Whether you’re heading back to school this month as a student, teacher, or administrator, you have a unique opportunity in the fight against sex trafficking.
Because likely, there are exploited and trafficked youth in your halls and classrooms.
- prior childhood abuse;
- the lack of any caring, supportive adult in a youth’s life; and
- the lack of education or any means to earn an income.
Additional risk factors may include being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), and having a history of being in the foster care system or justice system.1
You may not witness trafficking around you in the ways you would expect — kids being forced into unmarked vans or money changing hands — but there are signs you can look for in the kids and teens who you spend time with every day.
Signs of Sex Trafficking in Students2
- unexplained school absences
- an abrupt change in attire, behavior, or relationships
- the presence of an older “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”
- travel with an older male who is not a guardian
- the sudden presence of expensive material possessions
- chronic running away
- signs of psychological coercion, such as depression, anxiety, and/or an overly submissive attitude
- lack of control over his/her schedule, money, and/or proof of identification
- signs of physical trauma, including bruises, cuts, burns, and/or scars
- tattoos or other branding marks
- poor health, as evidenced by sexually transmitted diseases, malnutrition, and/or serious dental problems
- substance abuse or addictions, or selling drugs
- Coached/rehearsed responses to questions
- Uncharacteristically promiscuous behavior and/or references to sexual situations or terminology that are beyond age-specific norms
I see the signs. Now what?
- In the case of an immediate emergency, call your local police department or emergency access number.
- To report suspected human trafficking crimes or to get help from law enforcement, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or submit a tip online at http://humantraffickinghotline.org/report-trafficking.
- To report sexually exploited or abused minors, call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST, or report incidents at http://www.cybertipline.org.
Want to take action right now? One trafficking risk factor is something we can all help prevent. Youth who don’t have a supportive, caring adult in their lives are more at risk to be exploited for sex. Whether you have one child in your life or 30, you can be a supportive and caring adult to a vulnerable child who needs you. The impact may seem small in the moment, but you could be saving a life.