Trafficking and my 6-Year-Old Rescue Hero

My son Daniel, now 6 years old, loves helping me sell books.  This summer he has come with me to book signings and presentations.  Most of the time he is off to the side coloring with my 2-year-old, Hope, so I don’t usually worry that he’s paying attention to what I’m talking about.

At my very first book signing, he told me he had an idea how I could sell more books.  His eyes were bright and excited and I was curious.  “Really?  What’s your idea?”

He leaned in and said with hushed words, “You could sell them for a quarter!”

imag00931.jpg

I had to admit he was right; if I sold them for a quarter I would definitely sell more books.

Today Brian went back to work. (He’s a teacher.  The pre-semester stuff started today, and his eye had recovered enough from the Drain-O accident so he didn’t have to wear his homemade–and quite colorful since he had to use kid craft items–pirate patch.)  The kids and I went to the Post Office, which we do often to ship a book to this or that person.  Daniel told the Post Office worker, “This is my Mommy’s book.”  My heart filled with pride, but not for my book–for my son.

Then on the way home, he asked if he could look at my book (I had a copy in the front seat, don’t remember why).  I said sure and he reached from the backseat and took it.  He hasn’t been reading for that long, so I figured he would have fun finding words he could read, and of course not get anywhere near the actual subject material.

After a minute or two, I heard him flipping through the book and then he says, “This has a LOT of chapters!”  I told him that yes, it was a book for big people so it had a lot of words in it.  Then he asked if the women in the picture on the cover was the “stolen” woman.

Whoa, that caught my attention.  I said no, then I asked him warily, “Do you know what my book is about?”

“Um…hum-an tr-afficking?”

Those are the first two words on the back of the book.  I had no idea he could sound out the word trafficking.  Suddenly my idea of bringing him along to all these things started to feel like a very bad one.  “Do you know what that is?”

He didn’t, which was a relief.  But now that we were talking about it, I needed to explain it to him.  How do you explain human trafficking to a 6-year-old!?

I told him that in some bad places there were people who sold other people, and it was a very bad thing.  As I sat there thinking if I were him I’d be wondering why in the world my mom wanted to write a book about that, I added, “One of the reasons I wrote the book was to help people know how to make it stop.”  I mentioned that that was why I talked to newspapers and the radio and TV, to help people find out how to rescue them.

This took the vague, incomprehensible subject into familiar territory for him.  “Like Rescue Heroes!” he announced from the backseat.

I smiled.  “Yes, like rescue heroes.”

Suddenly this was a problem he could help with.  He mentioned that people could learn how to be rescue heroes from watching them on TV (it’s an animated series in case you don’t have a 6-year-old), and if anyone wanted, they could borrow his Rescue Heroes movies so they could learn how to be rescue heroes, too.

Wow, here is my son, with no real clue about what human trafficking is or how terrible its affects are, but he understands the idea of people in need and others coming to rescue them, and he is ready to help.

I like the idea of it being that simple for all of us–there are people in need, and if the opportunity arises, we are ready to help.

P.S.  If you want to watch the Rescue Heroes shows, Daniel says you can borrow his.  Or it might be slightly more helpful to call the Trafficking Hotline and get info from them on how to be a rescue hero instead: 1-888-3737-888.

