Human Trafficking Awareness Month :: How to Educate, Empower, and Equip Our Children 

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“If your child has access to a device that connects to the internet, then they are susceptible to predators.” says Pat McCay, chair of the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force. 

What is Human Trafficking?

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Parents and children alike need to become educated on this dangerous reality in our society. Human trafficking is called “Modern Day Slavery,” and is defined as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Startlingly, there are more slaves today than any other part of history!

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines human trafficking as both labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Traffickers gain complete control of their victims through coercion, force, or fraud. Although both types of trafficking occur frequently worldwide, sex trafficking is the most prevalent form in the United States. More information can be found about the serious problem of human trafficking on Trafficking Hope’s website. Trafficking Hope is a nonprofit whose goal is “to stop sex trafficking across the nation by providing awareness, education, survivor services, and empowering local churches to make a difference in their own communities.”

Be Informed

Human trafficking is not just happening in other parts of the world; it is happening in our own state! Parents and adults need to be informed so we can protect our children while preparing them for the reality that predators are in our community. END IT Alabama, the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, explains, “The average age of entry into sex trafficking as a victim is 11-14 years of age, and exploitation can continue for years.” Although this is hard to hear, it is the harsh reality facing children today. It is vital that we educate ourselves in order to speak with our children. More facts about human trafficking can be found on the END IT Alabama website

Know the Red Flags 

Although this list is not exclusive, here are common “red flags,” or warning signs, that can show that a child has been exposed to or entangled in human trafficking:

  • They might physically show signs of abuse.
  • Children may suddenly become anxious, withdrawn, or have a fear of authority.
  • They could lie about their age or have an older boyfriend/girlfriend that is controlling them.
  • Teens or pre-teens may try to hide communication with others from parents.
  • Children might even start dressing inappropriately for their age.

All in all, it is important to stay involved in your children’s lives and aware of who they spend time with in person and on the internet. For more information on warning signs, visit END IT Alabama

How to Speak to Your Children

“Being honest and age appropriate is the best advice,” for parents starting the conversation, according to Pat McCay. Being intentional with speaking to your children and building a foundation of trust are both so important. Parents have the responsibility of speaking with their children about the dangers and bad people of the world. Children need to hear the right information from parents first before hearing anything from other people. If we don’t protect our children, who will?

Another way to combat and educate children is through teaching them the appropriate uses of technology. Children need to know that the internet is a great resource for learning, but it is also a place where danger lives. They need to know healthy boundaries and how to spot danger if it should ever show up. Here is a great source on “Internet Safety for Kids.” 

Extra Resources to Educate and Empower

There are so many resources available to help us educate children, empower individuals, and help victims. In Birmingham, The National Children’s Advocacy Center offers forensic interviewing to determine if a child has experienced any inappropriate activities or actions. Also, the Alabama Department of  Child Abuse and Neglect provides many resources to children, should they ever come across a predator.

Most importantly, parents need to start the conversation! Let your children know they can come to you with anything, and that you are ALWAYS a safe space.

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An Alabama native and raised in Gadsden, Jessica studied ELA education at The University of Alabama, and moved to Birmingham after graduating in 2012. She then started working as a middle school teacher, where teaching became her passion. She also attended UAB for her Masters of ESL, so “Roll tide!” and “Go Blazers!” While teaching abroad, Jessica met her husband in Colombia. When she returned to the states, she continued her love of teaching in Hoover. When she isn’t working, you can find Jessica at church, spending time with her family and friends, or crafting. She resides in Pelham with her husband, Johan, and 1 year old son, Judah. Being a mother is Jessica's greatest joy and most humbling gift.