Human trafficking cases like Ghislaine Maxwell’s draw special attention to high-profile figures & lavish lifestyles but the truth is traffickers of all kinds take advantage of vulnerable people for profit & pleasure from all social statuses.
It doesn’t matter where you are – if you stop & think of it, you’ll be able to recall a recent social media post regarding a local missing teen or young adult in just the past few days alone. These calls for help seem to be increasing & with it a lot of conversation about what’s really happening: Where do these children go when they run? Why do they run? And my biggest question: in a world where human traffickers are constantly on the prowl for prey, are these kids truly runaways or have they been strategically targeted & lured away.
What is grooming in trafficking?
Simply put, grooming is the process traffickers use to identify & ultimately control their target for the sole purpose of trafficking them.
The traffickers groom to draw victims away from their homes or to gain the trust & dependency of young victims who may have run away from home. The first step is often the development of a relationship with an older man, who the victim comes to regard as her “boyfriend”. The perpetrator assesses the victim’s needs (vulnerabilities) & offers flattery, material items such as money, jewelry or clothes, and/or displays other “acts of love”. The adolescent female may be enticed to begin a sexual relationship with her “boyfriend”. The adolescent will be encouraged to stay away from home for increasingly longer periods of time, eventually leading to her not returning home at all.”
Traffickers fill the victim’s needs by showering them with affection, attention, gifts, & false promises – anything to hook them. The most important goal is to isolate the victim in order for the abuse to begin. With many young girls & women traffickers demand sex as repayment & will use fraud, force or coercion to assert control over the victim.
In one example, a 17-year-old American girl ran away from her foster home & straight to Willie Obadiah, a 32-year-old man who was already pimping other prostituted women.
Obadiah said he met the teen on Facebook, & they chatted over Facebook Messenger & text messages. He learned that she was underage after she sent a picture of her identification card & he responded that he wished she had a “fake ID.”
Obadiah took the victim to a hotel in Charlotte where she was trafficked & raped by three male sex buyers before he transported the minor and three other prostituted women to Florida.
He reportedly advertised the teenager for sale for sex acts online & she was raped by four male sex buyers in Florida before Obadiah forced her to give him oral sex.
The victim ran away, & Obadiah was recently arrested and sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison.
Before you start thinking that can never happen where you are, think again. Human trafficking, particularly of girls, is on the rise. The United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime added that trafficking cases overall have hit a 13-year high. Further, study shows that while victims of human trafficking were traditionally thought to be homeless individuals, children or youth in the foster care system, & migrant workers, times are changing & so are the victims.
A lot starts with you. We can all stop being naive. We can know who your child is talking to, question everyone, & invest in your ability to protect the child & their ability to protect him/herself. Share stories with your young children about the risks of running away & how predators lure children away & why.
As I’ve stated over & over, a lot of this is achieved through simple education & awareness. Talk to your kids. Talk to other family members. Talk to your school & do whatever possible to protect your children & all children. Every child is worth the thought & conversation because at the end of the day there’s no greater responsibility for parents & adults to protect children.
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