National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

The One Book to Read to Learn More about Child Sex Trafficking

Having bombarded you this month with various posts regarding human trafficking awareness, I want to close out January's National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month with a book recommendation for you to read and learn more. Of the many excellent primers and memoirs out there, my most recent favorite is a combination of the two. Walking-Prey-Cover2

Survivor and activist, Smith weaves her personal story into an analysis of the cultural constructs that form the backdrop and path to trafficking. Unlike most books on this subject, Walking Prey thoroughly addresses the negative influence of media including the early consumerism of children, sexually explicit music lyrics and videos and television and movie industries.

The sexualization of idols in teen-driven media adds to a teen's self-objectification and self-sexualization.

Smith describes in vivid detail (readers beware) the compounding vulnerabilities she experienced before the age of 14. Media is merely one, but it fed into her low self-esteem brought on by substance abuse in the home, childhood sexual abuse, parental denial of abuse, and lack of mental health interventions. For various reasons, by the time she was trafficked, prostitution didn't seem so preposterous. "I already saw my body as a form of currency even before I arrived at that motel room."

I cringe when people refer to me as a former sex slave because if I was a sex slave to anyone, it was to popular culture. Advertisers, entertainment producers, and other moguls of the media were the ones who seasoned me to accept sexual exploitation and prostitution. My body was an object: its sole purpose, I believed by that point, was for sex.

For all the research I do and conferences and trainings I attend on this subject, Walking Prey is the first book that has really challenged me as a mother and trainer of youth. I thought I had crafted an awesome hour-long presentation to high school students. I thought I had all the right components in the arts prevention curriculum I wrote last year. Now I am seriously considering how to add media literacy to my training.

And then there's my home... The Disney Channel regularly promotes "dating" among younger and younger kids and yet before we got rid of cable, was often on in our living room. What is the message that our adolescents are receiving about needing to have a boyfriend/ girlfriend? What about the lyrics to the songs they listen to? One Direction has many catchy songs, but it took us really listening to realize almost every one was about relationships and sex... and our 7-year-old was memorizing them. These popular cultural messages which slip into our kids souls through Disney (at first) feed into an over-sexualized culture which lays the groundwork for exploitation.

Smith lists some interesting documentaries to watch and learn more. Some of the trailers can be viewed for free:

1. Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood

2. Dreamworlds 3: Desire, Sex, and Power in Music Videos

3. Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising's Image of Women

I appreciate Holly Smith sharing her story and offering the anti-trafficking movement such a thorough resource. Right now, if you are a parent, I want to encourage you to take whatever seeds of guilt or condemnation you might be feeling (I don't intend that!) and turn it into prevention education. Would you at least consider the role of media and the over-sexualization of our kids... your kids... And consider the role it plays in allowing sex trafficking to prosper in our society.

My Favorite Training Trafficking Tool in 10 minutes

In 2003, to combat domestic sex trafficking, the FBI, Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, formed the Innocence Lost National Initiative. To date, more than 69 collaborative task forces have been formed around the country and helped recover over 3400 children. Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force (RMILTF) is one of them. In this 10 minute video produced by iEmpathize, Sergeant Dan Steele of the Denver Police Department and RMILTF describes the nature of a trafficker. It has become one of my go to training tools to educate audiences on the strategy of a pimp/ trafficker. Watch the video and consider the 5 tactics a trafficker employs.

1. Pretender 2. Provider 3. Protector 4. Promiser 5. Punisher

Ride Along: Detective Dan Steele from iEmpathize on Vimeo.

"You have to go on the assumption that this is happening in your community. First and foremost, be knowledgeable on the subject..." Dan Steele

Today's action, beyond becoming more knowledgeable by watching this video, is to put this national hotline number in your phone. Do not hesitate to call or text for help, a tip, or advice.


Sex Trafficking is in Your City

January is the National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and as such, I have bombarded you with tough thoughts on Domestic Sex Trafficking. I wrote about the problem with some agitate methods such as End It Movement's Final Four Slavery Truck here.

I addressed the debate around sex workers choosing the life here.

At A Sista's Journey, I asked about the men.

In a brave mood, I dared to say that porn fuels the sex industry here.

And of course, I've encouraged you to buy my book, END: Engaging Men to End Sex Trafficking, written to men, but useful for all.

But I need to tell you more. Today, I want you to ponder this:

Sex Trafficking is happening in your city, however small, however large. It is happening in your own backyard. And it can happen to anyone.

Domestic Sex Trafficking is anyone under 18 who is commercially sexually exploited or anyone 18 and over who through force, fraud, or coercion is induced to perform sex acts. This looks like women living and working in fake massage businesses, forced to give sexual services to clients during 12 hour days. It looks like young runaways trading sex for shelter and getting caught up with a guy who ends up selling her. It looks like LGBTQ youth being thrown out by their family, seen as a sexualized object, and exploited on the street. It looks like older boyfriends who after pampering their girls with gifts for a few weeks asks for a return on his investment.

There may not be a track. Your little city might not have a strip club or a seedy side of town. But do you have the internet? Do you have youth? Do you have heart break and broken families and poverty? Our city, while rated in the top 10 livable cities in America, has all of this. And we have sex trafficking. So do you.

Only a well-educated, well-informed community can effectively launch a response to sex trafficking. If you have blinders on, I implore you to remove them.

END: Engaging Men to End Sex Trafficking walks you through what you need to know, how to assess your city, how to garner community ownership, and tangible action steps to take. Make the first move. Take action now!

End New 3D

What kind of community do you live in and what are you seeing?