The Right Questions to ask if You See A Potential Victim

A friend on my Facebook page mentioned seeing an add in Chicago that said

 “you may be the first person they see, ask the right questions.”
It was sponsored by a group against human trafficking. Great ad, but not enough, because this friend then proceeded to ask me, “So what are the right questions?”
It was such an important question to ask that I decided to go ahead and post some options on here for others to read as well. I feel quite inadequate to be honest, admitting quite freely that I’ve never been in the situation of meeting a girl who I thought might be trafficked. However, here’s what has come to mind about what some of the right questions–and response in general–should be if you see a potential trafficking situation.
1. Assess what you see. Is it a young girl with an older man and she looked scared? Has to ask him for simple things like to go get a drink or go to the bathroom? Does she looked drugged? Visual, try to get as much information as you can.
2. If the girl goes into a situation where she is alone (the bathroom, a store), you can follow and try to strike up a conversation with her. “Hi. My name is ____________. What’s your name?” (This is casual way to get her name before she is frightened of you–may not work) If that makes her react in a frightened way (like she keeps glancing to see if someone is watching her, as if she’s not allowed to talk with people), that’s a pretty clear sign something is wrong.
3. Ask the girl, “I don’t mean to scare you, but are you in trouble? Can I help you?” If she again responds frightened, or backs away, you may want to add, “Are you here against your will?”
4. If there’s an opportunity, you could also ask, “Can I call someone for you? Do you want me to call your parents?”
5. Based on how she responds, you might get a clear idea of what to do next. Obviously, if she does ask you to call someone, then by all means, do so. The more likely response would be that she rejects your offer out of fear and either turns away from you or leaves and finds her companion to keep out of trouble.
6. If this scenario happens, try to get the girl’s name if possible. Then, as soon as she leaves, call the trafficking hotline (888-373-7888, or as I like to remember it, 888-3737-888) and tell them exactly what you saw and what happened. If you can tell them descriptive things, like what she was wearing or jewelry or defining characteristics like a birthmark or even nail polish color, everything you tell them can help them, and especially if you got her name. The human trafficking hotline has access to law enforcement across the country and would likely know about this girls’ disappearance even if she came from another state.
7. Know that your intervention, even if you feel weird or embarrassed, could save this girl’s life. It has happened where a man just saw something strange–did not even interact with the person–and called the hotline. His one phone call resulted in the shut down of a 13-state wide trafficking ring and rescued 9 minors.
Thank you, Mary, for asking this important question!

Why Her? How Traffickers Target Victims – Guest Post by Shared Hope

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published “A Theory of Human Motivation.” His theory is that humans have a hierarchy of needs ranging from the most fundamental needs at the lowest level to the need for self-actualization at the highest level. Humans can’t reach the next level of “need” until they achieve the prior level.

Here is a simple example of this concept:

But today traffickers are using this theory to identify the needs of our youth.

Traffickers may follow a recruitment process similar to this:

  1. Identify the need of the child
  2. Fulfill the need
  3. Remove any other sources of need fulfillment 
  4. Exploit the child’s dependence for need fulfillment by forcing them into prostitution

One reason traffickers pray on kids is because they are more vulnerable than adults. They are more naive, and at-risk kids who have experienced abuse or extreme conflict in their homes may not only be eager to run away, but may also be desperate for the love and attention of an adult. Many kids who run away from home do so because they experience abuse, or because a member of the family is an addict, is violent, or both. If runaways have nowhere to go – no friends or other family members they can rely on and trust – they need to find food and shelter someplace else, which makes them especially vulnerable to trafficking.

Here’s how a pimp might use Maslow’s theory:

“It could never happen to my child”

That’s what Brianna’s parents thought too. Unfortunately, the scary, inconvenient truth is that unless your child has reached self-actualization and has no further needs, they could unsuspectingly fall victim to a trafficker.

Brianna was a 17-year-old high school student, involved in cheerleading, taking college courses for an early start on her nursing degree and worked at a local restaurant with her sister. She had no idea that friendly conversations she had with a regular customer could end with a trafficking ring planning to transport her to Arizona, likely to be sold.

You are not powerless.

On the contrary, you are the best advocate we have. Know why? Because you are here, reading this article about an issue that has still barely crept on to the radar of our society.

If you know or meet a girl who exhibits some of these signs, don’t be afraid to ask questions:

  • At risk of being homeless or running away from home
  • Severe family issues like drug addiction, alcoholism or abuse
  • Signs of fear, anxiety, depression, tension or nervousness
  • Hyper-vigilant or paranoid behavior
  • Interest in relationships with older men
  • Unexplained shopping trips or purchases of new clothing and/or jewelry, especially if the clothing is revealing or suggestive
  • A “boyfriend” who seems overly-concerned with her whereabouts or is otherwise controlling

If she is in trouble, you may be the only one who tries to intervene. If you need help or guidance, or want to report a suspected case of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888.373.7888.

