“I don’t have anywhere to go.”
Last week, I had the privilege (and sadness) of sitting with a distraught teenager.
She had just been brutally assaulted by a “friend” of her dad’s and could no longer go back home.
Her mom struggled with substance use and wasn’t an option to live with either.
This sweet girl was no longer in high school, did not have safe adults in her world, and had experienced prolific amounts of abuse and exploitation in her short life.
So, she went into state custody.
And she turns 18 soon.
So, what happens when she ages out of the system?
She doesn’t have family support, life-skills, or any real protective factors.
But she has a smart phone.
And she’s already been talking to dozens of adult men, sending nudes, and meeting up with them for sexual encounters.
It’s not hard to see the trajectory of what could happen next.
She’s so vulnerable to being exploited and trafficked.
All it would take is for one trafficker to find her online, create a relationship (which is not difficult with a person who is starved for emotional connection), and start to exploit her.
Prevention is so important for vulnerable kids and adults.
There are ways that we all can help with prevention. An important aspect of prevention is educating and raising awareness about the reality of trafficking. This means talking to kids and adults about online dangers, exploitation, and what trafficking truly looks like in society, not just myths that are portrayed in popular culture.
Prevention can also be implemented by ensuring that people have access to basic needs. Vulnerability decreases when people have access to housing, food, clothing, medical care, and transportation. This is also true of emotional needs; vulnerability decreases when people form healthy friendships and relationships.
Another way to prevent exploitation is to ensure that people have access to healing. Providing kids and adults with therapy, groups, substance use recovery, etc. helps decrease vulnerabilities that stem from attachment pain, prior abuse, or other types of trauma.
Several groups who are doing excellent work in this arena are:
The Stop Trafficking Project- Home (stoptraffickingproject.com)
Value Unconditional- Value Unconditional - value unconditional
Check out their links for more ways to get involved in prevention work.