Below is a letter from a mother of a young girl who’s been trafficked. They lived on the West Coast of the United States, a middle-class family, a loving home, nurturing, non-abusive, and yet it still happened to them…
“Never in a million years did I think I would experience the world of prostitution. The oldest profession had become a part of my life and a part of my only daughter’s. My pride and joy who was raised with high values and morals, homecoming princess, cheerleader …a valuable young woman of society unbeknownst to her was sold for sex trafficking. Like many young women she began her adult life away from home attending college and enjoying the simplicity of work, school and friends. Her life changed when she turned 21 and befriended “Ashley”.
Ashley had begun to prey on my daughter’s need for the companionship of having a best friend. She groomed my daughter with “best friend” attention and exposed her to a life that was frowned upon by her family and when she protested, Ashley began to threaten and isolate her. It seems as if Ashley knew her weaknesses and exploited them in her favor. Granted my daughter has free will, she felt she did not have a choice but to be Ashley’s friend. The “friendship” ended when Ashley sold my daughter in to a local sex trafficking ring.
My daughter spoke of being at a party with Ashley in which she was ogled by men much older than her. When she voiced her discomfort she was threatened with her safety and was told that she was to do exactly as she was told to do. She was taken to an empty home, windows were blacked out and each room was with multiple mats on the floor. She began to fear the worst as she heard water continuously running in the upstairs bathroom and she began to silently plan her escape. (Mind you, this is all happening in a college town!) Within minutes she had found her courage, she crawled through an unlocked window and ran to a nearby home. She was let in by fellow college students however she did not tell them of her experience. Once Ashley had learned of her escape, she has made my daughter’s life hell.
There have been continuous threats upon my daughter’s life as well as against her family. Multiple defamatory online postings were created without her knowledge using her full name, phone number, email addresses and explicit photos. Our plea for help from our local police department was met with little of importance. Her life was not of value as she made the choice to become friends with Ashley. The exploitation from Ashley had made my daughter a criminal not a victim. There was no help to empower her to charge those who had sold her. Our city’s police department’s motto is “to serve and protect” there was no implications of offering to help and most certainly no offers to protect. There was just a shame placed upon her for the choice of befriending the wrong person and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
With this attitude of the police department, how is any victim expected to trust those who we pay for protection? How is she expected to heal when she was failed by those who serve and protect? How do we as parents reinstate her trust in us since we told her she can call on them if she needed help? Police protection is a social right, the very enforcers of our social rights has caused social injustice! Those whom are exploited in human trafficking are NOT criminals they are victims who are forced into criminal acts to save their own lives. How can we expect victims to comply to society’s moral values when their lives are endangered?!
With such little help from law enforcement, I noticed there were even less resources available in my local area for those who have become victims of this exploitation. There was a not a local number for me to call to reach out for help for my daughter. The only available resource I was able to utilize was thousands of miles away in Tennessee. I contacted an organization, A Bridge of Hope in which a kind and empathetic voice on the line helped me to gain my composure and without judgment gave me the tools to empower ourselves and how to advocate for my daughter’s safety. Granted we were able to bring my daughter to safety, the battle is not over. In fact the battle has just begun for her to rebuild her life and to begin to heal from the horrors of being sold into sex trafficking. What an incredible burden to place on any individual of this great country which frowns greatly upon slavery.
There should not be shame placed on already burdensome shoulders. Their wounds should not be treated as insignificant nor should their soul be forever imprinted of the minute value that was placed upon their bodies. Every woman is a daughter of someone; she holds value in someone’s heart and will always be the exceptional woman she is envisioned to be. With that in mind the same vision needs to be ingrained in those who we entrust to protect us from the social injustices of human trafficking.
There is little information available to help those who are exposed to sex trafficking. Our society has silenced victims into hiding their shameful experiences. The value placed upon the souls of those who are sold is minimal and the scars will forever live in their hearts. Families are blamed due to their immoral behaviors or their lack of values. Truth of the matter is, sex trafficking can occur at anytime and anywhere. There is no discrimination of who can be a victim.”
National Human Trafficking Hotline
A Bridge of Hope (ABOH) is committed to doing our part to end human trafficking in our lifetime by utilizing the gifts and talents within our organization, it’s volunteers and the community at large. We are powerful beyond our wildest dreams and can bring forth awareness to end Modern-Day Slavery in this generation, by simply using our voices, socialized media, our resources, and our talents. ABOH provides training on: 1.) human trafficking prevention, 2.) victim identification, and 3.) awareness education across the country for first responders, churches, civic groups, and the community at large. We provide direct services for clients that are referred to our organization, such as case management, counseling (peer and Christian), support groups, hygiene items, clothing, food, victim advocacy, referrals for outside services/programs, to aid clients towards recovery and a self-sufficient life.
