If you are a parent, you know how it feels when your child suddenly lets loose with a bloodcurdling scream of pain. You also know the intense relief when you find out that yes, they are ok, and you are so grateful it was only a “boo-boo.” But, for many children and teens throughout the world, no one is there to hear their pain and help them recover. Instead, they become one of the thousands that each year go from being a runaway or homeless to being lured into sexual trafficking.
An average of 1.3 million teenagers are runaways or homeless and are vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Next year, 5,000 of them will lose their lives to illness, suicide, rape, and assault. Within 72 hours of leaving home a child or teenager will be propositioned for sex. For many, they are not bad kids – these are the kids who have been forced to leave home due to physical, sexual and emotional abuse or incest. Or, they might be people who didn’t feel safe being themselves in their home, due to their sexual orientation, behaviors, or even a mental illness left unrecognized or treated. Some of them were even lured into the lifestyle by sociopaths who promise love, and even material wealth.
Human trafficking is a practice that is not slowing down either. Studies actually show that human trafficking of prostitutes and sex slaves is instead increasing, with more human slaves now than ever before in history. With all the advances in medicine, science and technology, why haven’t we made advances in keeping our children safe and off the streets?
Human trafficking is an industry that very few escape from. The ones who do, suffer emotional and psychological trauma, illness, venereal diseases and even HIV/AIDS. Many of them learn to abuse alcohol or illegal drugs in order to cope with their lives. They are abused by their customers, sex traffickers, pimps and pedophiles. The question we all should be asking ourselves by now is how we can help:
- Educate yourself. Know the signs of someone who is being trafficked. The Polaris Project is one such group which is dedicated to educating awareness and helping victims. Contact your local representatives and ask what they are doing to help stop human trafficking.
- Be aware of what your children or teens are doing in their free time. Are they interacting with someone online who you don’t know? Are they spending time with individuals or groups who are defiant, anarchistic, or unsupervised?
- Communicate with your children and their friends. Find out what they are doing, who they are doing it with and where. Educate them about the facts of runaways and human trafficking. While they might not be at risk, they might go to school with children who just need someone to speak up for them. Teach your children to report to a teacher or counselor if they suspect that a classmate is being abused.
- Most importantly of all, be available and ready to listen. A listening ear will hear what needs to be heard. Taking the time to maintain open lines of communication can make all the difference.
If you know a victim of abuse, make sure they know where to go for professional support. Get involved in community projects and awareness foundations such as our Tokii Teens @ Risk Project to bring awareness to teens and children about the dangers of human trafficking while also educating families in how to prevent runaways.
Today is the day for Human Trafficking Awareness, but the rest of the year is an opportunity to prevent runaways and this type of exploitation of people throughout the world. Greater awareness needs to happen, and much of it can start at home with parents. Toxic relationships, traditions of familial abuse and neglect need to end once and for all. It’s time to reclaim our families, and save the lives of our children.
If you liked this article, check out our