Every year, thousands of children become victims of human traffickers. Many of them are right here in our own backyard. There are things that each of us can do to help these children and to prevent this tragedy from happening.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is the buying and selling of children for forced labor or sex. The children can be traded for money, drugs or anything of value. Children are forced into trafficking by fraud or bullying, and it typically happens to children under the age of 18. The average age of a domestic minor sex trafficking victim is 13. They may be pulled into the world of trafficking after being kidnaped or running away from home. Or they also may still be living at home with their families.
Where is this happening?
The national human trafficking hotline receives more calls from Texas than any other state and much of the trafficking happens right here in our community. Recently, the FBI named Dallas and Houston as two of the 14 cities in the nation with the highest incidence of children who are sold for sex.
Who are the people involved?
Victims can be girls or boys. These victims often come from abusive or broken homes. They may be looking to someone older as a parent figure. They are longing for love or approval.
Pimps are masters of manipulation. They seek out children with low self-esteem, promising them love, better lives, gifts or fame. They may find their victims at school hangouts, malls, gas stations, amusement parks and through social media Web sites. They build trust with the victims and then exploit them to make money. The victim's pimp could be a family member, friend, significant other or stranger.
What can parents do?
- Know your child's friends. Don't let your child hang out with friends, go to someone's house or sleep over unless you know the friends and the friends' parents.
- Be your child's parent, not a friend. It's important to be a nosy parent. Ask him or her questions like:
- Where are you going?
- Who are you going with?
- What are you going to be doing?
- How do you know this person?
- Beware of social media. Don't allow a child under the age of 13 to have a Facebook account. If he or she is older and has an account, monitor it very closely. Tell your child that no one online needs to know his or her location, where he or she goes to school or where he or she lives. Beware of photos too. For example, a cheerleading or football photo could identify your child's school name. Check your child's smartphone to turn off any location settings.
"I am not for sale"
One of the most important things you can do is to help your child develop a strong sense of self worth. Establish an open and trusting relationship with your child. Let them know that they are loved and most of all, that their value has no price tag, that they are not for sale.
By following these tips and reporting to the authorities if you suspect that your child or one your child's friends may be in trouble, we can bring an end to human trafficking in our community.
If you suspect a child is involved in trafficking, please call the national hotline at 1-888-373-7888. You could save the child's life!