This week, we had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a live Twitter Chat hosted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). We were able to share information on how trafficking impacts the youth that we serve and how our services can be used to help survivors. In case you missed it, check out our responses below:
- Q1 – As a parent/community member, what are the signs/indicators we should look for in persons that are being trafficked?
A1 – Some major indicators that a young person is being trafficked include frequent and unexplained absences from school, frequently running away, signs of physical abuse, having a partner who is noticeably older and/or controlling, having a controlling employer, appearing withdrawn or overly tired, signs of substance abuse, having unexplained cash on hand, and wearing inappropriate or suggestive clothing.
- Q2 What strategies can parent’s, caregivers, and community members use to help prevent human trafficking and what can we do to better protect children online?
A2 Internet-affirmative youth education can be used to empower young people and protect them online. Young people will gravitate to and use the internet the way that they want to, regardless of imposed rules. When discussing risky behavior or situations, brainstorm ways to use the internet to ensure safety. Encourage youth to make their safety a priority, and to seek out help if they experience online victimization.
- Q3 How are children targeted for trafficking? Are there particular populations or demographics that traffickers are more likely to traffic?
A3 Young people and children are often targeted because they have less experience and may be unable to tell when a person is attempting to take advantage of them. Vulnerable populations are at higher risk, including runaway and homeless youth. Lacking resources (such as stable housing, food, or medical/mental health care) forces individuals to make decisions based on survival, putting them in particularly vulnerable positions.
- Q4 Pimp controlled trafficking often dominates media narratives. What are some other types of trafficking you are seeing? #HTAD2021
A4 Labor trafficking is also highly prevalent. This may take the form of ‘under-the-table’ work. Labor traffickers (individuals and businesses) recruit homeless youth because they know that these young people are looking for job opportunities, and that opportunities are limited while living on the streets.
Additionally, trafficking often occurs within family circles or friend networks. According to Polaris, abduction or kidnapping into sex trafficking situations are extremely rare. Children virtually always know and trust the person who is trafficking them. Most commonly, young people are trafficked by members of their own families, or by people with whom they have developed relationships.
- Q5 How does your organization assist in cases of human trafficking?
A5 The National Runaway Safeline provides free, confidential support for youth experiencing homelessness, who are in crisis or who have run away. Given the crossover between the youth we serve and trafficking victims, our crisis services supervisors are trained to recognize the signs of trafficking and provide specialized, trauma-informed assistance to provide victims access to a location and other local services and resources. Our Home Free program also provides free transportation for victims to safety.
- Q6 What stereotypes do we see with trafficking and how are they true and untrue?
A6 One major stereotype is that people in active trafficking situations always want help getting out. Every trafficking situation is different and individuals may not self-identify as a victim. Fear, isolation, guilt, shame, misplaced loyalty and expert manipulation are among the many factors that may keep a person from seeking help.
- Q7 Can you give an example of an action a member of the general public took that directly contributed to the identification or recovery of a trafficking victim?
A7 If you’re concerned that someone is being actively trafficked, reach out to them where they’re at. Express concern for their safety and well-being. Ask questions about their working and living conditions. Communicate that you care about their safety, that they do not deserve to be hurt, and that the abuse is not their fault. You can report the incident and receive advice from the National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1-888-373-7888.
- Q8 Youth and vulnerable populations are being targeted online. What can we do to better protect children online?
A8 To better protect youth online, it is essential to recognize that young people will use social media, whether they are told to or not. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, youth rely on social media for their social supports. A harm-reduction approach encourages that use, while providing internet-positive safety guidance and education. The question is not whether but how youth use technology and social media.
- Q9 How are you engaging or empowering survivor voices in your work?
A9 At the National Runaway Safeline, we invite the youth voice into our work through our Youth Advisory Board (YAB), which ensures that the leadership and voices of youth are incorporated into all aspects of our work at NRS. The YAB also provides an opportunity for young people with lived experience to engage with one another on projects that will have a meaningful impact on the way we serve youth in crisis and prevent youth homelessness. As experts of their own experiences, young people’s perspective is invaluable to shaping the future of NRS.
In our work, we also empower survivors through our crisis intervention model. We remain non-judgmental and non-directive, so that our contacts are empowered to make their own choice with what to do next.
- Q10 How do the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and other oppressive ideologies contribute to human trafficking?
For LGBTQ+ youth, discrimination within their families may result in them being kicked out of their home and left without a support system. This can put them at an extreme risk of being trafficked. Widespread mistreatment and violence forces individuals to fend for themselves. Limited healthcare access, employment discrimination, and strained relationships with law enforcement are just some of the ways that these oppressive ideologies contribute to trafficking.
- Q11 There has been an increase in viral social media posts about human trafficking. Where can I go to find verified information about this issue? #HTAD2021
A11 @FYSB provides useful resources on human trafficking and how it impacts the youth we serve here: https://www.rhyttac.net/human-trafficking-resources-and-factsheets. Polaris also provides accurate and useful information, and you can reach out to their Human Trafficking Hotline with specific concerns by calling 1-888-373-7888.
We are so grateful for this chance to share resources and information on combatting human trafficking. Many other great organizations participated including Polaris, the National Safe Place Network, National Network for Youth, National Children’s Advocacy Center, and more.
The National Runaway Safeline is always here to support youth survivors and their families on our 1-800-786-2929 hotline and online services (live chat, e-mail, forum) with free, confidential, non-judgmental support.