Thank you for this post Shared Hope!

http://sharedhope.org/2013/04/10/why-her-what-you-need-to-know-about-how-pimps-choose/

Trafficking and Teens-the Day I Got Propositioned Online

I’m not a teenager. I’m not gorgeous and don’t post photos of myself on Facebook wearing low tops or bikinis (we can all say thanks for that!). Nevertheless, I’ve been propositioned online. The first time, I wasn’t sure that’s what it was, wrote the guy back, etc. I think of that now and wonder how many women or girls, younger than me, who aren’t aware of the tactics, have encountered that situation and walked right into something dangerous.

If you have teens, or even for yourself, those natural internal red flags could save your life. For young people, though, their familiarity with social media might bypass some of those things we’d recognize as predatory, leaving them more vulnerable.

So what happened with me? I sold my hair online. If you’ve ever read The Gift of the Magi, you may sigh at my idea of selling my waist-long hair to buy Christmas gifts for my husband one year (yes, that really is why, and yes, I do love that story so it felt pretty cool doing it in real life). I had found a website where you could sell your hair, like selling an outfit on e-bay to people who use it to make wigs or dolls or whatever. I thought that was pretty exciting, so took pictures of my long, thick hair and posted them. No pictures of my face. No personal info.

The 14 inches of hair I sold.

I heard back from one guy who offered a certain amount and I was to send the hair to him after I got it cut according to his very specific directions.

I heard from another guy who offered more than double that other offer, and he liked to cut the hair himself, so could I meet him at his office after hours or at a hotel?

Red flag. I thought that was strange, but being new to this, I wondered if I was overreacting. When my husband came home, I had him read the message, and it wasn’t unclear to him at all. Then I mentioned the price he offered to the other guy who wanted to buy my hair and he wrote back saying, “You don’t know much about men, do you?”

Guess not. Not those kind of men anyway!

On to the next situation. This one wasn’t so creepy, just some guy who wanted to friend me on Facebook. I get a lot of friend requests from people I’ve met at speaking events or who have read my books, so I accepted this guy’s not thinking much it. Here’s part of the message I got next…


…When i saw your profile,i was thrilled,every thing about you interests me,you look honest,caring,and above all you are beautiful.I want to have a communication with you and see where it leads us,do not mind the age difference as its onlya number while distance can be countered with a good communication…

Even if the grammar and punctuation hadn’t been atrocious, the man’s suggestions let me know I didn’t want to be his friend after all. But then I think of young girls who might get a message like that, one that is well-written, accompanied by a picture of, say, a seventeen-year-old guy, who tells them they are beautiful, they could be a model, who feeds into their desire for worth and acceptance. In time, this new “friend,” suggests they meet somewhere, emphasizing the appealing secrecy of their relationship, telling them not to tell anyone and to come alone.

Most of us would have red flags waving all over the place, but what if you’re a girl in a lousy home situation, you desperately want to escape, and he’s offering a way out? What if you’re insecure and he makes you feel like you matter? What if whoever he is begins posing as a girl the same age and you’ve decided she’s your best friend and the only person you can trust?

The internet has become a large playground for predators, and this is one of the ways trafficking happens.

This post isn’t to scare you into never letting your kids touch a computer. However, it is to warn you what is out there, and hopefully give you some ways to avoid the dangers, such as:

1. From the beginning, make it clear with your children that you have access to every social media account your kids have. They’ll think it’s mean. Do it anyway.

2. Every once in awhile, check into their accounts, see what kinds of friends they have, what kinds of posts they make. For one, it will help you know them better, for another, it will give you a springboard of topics to talk about, and for another, you may feel those red flags in places they might not. I’d actually recommend doing this with them present, try to make it an opportunity to get to meet their friends and see what’s important to them.

