Opinion

Sex trafficking victims include Federal Way youth | Johnson

This month, I attended training by folks from the Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking (FWCAT).

I learned that one social worker with Youth Care in Seattle who works with sex trafficking victims has 65 youth on her caseload, and 35 are from Federal Way.

The issues facing our local youth are important, intense and imminent. Pimps, young and old, profile vulnerable youth, promise them love, understanding and acceptance, then lead them into a life of slavery, where they are required to prostitute themselves to make daily quotas of money.

The average age of a child who is trafficked is 11. They come from all walks of life and are victims of manipulation and deceit. The average lifespan of a child who is trafficked is a startling seven years. The emotional and physical abuse these children endure leads them to fear for their safety, become leery of those who can help them (like police), and identify with their abusers and captors over their own safety.

What can we do? Here are some suggestions for parents and others who work with and care about children:

• Be aware of the social networks your children are using.

• Have children set their profiles to private, and only friend people they know in person.

• Remind them never to go meet someone they met online; and especially not to go alone.

• If they are older teens or young adults and meeting someone for the first time, remind them to meet in a highly public place, like a busy restaurant or coffee shop.

Help them look for signs in their friends: injuries or bruises, branding, a change in behavior or language, dressing differently, acquiring expensive gifts, skipping class, having an older boyfriend/girlfriend, or having older friends in general.

Remind your children that if someone tells them they cannot tell you something or do something because you will be harmed if they do, that’s a huge red flag, and they should tell you immediately.

Remind them there are always people who can help them, and to trust people in law enforcement if they find themselves in trouble.

Remind them that adults should not need the help of a child — to find a puppy or get directions or anything. They can find another adult to help.

Help them understand what a healthy relationship looks like. A healthy relationship means that they aren’t asked to break rules or do anything they are uncomfortable with. They should feel safe, have a life outside of the relationship, share in decisions, and have fun most of the time.

Teach them that relationship red flags include isolation, being asked or told to do something you are uncomfortable with, embarrassing or shaming you, guilt, threats, or violence.

Do not opt out of this training when it comes to your child’s school.

Although we may not want to talk to our youth about these issues because they are scary and we think they won’t happen to us, it’s important to inoculate them with information and education.

Even if this never happens to your child, they could be the person who helps a friend. Take a breath, take time, and talk to your child about trafficking.

Learn more

To learn more about the Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking, contact info@fwcat.org.

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