The Faces of Human Trafficking:
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is defined as the sale, transport and profit from human beings who are forced to work for others; is the modern equivalent of slavery. Millions of people, against their will, around the world are forced to work for the profit of others, for example by begging, forced prostitution, forced commercial sexual exploitation of adults and children, child sex tourism, involuntary domestic servitude, debt bondage, forced labor (including migrant workers), bonded labor, forced child labor, child solders, organ breeding/harvesting, forced pregnancy for forced / illegal adoption, and so many more.
There are an estimated 20 million people held in slavery today, more than any other time in our history. Thousands of youth are at-risk everyday in America and abroad of being introduced to the major players of human trafficking, which is truly organized crime. Now statistics on human trafficking or anything else are hard to prove and quantify for a variety of reasons, but even one person who is a victim of human trafficking is too many. Wouldn’t you agree? There are thousands of people, all having drastically different stories, and vary in socio-economic backgrounds, ages, education, ethnicities, from all different parts of the globe, who have been victimized in various forms of human trafficking. The wide range of victims and situations that the victims are coming from really depict how heinous the human trafficking really is and how far it stretches across the globe. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery!
How To Talk to Your Kids about Child Trafficking
by youth blogger & advocate Alexis Myers
A good relationship with your kids is ideal and is the foundation for their being confident leaders, loving parents themselves, and strong citizens. But did you ever think that having a good relationship with your kids would mean you’d have to talk about safety issues like child trafficking? By being informed and aware they are less likely to be seen as vulnerable by predators!
In the inaugural issue of Parenteen Magazine, publisher Jason Brown and his editorial team list 5 safety tips for parents to share with their kids – all so kids are more aware of potential dangers and stay safe.
5 key safety tips mentioned are:
1) Never let your children go places alone – Make sure they are always with an adult as a chaperone, if you cannot be there. When children get older make sure they are with a friend and use the “buddy system” (having one or more people with them at all times). Children are less likely to be appealing to predators if there are many, as they will be quicker to scream for help and alert attention. Remember, safety in numbers!
2) Practice “What If” Scenarios – Come up with different scenarios to help your child think about the dangers of a situation and how to best handle it. You may get these examples from simply watching the news together and asking him or her what they would’ve done in a certain situation or what could they have done to not be as vulnerable.
3) Have a List of Top Contacts – This list should be easily accessible and known by your children. Some contacts can be family members, neighbors, and other trusted adults. As a bonus you may want to have other important numbers on there such as community centers and other numbers that youth can call in case of an emergency. This list can either be on a piece of paper or stored under a specific category on a cell phone.
4) Teach your children to run away from danger – Emphasize to your children how they should run away from danger instead of running towards it. If anyone is invading their personal space or trying to grab them, then tell you children not be afraid to make a scene. If they are ever being followed, then they should try to go another way and call for help if needed. Safety is more important than politeness.
5) Talk openly with your children - Try your best to be open and really listen to your children yourselves though because you want to be able to have open communication. Know where your children are at all times by communicating (such as via text or a phone call). Make sure they know it’s ok to talk to you about issues going on in the world and feel free to share your own experiences as well. Teach your children the facts about human trafficking. Children feel more comfortable with parents when they aren’t afraid of them. Therefore, try not to get mad at children by over-yelling, instead try to talk to them rationally so they can learn their lesson. By getting overly mad at them, you may be scaring them away from telling you something in the future because they will not want to infuriate you. Also, they will be more willing to come talk to you if a problem arises.
Having a good relationship with your children makes them more likely to listen to you and trust what you have to say.
What Are Signs That Your Child Might Be At Risk On-line?
Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety
By: U. S. Department of Justice – FBI Publications
Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.
Most children that fall victim to computer-sex offenders spend large amounts of time on-line, particularly in chat rooms. They may go on-line after dinner and on the weekends. They may be latchkey kids whose parents have told them to stay at home after school. They go on-line to chat with friends, make new friends, pass time, and sometimes look for sexually explicit information. While much of the knowledge and experience gained may be valuable, parents should consider monitoring the amount of time spent on-line. Children on-line are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. While offenders are on-line around the clock, most work during the day and spend their evenings on-line trying to locate and lure children or seeking pornography.
