~by Jeanne Christensen, RSM, Global Sisters Report
In 2004, for the first time, I met prostituted women who had survived and were moving successfully into recovery. I was awed by their stories, but more so by their strength, courage and resilience. How could anyone survive what they had experienced and still have hope? One told me, “God reached into hell and pulled me out.” I wanted to say, “Yes, but give yourself credit.” She now operates a nonprofit, helping other victims and survivors.
When younger, these women were among those at great risk — runaway youth. The National Conference of State Legislature cites studies showing that “youth age 12 to 17 are more at risk of homelessness than adults”; “one in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away”; and “75 percent of runaways are female.” If runaways or homeless youth are on the streets without a safe place to go, their abduction is likely within 48 hours, according to public safety officials. They often run from or are forced out of terrible home situations. Many believe nothing could be worse. Unfortunately, they are usually wrong.
According to Shared Hope International’s Seeking Justice 2018 Report, only “23 states and the District of Columbia prohibit the criminalization of minors for prostitution offenses” by adopting varying statutory approaches to prevent the criminalization. While some states may be failing exploited children and adults, local nonprofits, organizations, agencies, education and health care facilities and systems, faith communities, anti-trafficking advocates and law enforcement are working together to address human trafficking.
[People should be aware that] predators identify the most vulnerable youth, marginalized in some way, lacking self-esteem and/or self-confidence. These young victims live in your city, maybe even in your neighborhood. You may have seen one of them in your hospital’s emergency department, or at the truck stop on the interstate. They may even be a student in your high school or university. It is good that more adults are enforcing rules about their children’s use of smartphones, tablets and other technology, and limiting access to the internet and social media.
Children as young as primary students unintentionally advertise their vulnerability by what they say or post on social media. As I have learned, the most vulnerable include runaways, foster children, immigrant youth, LGBTQ youth, those thrown out of their own homes, and those living in poverty or in dysfunctional families. Sadly, predators know this and seek them out.
Predators also make advances on children at malls, restaurants, coffee shops, arcades, movie theaters and other places where youth gather. Explaining to youth what human trafficking is, how they and their friends are at risk, and what they can do to avoid being targeted, lured or chosen as victims can help them understand how to protect themselves and their friends. Education and awareness are key.
To read the entire article: https://www.globalsistersreport.org/column/trafficking/trafficking-demands-action-all-us-55839