Human trafficking is not a discriminator of race, ethnic origin, or socioeconomic group. The reality is that there are as many teens from upper middle class families being trafficked as there are teens from poor families. Sadly many of these teens are trafficked right under their parent’s noses while they live under the same roof. No parent wants to believe that they might miss the signs that their child is in danger. You can help your child stay safe this summer if you pay attention to the warning signs.
One of the most common ruses is to lure a victim away on a three or four day trip with friends. In many cases, several friends will conjure up an elaborate story that they each tell their parents. It would sound something like Sally saying “Is it ok for me to go to the beach for three day’s with Julie and her family?” Julie would ask her parents “Hey is it ok if I go to the beach for three days with Sally and her family?” The recruiter for the trafficking organization (The Romeo) will give his potential recruits coaching on setting up the elaborate scheme to ensure no one will come looking for the girls during the three or four day trip. This ruse works because neither set of parents calls the other set of parents, nor do they establish a communications check-in plan. No parent wants to be called a micromanager and we all want to trust our kids by giving them some autonomy. However, reality dictates that we trust but verify.
This ruse generally becomes an express kidnapping event as the Romeo hands both girls over to a pimp if he is not the actual pimp. The four days then become a living hell as the girls are raped, drugged, and possibly prostituted to a number of paying clients. The girls are then threatened that if they tell anyone about the event, their family will be killed and photos of the event are used to blackmail them into compliance. The girls are then trafficked out of their own home while they live seemingly normal lives, minus irregular hours, depression, anxiety, and unexplained new friends.
Another common ruse is simply sneaking out of the window to meet the Romeo in the middle of the night. The ruse works as the Romeo gets control of the child for four to five unchecked hours at a time for slow grooming, eventually either kidnapping the victim, forcing them into trafficking, or a variation of the events mentioned above.
Some warning signs
– Does your teen suddenly have a group of older teen and young adult friends?
– Does your teen have a new unexplained love interest whom you have not met?
– Are these friends outside of those who share the same interests and social groups?
– Do these friends seem to have tight control over your teen?
– Is your teen suddenly anxious, depressed, closed off, or unwilling to talk?
We recommend verifying all trips with other parents. You are not compromising their autonomy by ensuring their safety. We recommend that you meet your teen’s friends, and know who they are. We recommend putting some passive infrared lights around the exterior of your home to prevent sneak-outs and sneak-ins. We recommend having check-in times and a missed communications plan. A missed communications plan generally means that if the teen fails to check in, they have 30 minutes to find a way to check in or someone if coming to recover them. We also recommend ensuring that you can track your kid’s phone, apple watch, fit bit, and anything else they have.
It is important to give your teens autonomy and space as they grow, but reality dictates that we must always protect. Human trafficking can happen in an instant to the brightest kid. There are too many cases to even try to believe otherwise. We want you to enjoy the summer and talk to your kids.