You find pornography on your child’s computer.
Pornography is often used in the sexual victimization of children. Sex offenders often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means of opening sexual discussions and for seduction. Child pornography may be used to show the child victim that sex between children and adults is “normal.” Parents should be conscious of the fact that a child may hide the pornographic files on diskettes from them. This may be especially true if the computer is used by other family members.
Your child receives phone calls from men you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize.
While talking to a child victim on-line is a thrill for a computer-sex offender, it can be very cumbersome. Most want to talk to the children on the telephone. They often engage in “phone sex” with the children and often seek to set up an actual meeting for real sex. While a child may be hesitant to give out his/her home phone number, the computer-sex offenders will give out theirs. With Caller ID, they can readily find out the child’s phone number. Some computer-sex offenders have even obtained toll-free 800 numbers, so that their potential victims can call them without their parents finding out. Others will tell the child to call collect. Both of these methods result in the computer-sex offender being able to find out the child’s phone number.
Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know.
As part of the seduction process, it is common for offenders to send letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their potential victims. Computer-sex offenders have even sent plane tickets in order for the child to travel across the country to meet them.
Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
A child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.
Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
Computer-sex offenders will work very hard at driving a wedge between a child and their family or at exploiting their relationship. They will accentuate any minor problems at home that the child might have. Children may also become withdrawn after sexual victimization.
Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.
Even if you don’t subscribe to an on-line service or Internet service, your child may meet an offender while on-line at a friend’s house or the library. Most computers come preloaded with on-line and/or Internet software. Computer-sex offenders will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them.
What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Communicating With A Sexual Predator Online?
Consider talking openly with your child about your suspicions. Tell them about the dangers of computer-sex offenders. Review what is on your child’s computer. If you don’t know how, ask a friend, coworker, relative, or other knowledgeable person. Pornography or any kind of sexual communication can be a warning sign. Use the Caller ID service to determine who is calling your child. Most telephone companies that offer Caller ID also offer a service that allows you to block your number from appearing on someone else’s Caller ID. Telephone companies also offer an additional service feature that rejects incoming calls that you block. This rejection feature prevents computer-sex offenders or anyone else from calling your home anonymously.
Devices can be purchased that show telephone numbers that have been dialed from your home phone. Additionally, the last number called from your home phone can be retrieved provided that the telephone is equipped with a redial feature. You will also need a telephone pager to complete this retrieval. This is done using a numeric-display pager and another phone that is on the same line as the first phone with the redial feature. Using the two phones and the pager, a call is placed from the second phone to the pager. When the paging terminal beeps for you to enter a telephone number, you press the redial button on the first (or suspect) phone. The last number called from that phone will then be displayed on the pager. Monitor your child’s access to all types of live electronic communications (i.e., chat rooms, instant messages, Internet Relay Chat, etc.), and monitor your child’s e-mail. Computer-sex offenders almost always meet potential victims via chat rooms. After meeting a child on-line, they will continue to communicate electronically often via e-mail. Should any of the following situations arise in your household, via the Internet or on-line service, you should immediately contact your local or state law enforcement agency, the FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: Your child or anyone in the household has received child pornography; Your child has been sexually solicited by someone who knows that your child is under 18 years of age; Your child has received sexually explicit images from someone that knows your child is under the age of 18. If one of these scenarios occurs, keep the computer turned off in order to preserve any evidence for future law enforcement use. Unless directed to do so by the law enforcement agency, you should not attempt to copy any of the images and/or text found on the computer.
What Can You Do To Minimize The Chances Of An On-line Exploiter Victimizing Your Child?
Communicate, and talk to your child about sexual victimization and potential on-line danger.
Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations. Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom. It is much more difficult for a computer-sex offender to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member of the household.
Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software. While electronic chat can be a great place for children to make new friends and discuss various topics of interest, it is also prowled by computer-sex offenders. Use of chat rooms, in particular, should be heavily monitored. While parents should utilize these mechanisms, they should not totally rely on them.
Always maintain access to your child’s on-line account and randomly check his/her e-mail. Be aware that your child could be contacted through the U.S. Mail. Be up front with your child about your access and reasons why.
Teach your child the responsible use of the resources on-line. There is much more to the on-line experience than chat rooms.
Find out what computer safeguards are utilized by your child’s school, the public library, and at the homes of your child’s friends. These are all places, outside your normal supervision, where your child could encounter an on-line predator.
Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation, that he/she is not at fault and is the victim. The offender always bears the complete responsibility for his or her actions.
Instruct your children:
- to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line;
- to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or on-line service to people they do not personally know;
- to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number;
- to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images;
- to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing;
- that whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true.
Frequently Asked Questions:
My child has received an e-mail advertising for a pornographic website, what should I do?
Generally, advertising for an adult, pornographic website that is sent to an e-mail address does not violate federal law or the current laws of most states. In some states it may be a violation of law if the sender knows the recipient is under the age of 18. Such advertising can be reported to your service provider and, if known, the service provider of the originator. It can also be reported to your state and federal legislators, so they can be made aware of the extent of the problem.
Is any service safer than the others?
Sex offenders have contacted children via most of the major on-line services and the Internet. The most important factors in keeping your child safe on-line are the utilization of appropriate blocking software and/or parental controls, along with open, honest discussions with your child, monitoring his/her on-line activity, and following the tips in this pamphlet.
Should I just forbid my child from going on-line?
There are dangers in every part of our society. By educating your children to these dangers and taking appropriate steps to protect them, they can benefit from the wealth of information now available on-line.
Potential Trafficking Indicators
Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking Potential Indicators & Red Flags
The following is a list of red flags to keep in mind when indicating a potential situation of or a victim of human trafficking. Taken individually, each indicator may not necessarily imply a trafficking situation. Furthermore, items on this list are not meant to be interpreted as present in all trafficking cases, nor is the list intended to be exhaustive. This list is intended to encompass transnational and domestic trafficking, as well as both sex and labor trafficking. Some indicators may be more strongly associated with one type of trafficking.
Common Work and Living Conditions: The Individual(s) in Question…
- · Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
- · Is under 18 years of age and is providing commercial sex acts
- · Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp/manager
- · Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- · Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- · Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
- · Owes a large and/or increasing debt and is unable to pay it off
- · Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- · Is living or working in a location with high security measures (e.g. opaque or boarded-up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.).
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior: The Individual(s) in Question…
- · Exhibits unusually fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid behavior
- · Reacts with unusually fearful or anxious behavior at any reference to “law enforcement”
- · Avoids eye contact
- · Exhibits a flat affect
Poor Physical Health: The Individual(s) in Question…
- · Exhibits unexplained injuries or signs of prolonged/untreated illness or disease
- · Appears malnourished
- · Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control: The Individual(s) in Question…
- · Has few or no personal possessions
- · Is not in control of his/her own money, and/or has no financial records, or bank account
- · Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (e.g. ID, passport, or visa)
- · Is not allowed or able to speak for him/herself (e.g., a third party may insist on being present and/or interpreting)
- · Has an attorney that he/she doesn’t seem to know or to have agreed to receive representation services from
Other: The Individual(s) in Question…
- · Has been “branded” by a trafficker (e.g. a tattoo of the trafficker’s name)
- · Claims to be “just visiting” and is unable to clarify where he/she is staying or to provide an address
- · Exhibits a lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or does not know what city he/she is in
- · Exhibits a loss of a sense of time
- · Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
Understanding Victims’ Mindsets
In Their Shoes: Understanding Victims’ Mindsets and
Common Barriers to Victim Identification
The following document outlines a wide variety of both physical and psychological reasons why trafficked persons cannot or will not leave a trafficking situation. The list is inclusive of both sex and labor trafficking operations, as well as foreign-born and U.S. citizen victims. Items on this list are not meant to be interpreted as present in all trafficking cases, neither is this list intended to be exhaustive.
- · Captivity/Confinement
Past examples have included victims being locked indoors, held in guarded compounds, or locked in trunks of cars.
- · Frequent accompaniment/guarded
In many trafficking networks, victims’ public interactions are mediated, monitored, or entirely controlled. In certain severe cases, victims have been controlled by armed guards.
- · Use and threat of violence
Severe physical retaliation (e.g., beatings, rape, sexual assault, torture) are combined with threats to hold victims in a constant state of fear and obedience.
- · Fear
Fear manifests in many ways in a trafficking situation, including fear of physical retaliation, of death, of arrest, or of harm to one’s loved ones.
- · Use of reprisals and threats of reprisals against loved ones or third parties
Traffickers target reprisals at children, parents, siblings, and friends, or other trafficking victims.
