Human Trafficking: What You Need to Know to Keep your Family Safe

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January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. It’s the perfect opportunity to share accurate information about human trafficking and what we can do to keep our families safe.

If you’re active on social media, you probably saw the heart-wrenching viral post in early December from the mom influencer @MotherhoodEssentials on Instagram. In the video that garnered over 1 million views in a single day, Katie Sorenson describes how she was followed by a “not clean-cut” couple at her local Michael’s craft store. She goes into detail about how the couple described her “blonde-haired, blue-eyed children” to someone on the phone and how they followed her out of the store. In painstaking detail, Sorenson illustrates how a white van pulled up next to her car as she hurriedly tried to get her 3 children safely into her vehicle.

Sorenson’s story captured the attention of anxious mothers. And it spread like wildfire across social media.

Not even 24 hours after the video was posted, it was deleted. And Sorenson’s Instagram account was deactivated. The Petaluma Police Department (where the incident occurred) issued a statement. The officials stated that Sorensen did not share the information in her viral video with the police, shedding doubt on her story. The couple accused of attempting to kidnap Sorensen’s children have cooperated fully with the police. They have accused Sorenson of racial profiling.

As a new mother, I struggle with the anxiety of child abduction and human trafficking. Videos like Sorenson’s stoke the fear that I’m sure all mothers experience. What if someone is trying to take our kids? Could this happen to me?

Human Trafficking: What You Need to Know to Keep your Family SafeWe will probably never know the full truth behind Katie Sorenson’s viral video. It’s plausible that the story was embellished or fabricated for views and followers.

What we do know that human trafficking is a real, heartbreaking problem in our country.

The sad reality is that it almost never occurs in the circumstances that the viral Instagram post portrayed. Human and child sex trafficking is often much more complicated, much harder to recognize, and even harder to stop.

Here are the facts.

  1. The average age of entry into trafficking is 11-13 years old.
  2. Traffickers are usually boyfriends, siblings, parents, and extended relatives. Rarely are traffickers strangers.
  3. Children of color are 4x more likely to be victims of trafficking than white children.
  4. Traffickers exploit vulnerabilities. Particularly vulnerable groups include children in the foster care system, runaway and homeless youth, LGBTQ, etc.

How can we protect our families from human trafficking? The good news is that trafficking rarely happens when a stranger abducts a child. Most sources assess the risk of that happening at around 1 in 300,000.

Here are some tips from SAFY to keep your family safe.

  1. Establish trust and communication with your children from day one.
  2. Talk to your children about the dangers of social media.
  3. Do not accept social media requests from unknown people.
  4. Never share inappropriate photos.
  5. Monitor all online activity and cell phone use. (As a parent you may feel this is an invasion of privacy. But monitoring your child interacts with is for their safety and protection.)
  6. Question and monitor anyone who takes an unusual interest in your children.
  7. Although it may not always be possible, attend and be present at your children’s activities as much as you can.
  8. It’s important to know who your children are around on a regular basis. By being present, you will be able to identify an unfamiliar person. You can then determine what their role is in your child’s everyday life.

The New Mexico Dream Center also provides a lot of great information on its website and social media pages. If you are worried about child sex trafficking and/or human trafficking, it is a great place to start your research and a worthy cause to donate your time or resources to.

For information on human trafficking, follow @NMDreamCenter. To sign up for their virtual 5K, click here.