The holidays are upon us - Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, plus New Years Eve. All around the globe our children are getting excited to open presents, spend time with friends and maybe a little romance.
This is also a time where predators look for victims who've had too much to drink out and about, at house parties or fain loneness online. These predators are quick to lend a shoulder to cry on or offer a ride home.
Here is how you and your friends can stay safe over the next few weeks:
1. Travel in pairs
There is a reason why women go to the restroom together, we can catch up, share our thoughts on dresses, drinks and cute boys...it's also very safe.
2. Have a safe word for your parents or friends.
People may offer a ride home or say they are a 'friend' of a friend. If they don't know the safe word, and offer to take some place or to help find your friends, don't go with them.
3. Be aware of your surroundings - it could safe you life or someone else’s. There were two women out for a glass of wine at a bar and noticed a couple that was clearly on a 1st date. When the women got up to go power her nose, he put something in her drink. Luckily, the two women were paying attention to the couple and saw what happened. One went to the restroom and told her not to go back to the table. The other got the restaurant manager and together they called the police and the man was arrested. Paying attention could make the difference.
4. Know your limits - yes some holiday drinks are very tasty, yet they can lead to a hangover or worse. Know how much you can drink, choose a designated driver and safe keeper of the crew. Have fun and be safe. Remember; if a stranger offers you a drink, thank them and refuse it and never leave your drink, walk away and come pick it back up.
5. Have a plan for the end of the night. Uber, Lyft and Via are great options - it's important to travel in pairs here too. Make sure no one is left alone in the car or cab with the driver.
Tis the season to be jolly and to be aware. Trafficking is nightmare some never wake up from
- pay attention and have some fun!
As we reflect on the past year, gather around friends and family to celebrate the joys, triumphs, sorrows, laughter and adventures over the past year, there are many among us who would rather forget the past year and dread the next one.
Trafficking happens in our own backyard and these children are recruited slowly and over time that we don’t even notice the signs.
It’s that friend of your daughters that seems just a little too polished and fits in with her life perfectly. The girlfriend of your son that is overly flirty and makes you slightly uncomfortable with how she behaves around him. It’s that car full of kids being loud and rowdy driving by with the one girl in the back seat not joining in or looking fearful.
Its in those moments, we must act. We do our own gut check to make sure these children are who they say they are, live where they say they live and are up to what they say they are up to. That they do belong to the team your child is on or they are on the honor roll too.
Meet your child’s friend’s parents – often. Invite them over, go over to their house, and ask about their life, their backgrounds. Check into their activities. Now I’m not suggesting you do background checks, as those sometimes, are not accurate. What I am suggesting is you follow up on what someone says when it’s not aligned with how they are being.
Sociopaths are trained liars – however, there are ways to tell if people are lying. Everyone has a ‘tell’ – that think they do when they are not telling the truth. Some people blink – others get defensive – or clears their throat. Paying attending and really listening for what is being said behind the words can help you assess yourself. Are you paranoid or is there something off?
Trust yourself – too many times we fail to do so and know that we should have after the fact. We are talking about children’s lives here – their future and their well-being. Sex trafficking, abuse, neglect all have a ‘tell’. We just need to look up from our computers, phones and TV’s long enough to listen.
And it’s ok if your kids get angry – better an angry child than one who is kidnapped, lured, coerced or recruited into sex trafficking.
You’ll sleep better at night and so will they.
A friend of mine was so excited...she'd meet the man of her dreams. Handsome, well - to - do, educated, worldly and was madly in love with her. I was so swept up in her elation, I ignored the fact that they'd just met and only been on a few dates.
Fast forward a few weeks later, we talk and she shares a little bit more about this fabulous man - and it has me be slightly suspicious. As she continues to share I begin to notice a pattern that matches what traffickers do to lure women into their trap.
They met online - he had no picture on his profile.
He only came to see her.
He didn't invited her to where he lives, meet his friends or family.
The dates were late night - after 8pm.
He professes undying love and says he wants to marry her.
Always saying how excited he is to see her, then doesn't' show up
The excuses for not showing up when he says he would, sound really good.