- · Shame
Victims from all cultures and in both sex and labor cases may be profoundly ashamed about the activities they have been forced to perform. Self-blame links closely to low self-esteem.
- · Self-blame
In the face of an extremely psychologically manipulative situation, trafficked persons may engage in self-blaming attitudes and blame themselves for being duped into a situation beyond their control. Self-blaming attitudes are often reinforced by the traffickers and can serve to impede the victim from testifying against or faulting the trafficker.
- · Debt bondage
Traffickers create inflated debts that victims cannot realistically pay off. These debts are often combined with accruing interest or small fees to ensure that the victim stays in the debt situation.
- · Traumatic bonding to the trafficker
In many trafficking cases, victims have exhibited commonly-known behaviors of traumatic bonding due to the violence and psychological abuse (a.k.a., Stockholm syndrome).
- · Language and social barriers
Feelings of unfamiliarity or fear of the unknown provide obstacles to leaving a trafficking situation. These feelings are exacerbated by language and social barriers.
- · Distrust of law enforcement or service providers
In many cases, traffickers are known to brainwash victims into a false distrust of law enforcement, government officials, and service providers. Victims also may have had negative past experiences with institutional systems, which also impact trust levels.
- · Isolation
Traffickers purposefully isolate victims from a positive support structure and foster controlled environments where the victim is kept in a state of complete dependency. High levels of dependency and learned helplessness often lead victims to ‘prefer the hell they know’ than face the uncertainty of adapting to a new world of independence.
- · False promises
Traffickers use sophisticated methods of manipulating the human desire to hope through false promises and lies about a future better life. Victims who are children are especially vulnerable to these false promises.
· Hopelessness and resignation
In the face of extreme control, violence, and captivity, notions of hope may fade over time towards states of hopelessness and resignation.
- · Facilitated drug addiction
In certain trafficking networks, traffickers provide addictive substances to their victims to foster longer-term drug addiction and monetary dependency.
- · Psychological trauma
Many trafficking victims experience significant levels of psychological trauma due to the levels of abuse they have endured. In certain cases, this trauma leads to disassociation, depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which in turn affects daily functioning and levels of agency.
- · Lack of awareness of available resources
Victims may not leave a situation due to a lack of awareness of any resources or services designed to help them. Traffickers purposefully control the information that victims receive.
- · Low levels of self-identifying as trafficking victims
The majority of trafficking victims do not self-identify as victims of human trafficking. They may be unaware of the elements of the crime or the Federal criminal paradigm designed to protect them.
- · Normalization of exploitation
Over a long period of enduring severe levels of trauma, physical abuse, and psychological manipulation, victims demonstrate resilience strategies and defense mechanisms that normalize the abuse in their minds. In a relative mental assessment, what once may have been viewed as abuse may now be experienced as a normal part of everyday life. This changing “lens” on viewing the world impacts the ability to self-identify as a victim.
- · A belief that no one cares to help
Trafficking victims may believe that no one cares to help them, a belief that is reinforced both by traffickers’ lies but also when community members do not take a strong stance against trafficking. When the community is silent on the issue, traffickers’ power is increased and feelings of hopelessness are sustained. In addition to all the above-stated reasons, numerous additional factors contribute to the difficulty of trafficking victim identification. These factors include:
- · The frequent movement of victims fosters a low likelihood of multiple encounters with law enforcement or service providers. Victims may not be in one place long enough for a meaningful intervention.
- · Victims may be trained to tell lies or canned stories to the organizations that are there to help them.
- · Victims rarely come into contact with institutional systems.
- · Untrustworthy or corrupt interpreters may impact the course of effective service provision.
Major Points You Should Know About Human Trafficking
- Do you know that January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month?
- Do you want to help us raise awareness?
- Do you know enough to be educated yourself or should you attend more trainings?
- Do you know that ABOH trained almost 4,000 first responders during the last 18 months?
- Do you know that our youth are at-risk for being engulfed into prostitution and pornography in America?
- Do you know that there is no age, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status that is free from the danger of human trafficking?
- Do you know the computer is used in all facets of trafficking – luring innocent children on social media sites, buyers using the internet to find victims, and victims being used in pornographic images and videos?
- Do you know that ABOH co-founded the Youth Ambassador Program, entitled “I Promise to Do My Part” to end human trafficking along with TIATF?
- Do you know that you can make a difference? Your talents matter and your circles of influence need to understand and be informed on trafficking! Please step up and take a stance. It takes us all to do our part.