Question – My wife and I feel like we live in fear all of the time. We hear the stories of children being taken from their yards and from their bedrooms- there appears to be no safe place for our kids to just be “kids.” This fear dictates our children’s play time, limiting their ability to go to the park or walk around the block to play with neighbors. Is this really what our world has come to? Is there something we can do to build a better and safer world for our kids to live and for us to feel we can trust the world enough to let our kids enjoy being kids?
Answer – That is a question a lot of us are asking. One of our greatest fears is that we will lose our children. This idea paralyzes us. We can take steps to create more safety yet there is not a tool or device that will keep your kids safe 100% of the time. The following suggestions good suggestions on how to help keep our kids safe.
Be aware- We need to know the signs. Trafficking happens in more places than you may think. Children of any socioeconomic background between the ages of about 11 and 17 years old, with any one of the following factors, are at higher risk of being victims of sex traffickers, such as:
• Lack of education
• The breakdown of the family,
• Low self-esteem
• A strong desire to be independent
• Identifying as LGBTQ
• Being bullied or teased
Some things to watch for in your children:
• Unexplained bursts of wealth
• Hanging out with an older man,
• Hotel keys or receipts
• Unexplained absences from home
• Withdrawing from people own age
• Bruises, cuts
• Drug and alcohol problems
The biggest problem in protecting our children is not being aware of other people and our surroundings. Put your phones away when you are out with your children.
The typical abduction is not by force- it is usually by winning over a child who feels insolated and alone, especially through social media, or an intermediary like a teenage girl. The trafficker will flatter the children and tell they are worthy of love. The children will think the trafficker can provide for them because the trafficker appears to have lots of money or drugs or alcohol for free. The children may be told that they only have to do one thing to get all they want.
Still, the task force says, sex trafficking can happen anywhere. “Where ever there are people, there is sex trafficking.” It happens in the suburbs, in upscale neighborhoods. And oftentimes, the abductors don’t take the child very far at all.
Protect your children: Make plans for a place of safety children can go to if needed. This can be in your house, neighborhood, police stations, or an authority figure in a store. If your child carries a phone, put emergency numbers in it. Or even emergency numbers kept in their backpack. It would be good to have them memorize a couple of numbers as soon as they are old enough to do so. Kids need to know their own address, even state, and city. They need to know parents’ names, and place of employment.
You can make ID kits: The kit should include:
1. A physical description, such as nickname, date of birth, height, weight, gender, fingerprints, hair and eye colors
2. Any identifying features, such as glasses, braces, scars, birthmarks and piercings
3. Any medical information, such as conditions, disorders, diseases and medications
4. Most important, an up-to-date, high-quality digital photo.
5. Be sure to take your kits with you on trips and vacations.
GPS tracking devices are developed specifically for kids and allow parents to locate their kids using their smartphones, iPads or computers. They can come with an immediate alert button that texts you and a secure latch to prevent unintended removal; a removal alert that texts you when the band is taken off; and a Geo-Fence Boundary Alert that sends you a text if the band crosses a boundary you set. Every child is different so find the one that works best for you and your family. Many of these devices are found online.
Family talks – One of the best ways to protect your children from being abducted is to have an open line of communication. Listen to understand them and do it often. When children feel understood, they feel safe at home and feel safe talking to parents. They are less likely to go to others for love and understanding. It just takes listening without judgment and without criticizing. Yes, you may find in listening that there are teaching moments. These moments need to be addressed with lots of love and concern, not interrogation and criticism. Everyone can help keep children safer by building stronger families, and stronger neighbors- one day at a time. Help us keep children safer from trafficking by intentionally doing something to build up your family or someone you consider family.
Even after all we can do, things can happen. Elizabeth Smart tells about her will to survive because she could remember her parent’s love for her. She states that this advice is the best she received after her ordeal:
“My mom said, ‘Elizabeth, what this man has done to you is terrible, and there aren’t words to describe how wicked and evil he is…but the best punishment you could ever give him is to be happy. Move forward and follow your dreams and do exactly what you want to do. You may never feel like justice has been served, but you don’t need to worry about that because in the end, God is our ultimate judge, and he will make up every pain and every suffering that you’ve gone through. Those who don’t receive their just reward here will certainly receive it in the next life, so you don’t have a reason to hold on to that.’”
“If you relive it, you’re only allowing him to steal more of your life away from you,” she continued. “That’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given, and I have tried to live it every single day. We always have a choice to move forward, to make a difference,” Smart said. “I like to think that we’re not defined by what happens to us…because so many times they’re beyond our control. I like to think that we’re defined by our choices and our decisions.”
If only we could live in a perfect world where we could just teach our children the simple things in life. But life is not simple and it is not perfect, yet we can still choose to live in love not our debilitating fear. We can do our best and then live our best. One step at a time.