Written by: Kristina Glackin
Program Coordinator, Exploit No More
As parents, the last thing we need is another reason to worry. But predators are real, trafficking does happen, and your child could be a target. The good news is that worry can be combated with wisdom! That’s why this blog exists.
With so much to navigate in the coming months, hopefully, we can help you navigate internet safety for your children and decrease their risk of becoming a potential target. Here are some facts about online predators:
You can be ANYONE online.
Have you heard of the term, “catfishing?” Catfishing is when someone pretends to be someone else on the internet and deceives another person into loving them. Traffickers operate much like a catfish but with much more nefarious plans. Keep in mind, your daughter’s 14-year-old internet friends named Becky could actually be a 41-year-old man named Bradley.
They know where kids “hang out:”
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok—Too much to keep up with! Unless, of course, your primary focus is meeting vulnerable children to exploit. For a trafficker, grooming is a full-time job. They will join Roblox, Word with Friends, Miraculous, and even Farmville searching for kids with little monitoring and a whole lot of free time.
Virtual reality IS reality:
It is easy for us to believe “it’s just the internet, my child would never meet a stranger” but, much like online dating, eventually, online interactions with a trafficker could become in-person interactions. Any proximity to a trafficker – virtual or otherwise- is too close. They are masters at finding and manipulating vulnerabilities and convincing children to meet. Unfortunately, with school shut down for at least a month, our children will be more bored than ever, which is a vulnerability in and of itself so we must be vigilant.
Now that you know a little bit about how traffickers operate online, here are some tips that can help set you, and your family, for safety:
I cannot emphasize this enough. Be THAT parent. Will you annoy them? Probably. Will they be frustrated? Most likely. Will they feel embarrassed? You bet! But are they worth it?! Without a doubt! Go through their internet history, see who they are subscribed to on YouTube, check all inboxes from gaming to social media and ASK QUESTIONS! Ask who their friends are, how they know them, and how long. Again, knowledge is power!
Say it with me: PARENTAL CONTROLS!
Sometimes we may feel like we cannot control our kids (No? Just me?!), however, we CAN control what they see on the internet. Here is a link that can help you set controls on your devices: https://www.pandasecurity.com/mediacenter/panda-security/parental-control/
Spend time together and keep them busy:
Life can get busy. Heck, you are probably opening fruit snacks, clipping your nails and scheduling your oil change as you read this- I get it, it is chaos! However, one on one time with your child can leave them feeling full, valued and special. Besides the obvious, this is important because traffickers work by trying to have your child turn on you, claiming you don’t care or love them. God forbid your child is ever contacted by a trafficker, but if they are, your child will be able to combat those lies with their memories you created for them.
Keep them informed:
While you may not want to have a full-blown conversation about sex trafficking with your preteen, talking with them about real dangers in this world can empower them to make sound decisions.
For more information and tips, be sure to follow us on Facebook. Facebook.com/exploitnomore
Also, check out this news story from Fox 6 and the FBI that was posted recently regarding the increased risk of child exploitation due to COVID-19.
Be smart. Keep your kids safe. Live in a place of faith, not fear.
Program Coordinator, Exploit No More
Earlier this month, in honor of our 6th anniversary as an organization - WHAT!? Time flies y'all!! - we hosted a virtual book club and read through the book, Look at You, Girl by Caitlin Zick.
To catch you up about the book before our review: Look at You, Girl is the kickstart to seeing yourself the way God does. The book is designed to be read in one week, one chapter a day, each chapter taking about 30 minutes to read with a soul work page at the end of the day. And since together is always better, the author is very intentional about readers working through the book in a "We Week" - the week we will do this kickstart! Our virtual book club had a great turn out, with twenty-six women joining us for We Week.
Our Prayer Going Into Book Club
Our prayer was that each reader take bits and pieces from the book and fit them into their own puzzle. Growth takes time; may there be patience in the process and in the unknowing.
These are Our Thoughts
Okay, I'll be honest here; writing a book review for a book written to reach one's soul where they are at is hard because my soul is in a quite different place than yours, friend. With that in mind, here's some thoughts to keep in mind when you read through the book with your tribe.
My Review of the Book
Go chat with anyone else who's read it and I bet you'll get a different review ;)
Ultimately, if you're looking for a guide to kickstart your soul into loving yourself the way God loves you, this is it. As an added treat, check out these golden truths from Look at You, Girl.
Guest Written by: Mandy R. | Owner and Creative of Manda Bands
The moment I realized I was journaling in three journals daily was the moment I realized I needed to downsize. I had a journal in which I’d write a few things I was grateful for each day, a journal documenting my devotional reading and a journal of personal affirmations. It wasn’t something I was looking forward to anymore; it became a chore, and I don’t know about you, but chores aren’t part of my self-care routine.
