by Emma Elshaw
As a parent, we just want to keep our kids safe and healthy. We teach them how to know if someone is a safe person. We teach them what to do if they ever feel unsafe. We teach them about “stranger danger”. However, the danger nowadays is that some of the most dangerous people aren’t really strangers. Traffickers can be friends at school or even relatives.
When it comes to keeping your kids safe from the dangers of trafficking, the first step is prevention - knowing the signs yourself and educating your kids to recognize the potential dangers and signs of trafficking in order to reduce the risk of being lured by traffickers. Another form of prevention might be to know and monitor what your kids are doing online and to know who they are hanging out with. It is important to maintain open communication with your child so that they feel comfortable coming to you in any circumstance or situation.
If your child is indeed being trafficked, it could result in some common emotional responses. This might include questioning one’s parenting abilities, self-blame or blaming others, fear of judgment from others, and being hyper-vigilant with your child and/or their siblings. Please know that you are not alone, and that you are not to blame. There are, however, some action steps that should be taken.
A call to the police should be made to report your suspicions, providing as much detail as possible. You may also want to get your child tested for sexually transmitted infections, as many are treatable if caught early. It would also be prudent to seek out a professional counsellor that your child can talk to about their experiences, once they are ready. Fight4Freedom offers counselling to sex trafficking survivors. Feel free to reach out to us to set up a counselling appointment. (Remember, your child needs to be ready to talk to someone.)
Many trafficking survivors reach out and return to their traffickers, so monitoring their communication channels, including all social media channels, would be a wise decision. Above all else, it is important to “offer nonjudgmental support, compassionate listening and let your child know that they are a victim of a crime and that you love them no matter what” (Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, Angelyn Bayless).
In order to help you, your child, and your family recuperate and find healing after first-hand experiences with trafficking, it is important to let everyone journey at their own pace. Everyone needs to come to a place of forgiveness and reconciliation themselves. Furthermore, everyone moves through the stages of change at a different pace, and though your child may recognize they are being trafficked, they may not be ready to leave their current situation. In such instances, it would be important to set up rules and boundaries in order to keep them and the rest of the family safe, such as not allowing substance use in the house.
When your child journeys through the experience of their life, it is important to continue to offer non-judgmental love and support. This will help them know that they have somewhere to go, and someone to go to, when they decide to leave their trafficker.
If you suspect that your child may be someone who is being trafficked, you can chat or call the Canadian trafficking hotline at 1-833-900-1010.