For Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we share keys to preventing human trafficking through runaway youth prevention. Learn more here.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, a vital informational campaign meant to increase the public’s knowledge on a very serious issue in America: the trafficking of men, women and children for the purpose of forced labor or sex work. One set of victims that often fall prey to human traffickers are runaway youth.

Human trafficking is defined by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as: “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

Runaway youth are highly susceptible to being coerced by human traffickers for several reasons: lack of stable housing or resources, low self-esteem, lack of stable relationships with adults, and other factors. According to the National Network for Youth’s Human Trafficking Fact Sheet, available on our website, approximately 10% of shelter youth and 28% of street youths report having participated in survival sex for the exchange of shelter, food, drugs, or other subsistence.

Human Trafficking Indicators - National Runaway Safeline


(Via Eleanor Goldberg in the Huffington Post, the nonprofit organization Shared Hope International has even created a report card on each state in the U.S. on their ability to deal with human trafficking. Find your state here.)

The keys to helping runaway youth stay safe from human traffickers include preventing youth from choosing to run away altogether, as well as providing them with safe alternatives to leaving home. Educating youth about how they can keep themselves safe and off the streets is a vital part of prevention. By giving youth the tools to cope with difficult situations, create healthy relationships, and connect them to resources that can help, we can limit the access human traffickers have to potential victims.

Our runaway prevention curriculum “Let’s Talk” is designed to give youth life skills, increase their knowledge on runaway resources, educate them on alternatives to running away, and teach them how to approach trusted community members.  By providing youth with the skills to deal with stress as it arises, we work to avoid crisis situations that youth might have otherwise fallen into.

Each module features lessons, activities and content that allow instructors to deliver in-depth, valuable insight on human relationships, emotional intelligence and access to resources. Let’s Talk was also developed with a trauma-informed care approach by recognizing that many youth participants may be impacted by trauma, such as being a trafficking victim. Not only does this free curriculum alert facilitators when there are topics that may be of a sensitive nature, but it also provides them with a number of resources and information that can assist a youth who may need additional support.

Some of the areas that are covered include:

Communication and Listening (PDF): This module teaches youth the skill of active listening, where a youth can identify the signals of clear communication and how to get his/her message across to others.

Runaway Reality (PDF): This module asks the audience to consider, “why do youth choose to run away?” By being aware of the factors that precipitate a youth running away, perhaps youth can then recognize those signals and choose an alternative, such as contacting a service like NRS, or other services.

This unit also addresses “runaway risks,” including survival sex, which can ultimately lead to human trafficking.

Internet Safety (PDF): This module is especially relevant, because a large amount of human trafficking has been connected to internet fraud. Youth are given the skills to identify the signals of a potentially fraudulent website, as well as how to protect themselves on the internet.

Our prevention curriculum is a comprehensive, 14-module series that gives youth the skills to keep them safe and off the street, and hopefully away from human traffickers. You can find the entire evidence-based curriculum and download it for free on our website.

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