Simple tips on how to stay safe from sex trafficking, and look out for your friends.
Sex trafficking has no stereotypes. It will target anyone it thinks it can exploit, no matter his/her gender, race, socioeconomic status, or geographical location. This means that we must all take steps to limit our vulnerability to predators. Here are a few easy first steps:
Know the Red Flags
Knowing the Red Flags of a victim of sex trafficking and a pimp is the first step in increasing our safety against sex trafficking. Without knowing what to look out for, we won’t be able to recognize dangerous situations for ourselves or others.
If you ever recognize combinations of these warning signs, you should call the National Human Trafficking Hotline Number (888-3737-888). They will be able to help you determine if it is a trafficking situation, and then provide the proper resources available in your area for the situation.
We love social media. With so many options to choose from, the possibilities are endless on how to connect with friends, share our stories, or get an important message out there. For all the amazing benefits of social media we are finding out about a dark side. Law enforcement agencies that are working night and day to fight sex trafficking are discovering that the primary tool pimps are using to recruit new victims is social media.
Pimps are using every platform we are: Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Kik, Facebook and the list goes on. We become easy targets when we interact with strangers, have our profiles public, post suggestive pictures, complain about our families, or talk about our future goals. Anything can be manipulated by a pimp, which is why it is important to be aware of what kind of mark we are making online.
Here a couple quick tips to make sure a pimp does not find you an easy target:
- Make all accounts private
- Monitor who follows you
- Do not say where you go to school at in your bio
- Shut off location settings
- Avoid venting
- Don’t interact with strangers
Followers are always cool, we love followers. But our ratio doesn’t matter much if we are in danger.
Be Careful Who You Befriend
Our best friends are life. We do as much as we can together and can tell each other everything. Friends encourage us, teach us how to like new things, and are there through the hardest of times. The friends who we do life with the most are the people who have the most influence in our lives.
We call this our “Center of Influence.” Our Center of Influence has the power to mold and shape us to be exactly like it. This can be made up of family, co-workers, and friends. Their influence shapes how we do life on a day to day basis, as well as the perspective in which we make decisions.
It is possible for some people to be in our Center of Influence and not be good for us. They can be nice people and still not have your best interest in mind. Thinking about the path some of our friends and others are on can concerns us; whether that is addiction, parties, bad relationships, illegal activity, etc, those things usually do not have happy endings.
The people we choose to be friends with have a lot of influence on us, and have the capacity to help or harm our lives. Some people we may need to distance ourselves from, others we may need to bring closer.
Say Something When You See Something Wrong
Sex trafficking is evident in society today. Many of us have even seen it. That friend who ran away, the classmate who can’t seem to stay awake during 3rd hour, the girl who keeps showing off all the expensive things her boyfriend buys her, the guy couch surfing just to have a place to stay at night, or the kid failing every class who used to get straight A’s.
By themselves each of these things do not mean that someone is being trafficked, but in combination they are major red flags that someone is in danger. Studies have shown that people usually do not speak up when they see something wrong because they don’t feel it is their place, or because they think that someone else will do it. But if everyone thinks that way, no one ends up helping. It is better to overreact and potentially save someone’s life, than to underreact and be part of the reason they continue to be exploited. Check out the Red Flags to know what to look out for.
What You Can Do
Take inventory. Reflect on life: the kind of people you’re friends with, how willing you are to speak up about things you care about, what you do on social media, etc. If any of those need improvement, begin to take steps to make them better.
Then start thinking about those you care about. If there is anything in their life you feel could put them in danger, try grabbing coffee with them and talking about your concerns in a judgment-free way. You may never know the impact you can make in a person’s life!