WASHINGTON, October 5, 2012 - As a 12 year old, I fled my suburban Virginia home after being abused. I was searching for love and acceptance and desperately wanted someone to believe in and understand me.
The man who would become my trafficker for the next 8 years knew exactly what I was feeling. Because he made it his business to know, to him I was a commodity; he did not see me in any way as a human being only a dollar sign. He knew what signs to look for as he trolled the malls, parks and other hangouts where young people just like me congregated.
He very carefully overlooked the children who walked with self-confidence and self-assurance; instead he targeted the seemingly damaged, quiet, sad and preoccupied young people. He knew they would be easier to control and manipulate, that they would believe the lies he would tell them.
And sadly I did just that.
Half of his job had already been done before he even met me. The fact that I had been abused and received no validation or therapy had left me with no self-esteem, and that coupled with my young age made me a walking target for predators and traffickers like him.
To prevent this from happening to other young children, we have to learn what traffickers already know. We have to learn how to identify, target, approach and align ourselves with children and young people in need.
And we have to reach these children before the traffickers do.
The ages of 12 to 14 are such magical years in a young person’s life. They are also some of the most difficult. A 12 year old girl is just starting to discover her own womanhood and pull away from her mother; she is testing the water and just beginning to experience so many new things. Children of this age are naturally defiant and challenge their parents in the best of home situations. If a child has been abused, and if their already fragile self-esteem has been shattered by lack of validation, then at that special age they can become walking targets.
Every child, or adult for that matter, wants to belong, and during those early teenage years the need to belong and to be part of the group is all consuming. Think back to your own early school years how hard you wanted to be part of the coolest group in school.
Traffickers and predators traffic children for one reason: money. They have made a science of the business of trafficking and enslaving our children. Trafficking of human beings is a 32 billion dollar business, second only to drug trafficking and growing daily.
After all, you can sell a human being over and over and over and you can sell a crack rock only one time.
The average age of entry into the sex trafficking trade in the United States is 12-14 years of age. This is not a coincidence.
Parents, teachers, counselors and doctors and every other adult involved in children’s lives have to be more aware when children show any signs of abuse. They have to acknowledge and validate the abuse. They have to talk about it with the child and believe them; they need to make sure that any counseling or therapy the child may need is in place. They have to make sure that the child knows they are loved and belong to a loving family, whether it is 2 or 12 people.
The same parents, teachers and other adults also could build up a child’s self-esteem by enrolling them in sports. Statistics prove that children who participate in team sports have a much lower rate of early sexual behavior. Adults need to encourage children to try new things, to accomplish tasks that will enrich their lives and build up their self-worth and self-esteem. Positive role models have to be put in place and when there are none in the home, they should be sought out.
Only then will young children and teenagers begin venture out on their own to test the waters, and be able to walk with the confidence and self-assurance that helps shield them from predators and traffickers.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.