(In this parent workshop, Love’s Arm advocacy team members Mimi Nikkel and Brandon Culpepper addressed the important topic of sex trafficking. They shared how parents can recognize the signs of human trafficking, help their children establish a healthy sexual identity, and teach their kids SMARTS.)
I recently had the opportunity to attend a parent workshop geared toward educating and equipping myself and my children on the topic of sex trafficking. Fighting the battle of sex trafficking needs to begin at home, which means that parents must have some knowledge on the subject. MiMi and Brandon presented the information in a way that I am now more comfortable sharing and talking about it with my children.
The workshop focused on many different topics, and I would like to share a few of them.
What to Watch For
Signs that a child is the target of sex trafficking include the following:
• appearance of money, clothing, or jewelry with no explanation (if child has no income)
• possession of a prepaid phone that you didn’t purchase
• speaks to you as if following a memorized script
• talks about an older boyfriend
• absent from school without your prior knowledge or consent
• seems depressed or checked out and has a lot of “internet friends”
Listen, Love, Lead
Create a strong bond with your child(ren) by listening so that you can love and lead by “show and tell.” The foundation of show and tell is showing a child what self-respect looks like. Show what healthy affections looks like, and keep in mind that there are no stupid questions! Let your children talk to you about anything, without judgment. Honestly hear what kids are saying to you. Celebrate the human body, soul, and spirit by respecting the boundaries your kids lay. Know their likes and dislikes, gifts and talents. Establish the fact that sex is not shameful or dirty. It is a gift between two people who love each other.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline provides these sobering statistics about the victims it has helped:
• 90% are physically abused
• 85% are victims of incest as girls
• 57% are sexually abused as children
• 49% are victims of assault
• 40% are kicked, hit, beaten, raped, or threatened by a person in the family
That’s a lot to take in at once. So many emotions flowed through me as those statistics were discussed.
Make Technology Safe
As you are learning about how to prevent sex trafficking, your family can use the acronym SMARTS, which stands for Simple Manageable Actions Regarding Technology Safety. At the very top of the list is this one: Think before you send or post. Encourage your children to ask themselves, How would my grandparents react if they saw this message? Once a message is read, there is no way to unread it. During times when we may be in a disagreement with our siblings or friends, we must think twice about what we may say that cannot be taken back. In heated exchanges via phone or social media, the best response is no response until both parties feel calm.
If your thoughts stay in your head, you can protect them. But once words or pictures have been posted online or sent via email, text, etc., you no longer control them. Explain to your children that if you send not-so-appropriate pictures to your boyfriend or girlfriend, those photos are no longer your property. Digital pictures can be quickly shared with other people, and they can be posted online. Again, once they are out there, you have no control. The best way to avoid those situations is to think, What could it cost me? The cost is usually not worth the action!
Talking with your children about these important issues can help them avoid a lot of heartache and pain. It would have been nice if I’d had this information when I was starting out with a cell phone. Technology can be a helpful tool in many ways, and at the same time it can work against us, if not used properly.
I recommend that you and your children attend a couple of Zoom meetings so that you can be aware of the services and tools that RiseUP Cooperative offers to the community!