Always very busy flying here and there to exotic places
Then it hits me - she's being set up to be trafficked. And she's in her late 30's - with children.
She was so upset about being 'abandoned' on her date that she didn't fully realize that she was being targeted. It didn't decrease the pain of being 'left', however, it did give her time to pause and be thankful that he didn't show up.
Since then, she's connected with her local police to report everything she had on him to ensure other woman won't fall prey to him.
Trafficking is serious business - one girl can generate up to $250,000 a year for a pimp. It's a 32 Billion dollar global business - growing faster than drug trafficking or guns.
It can be a challenge to meet amazing men - however, I believe they are out there. We must learn to trust ourselves, trust our gut instincts. Have your new man meet your friends quickly so they can get a read on them too. You are far to valuable to be taken away and thrust into slavery.
The links below are some great resources to educate yourself and your family on this silent crime. No one is immune. There is no age discrimination with trafficking.
Be aware, be diligent and be strong. Together we can stop the flow of women and young adults being seduced into this dark world.
Are you being Groomed to be Trafficked?
A Guide - are your children being targeted?
Trafficking in American Schools
It's called the "rape" culture. An environment that 'call's for rape. College parties, girls in pretty dresses, lots of alcohol. All a recipe for possible disaster.
According to a new report released earlier this week by the Association of American Universities, 1 in 4 women say they are sexually assaulted before they graduate; this based on responses from 150,000 students at 27 top universities polled last spring. ( Sexual assault is defined as any involuntary sexual act in which a person is coerced, or physically forced to engage, against their will)
This number was so staggering the White house created a task force to investigate and to see what can be done. What they discovered was even worse.
Their first report, called "Not Alone," discovered that 3 out of 4 women sexually assaulted are lower class-men, freshman or sophomores, and 84 percent of the time the perpetrator is another student. In the majority of cases, the victim knows her attacker, whether as an acquaintance, classmate, friend or (ex)-boyfriend.
All this to say, daughter beware. Son's be gentlemen. Rape is not cool nor a way to get what you want. It damages the soul of a precious human being. It's not a game or prize to be won.
Moms and Dad's prepare your children for the signs of possible collusion that lead to forced sex. It's starts very innocently - a flirty smile here, a wink there and the next thing you know, this handsome young man is standing next to you, talking, asking you all about you. Innocently, he offers to get you a drink and the next thing you know, you wake up in a strange place, possibly half clothed with a massive headache and afraid, 'wondering what the heck happened?'
It's embarrassing - I should know. It happened to me. The interesting thing is I didn't discover it until 30 years later having a conversation with my daughter.
We were discussing dating, college and the prevalence of date rape, and it hit me. It happened to me - started out innocently. We went out, had a few drinks...had a few more drinks, went back to my place. Willingly we engaged in sex....the next morning, I was woken up with him having his way with me...all while I'm asleep!
I was shocked at first - then realized what was happening. By the time I did, his full body weight was on me and there was no where for me to go. Nothing for me to do. In that moment, I was helpless.
Now, one could argue, we were intimate the night before, it was 'his right' or he thought I'd 'enjoy' waking up like that....valid and very inaccurate. He didn't wake me up with gentle kisses and whisper sweet nothings in my ear. Nope - he did what he wanted, whether I wanted it or not. That is sexual assault.
It was embarrassing and I never said anything. Who would believe me anyway. We went home together the night before. No way to prove anything. And it was buried so far down, that it took a conversation with my daughter to provoke the thought some 30 years later.
I share this as an example of the data that has been provided. It's real and happens far more than most girls would like to admit. They'd be seen as lose, or worse. So they keep their mouth shut and live with the guilt and shame. Thinking somehow they are to blame.
You are not to blame. No one has the right to force themselves on you. Regardless if you were intimate the night before. There was no consent - that, is sexual assault or rape.
Here are some tips to keep you safe on Campus and out in the world of bars and parties:
1. Travel in pairs or more. Never leave your wing-woman alone to fend for herself.
2. Get your own drinks. Better yet, BYOB when you can - then you have control.
2a - Beware in bars as well. Bartenders can be in on this too. Have them open the beer or pour the drink in front of you. Never take a drink from a stranger or leave your drink unattended.
