What Afterschool Can Do to Prevent Child Sex Trafficking

This week the ClubX Blog and the Youth Trends team are marking Child Abuse Prevention Month with a focus on the prevention of Child Sex Trafficking.

If a child you know is in need of support, call the 24/7 National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 to speak with a trained professional advocate at any time. If you need to be connected with BGCA’s Child & Club Safety team, visit BGCA.net or email ChildSafety@bgca.org.

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April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. In April, and throughout the year, it is vital to increase awareness of this issue, and provide resources and education to prevent child abuse.

Child Sex Trafficking is a form of Child Abuse. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), child sex trafficking is a major global human rights issue. In the US alone it impacts more than 17,000 youth every year and it is estimated that between 240,000 and 325,000 children are at risk of being victimized every year by sexual exploitation.

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Download the Child Sex Trafficking Prevention Guide for more statistics and important information and resources, as well as ways to support youth at your Club.

What is Child Sex Trafficking?

Child Sex Trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining or advertising of a minor child (under the age of 18) for the purpose of a commercial sex act, which involves the exchange of anything of value, such as money, drugs or a place to stay for sexual activity. The most common age at entry into the commercial sex market is 12-14 followed by 15-17 years-old.

Learn the Warning Signs

Children rarely disclose that they have been sexually exploited or abused, but many young survivors do exhibit behaviors, fears and/or physical marks that adults can watch for. Below is a list of a few warning signs that a child has been or is at risk of being trafficked, provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This list is not an exhaustive one, but these indicators are red flags. If you see them, you may need to link a child with a professional who can determine whether the child is being trafficked and get them the help they need.

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Behavioral Signs

  • Unable to attend school on a regular basis and/or has unexplained absences
  • Exhibits withdrawn behavior, depression, anxiety, fear or delinquency
  • Makes references to frequent travel to other cities without knowledge of their plans
  • Frequently runs away from home
  • Makes references to sexual situations or terminology that are beyond age-specific norms
  • Shows signs of drug addiction
  • Presence of a noticeably older, controlling or abusive “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”
  • Expresses concern for family members’ safety if they share too much information
  • Expresses the need to pay off a debt

Physical Signs

  • Has bruises or other signs of physical trauma
  • Is malnourished or hungry, or inappropriately dressed for weather conditions
  • A sudden change in attire, personal hygiene, relationships or material possessions
  • Is picked up by different people ranging in age and gender
  • Has multiple cell phones and/or electronic devices, burner cell phones or erased call logs
  • Has keys, receipts or other items from a hotel or motel
  • Has multiple fake IDs
  • Attempts to conceal recent scars
  • Has a new tattoo-often used by abusers to brand victims

Risk Factors

Any child can become a trafficking victim, but research has shown that traffickers often target children with increased vulnerabilities. Possessing one or more of these vulnerabilities does not mean that a child is being trafficked or will be trafficked, but research has found these risk factors to be common among youth victims.

Children who frequently run away, have a disruptive home environment or have no permanent home are at an increased vulnerability for traffickers as many will offer them a place to stay. Additionally children who are coping with traumatic stress, feel isolated or have significant health issues or disabilities may be at an increased risk as traffickers often lure them in under the false pretenses of being a source of support to help them through their situations.

How Clubs Can Help

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Clubs provide a safe, positive and nurturing environment for youth and can reduce risk factors by creating protective factors for the young people that we serve. There are a variety of prevention efforts that can help reduce the chance of a child becoming a victim of sex trafficking. The US Department of State and leading child experts have outlined 5 key child sex trafficking prevention efforts. Many of these prevention efforts are already in place in Clubs:

5 Key Ways to Help Prevent Child Sex Trafficking

  1. Education. Increase your general knowledge and awareness of child sex trafficking, which can help identify potential sex trafficking victims and link them to professional advocates. Partner with local child trafficking experts as trainers, board members and advisors.
  2. Recognize the Signs. Recognizing the warning signs of a potential child trafficking victim increases the ability to identify potential victims inside and outside of your Club.
  3. Report Your Suspicions. You may be linked with trained professionals who can help child trafficking victims and provide them with appropriate resources. As a mandated reporter, you must always report suspicions of child sexual abuse.
  4. Raise Awareness. Raise awareness in your Club, your Club community and with your partners of ways to recognize signs and risk factors, and access existing resources.
  5. Take Action. Become an advocate for victims and potential victims. Develop a clearly written policy at your Club against child sex trafficking. Post signs around your Club indicating that your Club is a safe space for children and that staff are advocates against sex trafficking. Downloadable signs in 20 different languages are available at:

Continue to Provide a Safe and Positive Place for Members

Clubs are a positive environment for youth to feel safe, have a trusted adult that they can talk to, and supportive peers that can help them feel cared for. Keep the line of communication open and let youth know that they have a supportive place and people who care about them.

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It is also important to challenge any myths or misconceptions that glamorize sex trafficking and educate youth on online safety. Traffickers also recruit online so it is important for youth to be aware of the basics of online safety. The sense of belonging that Clubs provide serves as a protective factor because isolation and loneliness are vulnerabilities that traffickers exploit.

If a child you know is in need of support, call the 24/7 National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 to speak with a trained professional advocate at any time. If you need to be connected with BGCA’s Child & Club Safety team, visit BGCA.net or email ChildSafety@bgca.org.

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For more information on preventing child sex trafficking and existing resources, download the full Child Sex Trafficking Prevention Guide. You can also contact the Child & Club Safety Team BGCA.net or by emailing ChildSafety@bgca.org. For other questions, email ClubXBlog@bgca.org to get connected to the right content team at BGCA.

 

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