Trafficking isn’t just happening “over there” in third-world countries, and it isn’t just abductions of kids in bad settings. In fact, abductions only account for 11% of sex trafficking cases. A large majority, over 50% happened because the trafficker lured the victim with the promise of something they wanted or needed (a job, place to stay, love, money, power, etc.). The largest number of such cases, what was offered was what the victim thought was love (see 4 Types of Kids at Risk).
Trafficking at its heart is the exploitation of vulnerability. When studying to try to discover the source, some way to prevent it from happening, I discovered a common denominator that ran across all kinds of exploitive relationships. This commonality touches into trafficking, domestic violence, prostitution, pornography, runaways, and on and on. What is that common factor?
Childhood sexual abuse.
Children who were abused, if they do not learn to overcome, are vulnerable to future exploitation throughout their lives. They exhibit certain behaviors of vulnerability that most of us might not recognize, but a predator will. Predators can easily find vulnerable targets on social media, at the mall, in schools, or neighborhoods. Once targeted, predators groom them (see Jerod the Subway Guy, Stephen Collins, Coach Sandusky and other Really Nice Predators) and create an emotional dependence that enslaves the victim, in some ways, more than chains ever could.
Child victims are abused by people they know (93%) and often by people their family trusts (60%). Because the abuse comes from people who should have shown them love, a childhood abuse victim has a difficult time defining the line between a loving relationship and an abusive one. Those lines have been blurred for them, leaving them vulnerable to future abusive relationships.
If we want to stop human trafficking, we need to eliminate the vulnerability by preventing childhood sexual abuse.
Which brings us to our own children, and the fact that we can’t always know for sure they will never encounter a situation where an adult they know crosses the boundary of appropriate behavior.
Predators are good at getting adults and children to trust them, and they often target places where they gain access to lots of kids in authority-based environments (such as churches, summer camps, schools, etc.).
However, though we know our kids need to know about this and avoid it, many adults are wary of broaching the topic, unsure of how to present helpful information without over-educating or scaring children. Others just don’t know what to say. We need a resource that can help train our children in a positive, non-frightening way. That is why I created the coloring book I AM SAFE:
*You are welcome to print and copy the sample pages below for personal use.
I partly created this resource for myself. I have two children and would much rather talk comfortably over a coloring page than sit them down at the table and have a training session that will make us all nervous. I wanted something conservative parents would feel comfortable sharing with their children. I wanted something I could offer parents, teachers or advocates that would help victims talk about it and overcome, taking away vulnerability to further exploitation in the future.
I can’t express how much I want childhood sexual abuse to stop. How important it is that children are empowered to know that when something is wrong, they have options and what those options are. To understand that sexual abuse is a crime and should be treated as such.
Right now statistics say 1 in every 4 women and 1 in every 6 men experienced some form of childhood sexual abuse. I meet them often when I speak. Many have still never told. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, through resources like I AM SAFE, we could change that statistic for the next generation?
*For more information on grooming tactics, topics to discuss with your children, or free printables, go to Jerod the Subway Guy, Stephen Collins, Coach Sandusky and other Really Nice Predators