A school’s guide to human trafficking
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.
Human trafficking has no boundaries. It is not limited to third-world countries, and an estimated 200,000 American children are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry. This happens to children all over America, in urban, suburban and rural areas alike.
How do human traffickers find our children? The primary answer is the internet; they lurk on places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and SnapChat.
How do human traffickers lore our children? They look for kids who are on the fringes and need a "friend." They work on filling that void. They give them gifts and show them affection. Most of the time the victims start to see the trafficker as their "boyfriend."
Traffickers make their victims feel obligated to them, then they isolate them by moving them away or getting them hooked on drugs. They instill a feeling that they would be ashamed to go back home. Then, they start asking their victims to do "favors" for them, normally saying they owe them for gifts they have given them or they need to "earn" money for food and shelter.
"This can happen to any child; it doesn't matter what family they come from," said Shea Rhodes, director and co-founder Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation. "What child does not have an insecurity or vulnerability that a trafficker can exploit? They all do."
The next thing the victim knows, those "favors" increase, and they are no longer feeling loved from the trafficker. However, the victim is so deep into this life that he/she cannot see a way out of it.
Parks explains the best way for schools to prevent trafficking is to have experts in the field come in to give presentations to the girls 13 years of age and up, since they are the most vulnerable to trafficking.
"A three-part program having law enforcement present first, then service providers who provide supports to victims of trafficking, and finally a having a victim come and talk about trafficking and educate people about it," said Robert Parks, supervisory special agent of the Philadelphia FBI Violent Crimes Against Children Squad.
This education should include the students and parents. School personnel should go through a similar training as well to be better prepared to identify trafficking.
"The employees who work in the school system are in the best position, except parents or loved ones, to recognize trafficking since they see the child every day," Parks concludes.
One of the key elements of identifying victims is knowing the signs. Those signs being:
- Having new clothes and belongings that the student hasn't always been able to afford
- Wearing clothes that are oversexualized
- Sleeping in class
- Changes in school attendance
- Cutting class
- An older boyfriend
- A boyfriend who lingers outside of school
There is also a lingo and buzzwords that we need to look out for, some of them being:
- Referring to a male who isn’t their father, step-father or foster father as "daddy."
- Talking about the website Backpage.
- Speaking about "in" calls and "out" calls.
"The key is to be aware of the signs, listening for the buzzwords and being open to understanding and talking about trafficking," Rhodes said.
When educators think a student might be involved in trafficking, they should gather as much information as they can and report it through the child abuse system in their jurisdiction, according to the policies of that jurisdiction and local education agency.
When students who were victims of trafficking come back to school after experiencing trafficking, the school should make sure to connect with them and the families and understand the family situation. They should then make an assessment of what the student's needs are. Sometimes they are behind in school after the experience, but the school should also see if they are connected with an agency that provides support for victims of trafficking.
"Every victim will need something different, but one thing is for sure: We need to pay close attention to those victims and be kind to them," Rhodes said. "Children are drawn to traffickers because they show then the attention and affection they are not getting elsewhere."
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