Editor’s note: The identity of the author of this series of articles, the second running in this edition, has been altered for her protection. Referred to as Elaine McCammon, she is a graduate of Forbush High School, and a member of Girl Scout Troop 40772. This piece is part of her Gold Award Project, and she is majoring in social work with intent to work with victims of trafficking. This article is the second of a four-part series.
Human sex trafficking is a large but invisible threat to the safety of the youth in North Carolina, especially girls and young women. Children are often taught to be wary of strangers, but as often as not a trafficker will know their victim. A common method for trafficking in North Carolina is gradual coercion — the slowly building trust between the victim and the trafficker so that the trafficker can exploit that trust.
The prevalent story of gradual coercion is that an older man will pose as a boyfriend to a teenage girl: especially a girl who has experienced a broken home, abusive relationships, or a general lack of self worth. The trafficker will take advantage of the girl’s need for love and affection and will earn her trust. However, over time, the man may ask her to perform sexual services for himself or his friends. Before the victims realizes what is happening, she is in a situation of trafficking with no chance of escape.
The trafficker may threaten her safety, or that of her family. A trafficked girl may still attend school, or live with her family, but may not be able to speak out due to fear of harm or embarrassment. That lack of self worth can contribute to her refusal to tell someone; she may not realize she is a victim in the situation, and may believe whatever the trafficker tells her.
The sad fact is that many girls in our community are at risk to be trafficked, but they may not even know what sex trafficking is. In order to prevent our neighbors becoming victims, our youth need to be aware of what the face of trafficking looks like: it is not a rough stranger, but a “friend” with ulterior motives.
If you are a youth leader, a teacher, or parent, you are responsible for educating your children about the reality of sex trafficking in our community. I recommend you to learn more about sex trafficking.
All queries should be directed to Justice Ministries, firstname.lastname@example.org or 980-236-9313.