are not even on the same level.”
A Trafficker might romance a lonely parent in order to get close to the family. Sex Traffickers may also befriend parents who are going through a rough time and offer to help out with financial and emotional support or maybe even a place for the family to live in order to gain trust and access to kids.
How To Protect Your Teens
- Make them aware of how traffickers target them
- Closely monitor all of your teen’s social media activity and insist on personally approving all of their friends or contacts. Make sure they have private and not public accounts.
- Be aware of the behavior of your own friends around your kids and cut anyone who acts suspiciously out of your life.
- Call law enforcement if you suspect your child has been targeted.
- Get help for yourself. If you have a problem that’s preventing you from being an aware and active parent, seek assistance. An alert and involved parent is the best protection any child can have.
Make sure to share Sex Traffickers – 5 Ways They Target Teens to help protect the kids in your life.