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How to Recognize the Signs of Human Sex Trafficking

Human sex trafficking has been growing in awareness lately thanks to the efforts of many hard working people who are trying to educate the public on an issue that severely impacts families without discrimination. The scary part about human sex trafficking that usually grasps the general public’s attention is that it is unexpectedly common and oftentimes happening right around you without you knowing. This issue does not deserve to be avoided in discussions due to lack of knowledge; knowledge is power! We have the power to fight this problem if we are willing to learn more about it.

People miss signs of trafficking because the signs are designed to be completely overlooked by those who are looking to stop it. Most often but not always, younger teenage girls are targeted by traffickers. With the technology available now, it is easier than ever to reach teen victims. I urge and encourage all parents to learn the signs of trafficking and be aware of who enters into your children’s lives.

Traffickers use tactics to victimize in ways that are subtle and hard to notice at first. The easiest way for traffickers to get their victim’s attention is to give attention first – traffickers will shower their victims with compliments and opportunities that seem incredibly flattering. Beware of any stranger who cannot produce proof of legitimacy for their offers of “modeling opportunities.” A victim or survivor of human sex trafficking might not even know they have been trafficked until long after the fact. Traffickers typically treat their victims very well at first, particularly by giving them lavish gifts, which eventually can be turned into weapons of guilt to convince the victim to do whatever the trafficker wants. A trafficker posed as a boyfriend could ask for a dirty picture. That trafficker could sell or distribute that picture and many more to continue making a profit without the victim’s consent. This is oftentimes how victims find themselves trafficked online without even knowing or questioning the trafficker’s intentions. Knowing who you and your children are interacting with online will help to raise red flags if a situation like this arises.

It is not uncommon that a survivor of trafficking might still be attached to their trafficker after they have been removed from the trafficking situation because of the seemingly sweet, innocent nature of the relationship at first. The trafficker would more than likely create a strong bond with the victim so that they believe the trafficker genuinely cares about them. The relationship can become increasingly violent and controlling, but the trafficker will have a great excuse and manipulation every step of the way. Survivors can be fiercely protective of their trafficker and in many cases return to the trafficker. It takes a great deal of support and time for survivors to recover after such highly complex trauma. Breaking the bond between the trafficker and survivor is a process that takes time. Relearning healthy patterns in relationships is another process that survivors must go through. The resources for survivors and their families is continually growing. With the right support team, survivors can continue on to live strong, independent, happy lives.

An Thai, MS, Resident in Marriage and Family Therapy, provides individual, couple, and family therapy in our Sterling, VA office. Call or email today to schedule your first visit or a complimentary telephone consultation.