By Wynn Touney
In a previous column, a summary of the resolutions of the National Council of Catholic Women 2016 Convention included the special reference to human trafficking. One of the resolves of the resolution was that NCCW members become more informed and advocate for legislation to eradicate human trafficking. On April 10, 2014, Pope Francis stated, “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society and a scourge on the Body of Christ…it’s a crime against humanity.”
As concerned citizens, parents, grandparents and members of the Body of Christ, we must be alert and informed about this activity which may happen right around us. We have the responsibility to report appropriately without causing harm.
“Human Trafficking, An Iowa Perspective” was recently presented for parents and interested adults to review some important facts. As noted, human trafficking is the modern-day form of slavery. Victims are subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor.
Victims are young children, teenagers, men and women. The average age of entry into exploitation is 12-14 with even younger children involved. More than 80 percent of the trafficked children have a history of being a runaway.
In Iowa, the number of online postings will range from 100 to 200 a day for sex for sale. The number of postings a day during large events (Drake Relays, concerts, State Fair and so on) will be 400 to 500.
How does this happen?
Recruitment begins by meeting basic needs with attention and affection. The “grooming” process takes weeks to months to build trust. False promises are made, a bond is formed and excitement is offered which can be very appealing to impulsive teenagers looking for something to do.
Most sales of sex happen online. Teenagers may even continue to live in their own home and be picked up from midnight to 4 a.m. or 3 to 6 p.m. when parents are not at home.
What can you as a parent or concerned adult do? Monitor the child’s activity online. Look for warning signs in your own child and other children. Ask questions. Don’t assume everything is fine. Talk about the dangers with your child. Talk about being smart online and what they share on social media.
Keep an open dialogue so your child will feel comfortable coming to you and talking about what they are seeing or experiencing at school, work and home.
Are their friends free to contact their friends and family? Do they have a much older “boyfriend?” Are they threatened with harm if they attempt to leave? Can they come and go as they please?
If you see something, say something. Look for the absence of normal. Call 911, then call the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline, toll free (888) 3737-888.
This follow-up call to the national hotline number alerts a human trafficking specialist for Iowa, so they can follow up and ensure proper steps have been taken. Never physically come between a trafficker and a victim.
Encourage your youth to be lifelong ambassadors in the fight against human trafficking by visiting teensagainsthumantrafficking.org or text INFO or HELP to BEFREE (233733).
The NetSmartz Workshop is an interactive educational safety resource from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that helps teach children how to be safer while online and in the real world. Visit netsmartz.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll-free (800) 843-5678.
For younger children, NetSmartz has created a website; netsmartzkids.org does not link to any outside sources or allow pop-ups. NetSmartz411 is a first-of-its-kind, online service provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to answer questions about internet safety, computers and the Web. NetSmartz 411 is provided at no cost to the public. Visit netsmartz411.org or call toll-free (800) NETS411.
Wynn Touney of Fort Dodge is a member of Catholic Women of the Diocese of Sioux City.