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Sexual exploitation is not only a sad reality but a present danger. Pimps and traffickers alike are perfecting the art of recruiting vulnerable youth into lives of sexual exploitation. It is far more prevalent in society than one would imagine, and most people believe it could never happen to their family — but it can.

In this three-part series on how to identify modern sexual exploitation, we’re highlighting key elements about recognizing if your loved ones are in trouble and how to help. The first installment in the series delves into how victims get recruited. This post illuminates the details of how exploiters and traffickers deceive their victims into trusting them and how you can take preventative measures.  

How It Works

Traffickers are sketchy characters who identify the vulnerabilities of your loved ones and exploit those vulnerabilities for their gain. They deceive your loved ones and take control of their lives. Although there are several ways traffickers worm their way in, here are three of the most common ways…

The first way traffickers deceive their victims is by offering extravagant and incredible *false* promises. Basically, if it seems too good to be true, it is. Traffickers reel victims in with guarantees of fantastic jobs, exciting adventures, money, or the love they are not getting at home. They convince the victim, aka your loved one, that he or she will live a fantastic life fulfilling their dreams of modeling, singing, acting, or anything else.

Another way traffickers deceive your loved ones is by strategically placing themselves in their lives. Maybe it is a new significantly older boyfriend or girlfriend. They typically claim to “understand” your child and perpetuate a narrative that you are “unreasonable.” They forge a bond that increases trust between them and your loved one while driving a wedge between you and them. However, the trafficker does not always use the romantic route, instead, they can take on any role that is left unfulfilled in your loved one’s life. For example, they can take on the role of an older sibling, parent, or confidant. No matter what role they play, the trafficker always finds weaknesses, fills voids, and exploits vulnerabilities.

The third way traffickers deceive your loved ones is by providing for them. In other words, the trafficker gives the victims what they want or need. They give things of value to the victim to increase their dependence on the traffickers. This can include both wants and needs. Therefore, it can include basic needs like food, water, and shelter or material desires like clothes, shoes, accessories, or cool devices.

Recognizing the Signs

In addition to understanding how your child might get trafficked, it is imperative to know how to identify modern sexual exploitation. There are multiple signs that indicate predatory action against your loved one, but here are two of the main indicators:  

  • A change in behavior. These changes can include unexcused absences from class, dressing less appropriately than before, and becoming withdrawn or depressed.
  • A new lifestyle. This lifestyle may include showing off newfound riches, speaking of and inviting others to “wild parties,” or spending plenty of time with an older person with a completely different lifestyle.

The key in this situation is vigilance. You are your loved one’s biggest advocate and first responder. There is a small window of opportunity in the early stages to disrupt the trafficker’s plan, and this realization is important. Once that window closes, the process of saving your child gets significantly harder and more complex.

How We Can Help

We urge swift action and recommend reporting these cases to local law enforcement, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and the ILF.

Once we are involved, we will validate the situation and assess the level of danger. In addition, we will offer an immediate explanation of the tactics and situation at hand. We will work tirelessly to unmask these attackers and work with law enforcement to get them where they belong — behind bars.

Here at the Innocent Lives Foundation, we are dedicated to helping you and the people you love the most. This is not just one person’s fight. We are in this together, and we are dedicated to the safety and well-being of your children.

For more information about identifying modern sexual exploitation, stay tuned for the next blog posts about trauma bonding and training.

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