Last month, communities across the country were reminded of the reality of child sex trafficking when 84 children were recovered and 120 traffickers were arrested during Operation Cross Country XI Visit disclaimer page , a nationwide sex trafficking sting coordinated by the FBI with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Visit disclaimer page . The youngest victim was 3 months old and the average age of victims was 15.
It’s a reminder to all of us that we must engage parents, communities, schools, and health and human service professionals as critical partners to prevent and end human trafficking. In a recent event we hosted with the Department of Education Visit disclaimer page , panelists of parents, survivors, and subject matter experts shared insights on how parents and other trusted adults can prevent trafficking and serve at-risk or victimized youth in a trauma-informed way. A few keys points from the panel discussion were:
- If a child has access to the internet, they may be vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers can use social media and other websites to recruit victims or sell trafficked services online.
- Educators and other trusted adults should be aware of the diverse tactics traffickers can use to exploit children. Traffickers can be strangers but they can also be parents, family friends, acquaintances, teachers, significant others, or peers.
- Trauma can have a tremendous impact on a child’s development. Community members should believe children when they disclose, connect children with help, and fight for their healthy development moving forward.
- Prevention is not just to protect children from traffickers but also to prevent potential traffickers and abusers from exploiting others in the future.
- Traffickers can spot at-risk children very easily. It is time for trusted adults and relevant professionals to identify these youth and be a positive force in their lives.
If you work with youth and need training or technical assistance on how to identify, refer, or serve potential victims of trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.