Our nightmares about trafficking usually involve kidnapping.
In our minds’ eye, we see that white passenger van pull up close, and our loved ones snatched inside. The van roars away, never to be seen again. We’ve heard the stories or seen Facebook posts about the creepy man following around a mom and her kids at Walmart, and how they narrowly avoided being abducted and sold into slavery.
Fortunately, kidnapping is rare, and if some guy is following you around a grocery store, it doesn’t usually mean he’s waiting for the right moment to snatch your kids. Law enforcement even says that sharing these Facebook posts only perpetuates this myth, and creates unnecessary fear. It’s unlikely that trafficking is involved in these situations, but most people share these well-meant posts on social media before any facts have been confirmed. The misinformation goes viral, and the result is that parents take precautions to protect their kids from kidnapping, but leave them wide open to the more common tactics of traffickers.
Think about it. If you wanted to kidnap someone, would you go to a public place with security cameras and lots of witnesses? Popular movies like Taken also keep this myth alive. Hollywood likes to exaggerate reality, but we don’t live in an action movie.
Regarding sex trafficking in Michigan, state trooper Steve Kramer says less than 3% of victims are kidnapped.
Of this tiny percentage, these children are three times more likely to be kidnapped by a family member or acquaintance than by a stranger.
Kidnapping is a crime all by itself, and taking someone by force means having to use forceful means of restraint. This makes it difficult to transport the person, and he or she is much more likely to attempt an escape. Traffickers like to keep their hands “clean,” and they prefer to use psychological means such as tricking, defrauding, manipulating, or threatening their victims.
What does trafficking actually look like in the U.S.?
Showing romantic interest is the most common tactic. According to one news article, 62% of victims are lured with the “loverboy” approach. This is when a young man makes friends with a younger girl, typically around age 12 or 13. He’ll buy her gifts, earn her trust and admiration, and win her love. Once the girl falls in love with the trafficker, she’ll willingly go anywhere with him (at least at first), and will do anything to stay with him–even have sex with someone else. If there’s any legal issues, he can claim she consented. This means that your average trafficker is likely to be young, handsome, and well put together. Girls are more likely to talk to charming young men rather than creepy old guys, and traffickers know this.
The prevalence of social media has made it so easy for “loverboys” and “romeo pimps” to gather information about vulnerable girls and boys. After finding a teen with an unstable home environment or very low self esteem, they initiate an online relationship that can eventually lead to a meet up. Or, they acquire sensitive information and photos, which they use to blackmail and threaten the teen into the sex industry.
Operation Underground Railroad says that in America, most predators find their victims online. To bring this home, read this story about a 15-year-old girl in Michigan who went missing after meeting up with a 43-year-old man she met on Instagram.
So, dear worried mothers, kidnapping is rare, but you should be aware of who your children or teens are talking to on the internet. Click here to learn about potentially dangerous apps your kids could be using.
In a previous post, Don’t Become A Victim, I go into detail on other tactics traffickers use, and how we can see through them. If you missed Myth #1, click here! It’s time to debunk these myths so we can be on guard for how trafficking usually happens.
Remember Who’s in charge.
When dealing with such heavy matters and dark things our souls abhor, it’s crucial to remind ourselves Who is seated on the universe’s throne: Jesus Christ, the righteous, just Judge. One day, those who steal innocence and cause terror will themselves know fear and agony (Romans 2:5-9). Until then, God is using human hands and hearts to spread justice.
And what is justice? In our minds, justice is pulling down the oppressor, but according to the Bible, it includes speaking up for the oppressed (Proverbs 31:8-9). Will you speak up with me?