3. Care more about them than what they think of you. If it comes down to it, don’t let them continue a dangerous behavior or friendship just because you don’t want them mad at you. I think of that girl who got raped in Steubenville. Why were no parents mentioned in regard to that entire night? Did none of those parents care that their teens were in compromising positions? I don’t know, but I wonder if there were worried parents all over town that night, who had allowed their kids to go to that party because they didn’t want to say no and have their kids be unpopular or upset, hoping it would work out. It didn’t work out.

4. Know what to do. The guy who wanted me to meet him in a hotel–I wanted to report him but had no idea how to, so I didn’t. He probably moved on to someone more vulnerable, or who really needed the money, and fed his line to her. Please memorize the trafficking phone number (which didn’t exist back then) and use it if you suspect any predatory activity. 1-888-373-7888

5. Point out situations and teach your kids to be aware, and what to do if they see something. A friend just yesterday told me she’d seen something at night in her small, nice little town. She described what she saw and right away I gave her the trafficking hotline. The thing that bothered her most was all the people who saw and moved on, not doing anything about it. People who don’t know what to do often do nothing. Don’t be that person when it comes to your teens.

Pretty Woman and the Media’s Glamorization of Prostitution

Aoi, a Thai prostitute, said, 

“I don’t know what’s love…I want love, but I know me…
Me is no good…No people can love me.”

In Thailand, known as the sexual playground of the world, of the woman in their 20s, 1 in 6 is in some kind prostitution.

Click here to watch a video on Thailand’s Need 

It’s easy to assume prostitutes are all “bad girls,” or girls who are willing to do anything for money.

Easy to assume, but wrong.

Yes, there are girls who will sell their bodies for money, but the more I learn about human trafficking and human bondage, the more I do not assume such things when I hear of or see someone who looks like they enjoy this “job” of selling themselves.

“They have to be the best actresses in the world,” a friend says. “They have to smile, pretend they like this, when they hate it.” She has met many prostitutes, and has heard many stories. One was sold into it by her father. Another just wanted to be loved.

I was sickened to hear that several of the American prostitutes she encountered came into that life willingly after watching the “romantic comedy” Pretty Woman. They thought the happily-ever-after love story might happen to them.

A man in a suit stands back to back with a woman wearing in a short skirt and thigh high boots.

It didn’t. Pretty Woman was originally intended to be a dark drama on the evils of prostitution–such movies, however, do not sell nearly as well as a lie, making the main character spunky and in charge of her own life, a heroine, making the client a good guy who rescues her from the life even though he himself paid to borrow her body.

Makes me sick. I have a friend who began selling herself to pay for the drug habit started by her drug-pushing father. I have another friend who was trafficked here in America and is now free. Their stories would not make a romantic comedy. I have never heard of one real-life prostitute who was spunky and happy and in control of her future.

2bf15c5fc2763dc83cb177f7e419a137--julia-roberts-movies-movie-subtitles


In fact, the average life span of a girl brought into the world of human trafficking is 5 years. Five years until the drugs or the violence or the “job” itself kills her, and another is brought in to take her place.

What does this mean for those of us who hate the idea of prostitution?
1. Hate the evil, not the person. 
2. Don’t assume you know why someone does what they do. They have a story; take the time to hear it.
3. Treat every person with the value they were given when created in the image of God.
4. When you see someone you initially want to judge, pray for that person instead.
5. If you see someone in this life who looks fearful or under another’s control, call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-788 (888-3737-888) and give them a chance at freedom.
6. Thank God for His grace in your own life. There are girls all over the world who grow up in brothels, who have no options but to one day join “the line.” If you were born into freedom, thank God for it.
7. Teach girls their worth in Christ, that their worth is not in how much attention they can get for their looks or their bodies.

fhd990PMN_Julia_Roberts_002

alg-toddlers-tiaras-jpg
It’s not cute, or funny.


Then lets all see beyond the outfits and even the outward actions, and look into broken hearts needing the love of a Father, the love of a Savior, the love of a friend.