(WTNH) – Sixteen thousand sex trafficking cases are recorded every year involving children, according to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Hollywood has its version of how it happens, such as in the movie, ‘Taken.’ Child advocates say a predator’s approach is not so dramatic, but much simpler.
A sobering thought considering many of these children still live with their parents.
Tamarra Clark is director of Connecticut Survivor Care at Love146, which is an international human rights group. She offers the parents signs that their child might be involved in risky sexual behavior.
“Where did they get that money, how did they pay for those sneakers. We can’t afford it, they can’t afford it. A youth has unexplained injuries or tattoos, older romantic partners, running away,” Clark said.
So, who are these men and women who prey on the vulnerability of children and teens? According to the FBI, they’re closer to your child than you think.
“The sort of big boogie man that’s going to come to you. It’s not. It’s your neighbor, it’s your friend, it’s your best friend’s brother,” said Associate Professor Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, Arizona State University.
Professor Roe-Sepowitz created a brochure. It’s a tool that guides teens through talking about sex trafficking with their parents and peers.
“It’s something that a group of teens can go through in a group home. Something that can be used in a health class. It’s a guide through what the different parts of sex trafficking are,” Roe-Sepowitz said.
It’s also a guide the professor says every school needs, along with access to a national website she created – projectstarfish.edu.
“And it’s for any school to go on, learn about trafficking, create that plan. There’s a template for who’s going to report, and how are you going to report. What are the phone numbers to report to,” Roe-Sepowitz said?
For children who are the victims of stolen innocence, it’s the first step toward health and healing, leaving behind a life filled with abuse and shame.