3. Have a designated 'driver' - and I'm not talking about a car. It's someone in your group who commits to staying sober and alert to ensure none of her friends are taken advantage of that night.
4. Take a cab or Uber or mass transit to and from parties. You got there on your own, no need to get a ride from a stranger.
5. Carry a pen, maze, whistle or some other protection in your purse.
A note to men - We get it. You like sex. Great. Here's the thing, when a woman says no, she really means it. There is no scenario where a man forcing himself upon a woman is it ok. We don't like it. It hurts and is shameful. It's not ok. Educate yourself on what constitutes rape or assault. Take part in the #StandUpGuy campaign. You'll be glad you did.
Lastly - call home to let your parents know you are ok. Call before you go to a big party and when you get home safe. If not your parents, your girlfriends. Trafficking happens at these parties too. A phone call to a loved one before you go out could save your life. The first 24 hours are crucial if someone goes missing..
To read more on the rape culture and to learn how you can raise awareness on your campus, check out these links.
College Rape Crisis
AAU Campus Survey on Sexual Assault
The Girl Code
Do Something Campaign - Stand Up Guy
Sex Trafficking has become one of the fastest growing crimes against children in the U.S. Here are some staggering facts to back that statement up:
•At least 105,000 children in the U.S. are being sexually exploited every year, according to the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
•The FBI considers sex trafficking the fastest-growing organized crime, and online channels allowing for the exploitation are only making it easier for predators to do business.
•The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14-year-old. Many victims are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children.
The underbelly of this silent crime are the thousands of children who are exploited every week by pimps and their recruiters. It's a recruiters job to seek out, romance, befriend and lure young men and women to a place of comfort, trust and young love. It is in this stage children are encouraged to 'separate' from their families, friends and activities. Targeting loners, new kids or the ones that seem to be 'out of place' and don't fit int. These expert manipulators know exactly what to say to have a child feel they are 'finally loved' and have someone to call their own.Being showered with gifts, clothes, nights out to dinner, a new cell phone and beauty gifts are all part of the game.
They choose their victims wisely, taking their time, courting them until these unsuspecting teenagers fall head over heels for their new girlfriend or boyfriend. A pimp can make up to $250,000 a year per girl - they are patient knowing it is worth the wait.
Once in their clutches is is next to impossible to break them up, as these master manipulators are experts and will tell the child exactly what the parents will say to keep them apart. Breaking trust with the family, building up the trust with them. The psychological tactics used by the pimps and their recruiters have been honed over time and create a love/abuse attachment for the victim. Share these tips with everyone. Let's keep our kids safe.
1 - Pimps will recruit out in the open - they will target girls and boys at the mall, skate parks, near schools, Laundromats, outdoor sporting games. Anywhere there is a large group of young people.
2 - Pimps and their recruiters promise a glamorous life. Plenty of food, shelter, pretty cloths - the party life! Once under their spell, they use physical and sexual abuse to keep them under control and silent. Part of this is the coercion - threatening not only the victim, but the victims friends and family.
3 - They use other girls and boys to recruit for them. This is very common in school settings. They befriend the new or lonely kids, inviting them to places and parties showing them the party life. Promising money, prestige and meeting famous people.
4 - Pimps use fancy job titles like, photographer, modeling agency, make up artists, movie producer or film director. Always promising the dream job - after they do this 'one favor'. Which is then photographed and used as blackmail to force them into this world.
5 - Pimps use Craig's list, Facebook, twitter, tumblr, video games to connect with kids around the world. Making 'friends' with strangers is as dangerous on line as it is in person. Monitor who your children talk to online. One negative comment about a parent, sibling or friend and the pimp will move right in, eventually convincing the child they are not wanted or loved where they are and they should run away and come live with them. Luring them into a false sense of safety and love.
Never before has this been so prevalent in our neighborhoods. No one wants to talk about it and it's happening every day. You can do something about it. Learn to look for the signs. Talk to your children. Share this blog with their teachers. You can make a difference and save our children from this silent crime.
You can learn more about the signs of trafficking here: https://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/recognizing-the-signs