I’d seen on Instagram that Rachel Hollis (the “Girl, Wash Your Face” Rachel Hollis) was selling a new journal that focused on dreams and goals along with gratitude. I really liked the idea, but did not want to add on a fourth journaling item each day when I was already begrudgingly doing three. So I sat on my bed with my journals sprawled out in front of me and a fresh, clean notebook. I was going to downsize, stop stressing myself out and find a journaling style that I would (a) enjoy and (b) grow from.
My “Countdown Journal” was born out of my need for simplicity, order and motivation. I posted the idea on Instagram recently and it got a lot of positive feedback. I honestly didn’t think it was something that would make sense to anyone else but me, but Melania wanted me to share this prompt with the Exploit No More audience who may be struggling with journaling but don’t know where to start.
The Countdown Journal has five steps/tasks, with a possible sixth (if you wish). I’ll give you the outline and will go a little more in depth into each step/task.
The first step was taken directly from Rachel Hollis’ “Start Today Journal.” Write five dreams as if they’ve already come true for you. These are the “big, I think I’m going to throw up” dreams. Perhaps they are dreams you’ve never verbalized to anyone, including yourself. These will be the same each day.
The second step is also from Rachel’s journal but is something that I had been doing throughout 2018 already. Write four things that you are grateful for each day. For me, this helped put things in perspective. It didn’t matter if I wrote about the “little things” or the “big things” in life…I never once have had difficulty thinking of things I am thankful for and that’s helped me realize how very lucky I am.
The third step is one that I’ve taken on from my fitness coach. Write three positive affirmations. These can be “I statements” or things that you need to remind yourself. You don’t need to necessarily believe them, because the idea of these is that if you keep telling yourself these items you will begin to believe them. You can write the same ones each day or you can switch it up based on what you’re needing most.
The fourth step is also based on the “Start Today Journal.” Write two goals that you are hoping to achieve in the near future. These should be measurable and attainable short-term goals that may or may not help you get to the dreams that you’ve listed in the first step. You’ll write each of these down until you’ve completed them and then you’ll replace it with a new one. Don’t start with “I hope to…” or “I’ll try…” – be more positive! You can and you will! You don’t have to take on the world with these goals.
The fifth step is one that I added to hold myself accountable. Write one action item that you’ve completed to help you reach one of your short-term goals. I can write everything that I want to accomplish until I’m blue in the face. But without action, those goals you’ve just written are nothing but words. You don’t have to knock it out of the park every day, but try to be mindful of steps you’ve taken to reach your goals. Any progress is better than none.
The last step is completely optional, but it’s helped me remember things I’ve read or listened to that have made an impact on me. Write a quote or something that resonated with you in something you’ve read or listened to today. It can be something you’ve highlighted in the book you’re reading. It can be the bible verse you focused on in your daily devotional. It can be a quote you can’t get out of your head from your favorite podcast. It’s another small piece of inspiration that can help you when you most need it.
I’ve been doing this style of journaling for a month now and it’s really helped me think more positively and continue to take action towards my goals instead of sitting back. It’s also helped me think of how I want my life to be while remembering what I do have. I hope that this is something that you implement and love in 2019. If you have any questions or would like to chat, find me on Instagram @MamaMandabear.
Some of Our Favorite Journals:
Written by: Jordyn; Alverno College Social Work Student, Exploit No More Fall 2018 Intern
A few weeks ago, on my way to my internship, I received a call from Melania giving me a heads up that a young survivor of trafficking would be in the office with us that day. I didn’t know it yet, but receiving that call drastically changed my understanding of the world of sex trafficking.
After completing many hours of research, I thought I’d be prepared for my first interaction with someone I knew had been trafficked. Julie, name changed for confidentiality purposes, came to us after a family member had dropped her off at a police station, not knowing what to do after Julie had revealed that she was being trafficked. Like most victims of sexual exploitation, Julie had gotten caught up in the life without fully understanding what was happening to her. When she finally reached out to someone she knew and loved, she was turned away and left at a police station, expected to tell her story to strange men who couldn’t possibly understand what she was going through.
When we talk about sex trafficking and exploitation, we’re given a list of warning signs and indicators to look for that can identify possible victims and survivors of trafficking. Physical signs like; physical and sexual abuse, unexplainable tattoos or brandings, large amounts of cash, multiple cell phones, and not making eye contact or avoiding answering questions are some of the major signs that I knew could be present in this young person. These indicators, along with behavioral warning signs, have been burned into my mind. I’ve read them, heard them, watched them play out, contemplated, and explored them in more ways than you can know.
