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.