EMPORIA, Kan. – January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month – during this month SOS, Emporia, Kan., will join the Department of Homeland Security and other government organizations and agencies to educate the public and equip them with the knowledge to help prevent treats her. Trafficking in human beings is defined by Kansas Law, KSA 21-5426(a) in part as “The recruitment, harboring, transportation, supply, or obtaining of a person for work or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion to subject a person to involuntary servitude or forced labor.” Trafficking can include sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude.
Misconceptions about trafficking are common and people often think of kidnapping and complex sex trafficking schemes when they think about trafficking, but the reality is that it is more common for a victim to be trafficked by someone they know and trust. According to data from Polaris, an organization that works for trafficking prevention, of trafficking cases reported in 2020, 58 percent of trafficker recruiters were people close to the victim. This is especially true for sex trafficking, where in 2020, 42% of recruiters were a victim’s family member and 39% an intimate partner or marriage proposal. Together, 81% of sex trafficking recruiters are close to the victim.
However, friends and family are also the most likely way for a trafficked person to connect to help. There are behaviors to watch out for in adolescents, such as withdrawing from family and friends, receiving pornography or inappropriate photos or messages, being excessively obsessed with being online, hiding their device screens from others, receiving expensive gifts from a friend who’s parents or family doesn’t know or gets upset when they don’t have access to Wi-Fi or cell service. It’s important to create a safe, non-judgmental space and work on building strong supportive relationships with teens.
SOS works with schools and parents to try to help children stay safer online, and friends and family play an important role in protecting teenagers from trafficking. Parents can help protect their children from trafficking by building and maintaining healthy relationships, talking to children early and often about relationships and healthy sexual development, knowing the signs of trafficking and staying educated about trafficking, and most importantly, staying safe online .
Agencies have learned that the pandemic has not reduced trafficking, but rather pushed it further online. The numbers for trafficking remained stable overall in 2020, for example, but according to Polaris, online recruitment has increased by a significant 22%. Trafficking recruitment moved from places such as schools and foster families to make the Internet the primary recruiting location for all forms of trafficking. Facebook and Instagram alone saw a 120% increase as recruitment spots, so it’s important to help kids and teens know how to stay safe online.
SOS encourages everyone to remain alert to their surroundings, to engage in open and honest conversations with their children, and to report any suspicious behavior to the authorities. Anyone who suspects human trafficking should contact law enforcement immediately.
For more information, contact SOS at 620-343-8799 or 24 hours a day at 800-825-1295 or visit www.soskansas.com.