As we mature, we're given categories, labels, definitions, ideas, and are expected to use them to shape our worlds. For the most part, we do a good job following these expectations, toeing the line and never straying too far from the norms. Even as we begin to see the false realities that define our understandings of others; the false realities of the stereotypes we assign to each other; it is hard to let them go.
Growing up in a household where labels were defined, we were taught to love and accept everyone, and judgments were passed only after you got to know someone, didn’t have the effect I’d thought it would. You see, despite this loving environment, I spent the majority of my time in a world where labels defined us, stereotypes existed for a reason, and what we learned in school was the gospel truth.
All of this is to say that despite all of my research, despite the hours spent contemplating and researching, trying to understand how this system of exploitation has lead so many victims and survivors down a path that changes their lives, when Julie came into the office, I was shocked.
Julie did not show any of the indicators listed above. She wasn’t malnourished or unkempt. She didn’t keep her head down or avoid having conversations.
Julie laughed loud. She spoke to me as if we’d known each other our whole lives. She was kind, confident, energetic.
Julie is human.
Julie is human. She defied the expectations of having been broken by experiences too awful to put into words. That she might get triggered by any mention of trafficking or that she wouldn’t be able to talk about what had happened to her. There were no tears in her eyes as she collected clothes and blankets, necessities for her new life. She did not exhibit any sadness in having nothing, nowhere to go.
Julie is beauty.
In all that she is and all that she has been. Julie is beauty in all of the scars and experiences that have contributed to who she is.
Julie is light.
She is the sun, shining in a dark world that tries to extinguish any and all light.
Julie is power and courage.
In the way that she carries herself without fear for the future. She is a force to be reckoned with. She is the brave warrior that stands up even when she is scared, when her voice shakes, she speaks her truth.
Julie is hope.
She is hope that tomorrow will be another day, filled with more opportunities and less exploitation. She is hope that one day, every person who has been trafficked will be able to rise up and fight back against their abusers.
If I hadn’t known that she had been trafficked, I never would have been able to tell. Julie looks like any and every girl that walks around the office, down the halls of a school, across campus, down the street. She looks like your neighbor, your niece, your friend, your family member.
Yes. This is a scary thought. That sex trafficking can and does happen right under our noses, every second of every day. That humans have the ability to be so cruel, so heartless, that we would buy, trade, and sell each other for sexual pleasure. But this is our reality.
Victims and survivors of sex trafficking are not the exception and they are also not the rule. They come in more forms, shapes, and sizes than anyone could have imagined. There is no model victim.
Despite all of the work that we do, this is something that we too often forget.
What Julie has taught me is that we have the power to change the way we move through this world. And yes, sometimes it will be hard to break free of what we have been taught, to step out of our ignorance and see the world in all of its chaos. But when we take that first step, when we are filled with a courage that allows us to connect with others, it is one of the most beautiful things we can ever do.
Written by: Melania Klemowits, Executive Coordinator at Exploit No More
Hey Freedom Fighters,
I just read another news article about someone claiming that they were a potential victim of human trafficking because they were followed in a grocery store by a "creepy man." Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not selling their story short or suggesting that being followed around is right, but I am saying that incidents such as these do not have the earmarks of human trafficking.
Human trafficking and sexual exploitation is a "trending" topic right now. The media covers it more and more and parents are taking to Facebook to heed warnings to other parents. I was talking with a high school social worker earlier this week who informed me that three of her students had previously been trafficked. That's three too many students. We get inboxed, voicemails, and emails every week from community members who are fearful and confused about what the issue of trafficking means for their kids and neighborhood.
My heart hurts every time I read an article like this. It hurts every time a parent announces they're living in fear. It hurts when people aren't living their best lives because they don't want to be kidnapped.
The honest truth? Kidnapping makes up less than 2% of all violent crimes and rarely involves weapons. Abusers, like someone who exploits others for profit, depend on the grooming process in order to control and manipulate their victims. The grooming process, to train someone for a specific purpose, takes time and energy on the part of the trafficker. He or she may take months to build a foundation of trust and love with a victim. Even after the abuse starts, grooming can still take place as the relationship between abuser and victim evolves.
Traffickers rely on mastering social norms to fly under the radar in broad daylight. They have a specific agenda to their behavior with a targeted end game of maximizing profit. A trafficker is an excellent master of disguise and will blend in so as to not even be noticed in most social and public environments.
Knowing the red flags and warning signs of trafficking are essential for everyone to be aware of. Not only can it keep potential victims safe but it ensures that the issue of trafficking isn't sensationalized. As we've said before, don’t let what is shocking cause us to miss out on the subtle tactics most traffickers use.