3 ways sex traffickers’ prey on women – pay attention if these happen to your daughter
I watched a movie the other day about women and sex trafficking that hits very close to home. It’s called Angie: Lost Girls. For parents with daughters at home this article is worth a 10-minute read, sex traffickers do not discriminate and in fact prey on young women with normal lives. This article isn’t about runaways, foster children, at-risk with uninvolved parents. This isn’t a random story about a young woman kidnapped walking home or on an afternoon jog. This applies to you if you live in a safe neighborhood, your taxes pay for police patrol, and even if you think there is a one-in-a-million chance your daughter will be stolen by happenstance.
Modern day pimps and sex traffickers aren’t distinguishable, from her friends, from the neighbor, from the waiter at the coffeeshop; young women who are trafficked from our demographic are groomed in school, on social media, by normal people from your own social class.
These are the stories you may not have with your daughter but you should.
1) An older person starts paying attention to them.
He might be the guy-next-door who takes an interest. He’s a little older, he’s cute, and he doesn’t give off weird vibes. He’s a friend of a friend who shows up during lunch breaks and takes the group to Starbucks. He has a flashy Instagram account, fun snapchat and TikTok. He’s the one who ‘wins money on a trip to Vegas’ and generously gifts her a designer backpack or jewelry. He answers her texts at 1 in the morning. He’s patient in befriending her and slowly becomes the idealized ‘older boyfriend’.
She’s the cool single mom of her friend who hosts fun bbqs and parties on the weekend and she gets in the habit of staying over in one of the extra rooms. At those parties there’s also the guy or two in attendance, the mom’s long-time friend, or business associate, who is laid back, polished and put together. He occasionally joins them for spa day or randomly shows up when they’re having lunch or out shopping, and he casually picks up the bill. Cool mom earns points showing off text message chats she has with her football player friends and nightclub owner. These guys are actually clients and she is recruiting sugar babies for them. She’s also discreetly taking pictures and posting them on dating sites like sugardaddy and seeking arrangements.
Behind the scenes your daughters ‘older boyfriend or mentor’ is a groomer. She is patient and she knows how to slowly gain trust without appearing and by the time you realize your daughter has made friends and is in deep, it is often too late for you to intervene. These friends don’t look like your average predator or sex trafficker and while she is grooming your daughter she is acting as a broker, gaining trust, building curiosity, introducing her to their clients, and by the time she’s 18, she’s a young woman of legal age and ready to spread her wing.
A true mentor is not going to shy away from meeting you to saying hi, while a predator most likely will.
2) Gifts, trips, parties.
You may not know if your daughter has a secret admirer, or you may not pick up on it. It may only happen when she’s away from the house, she may hide it. You can still pay attention if she is given new or expensive gifts, if her nails are suddenly done, if she comes home with a new hair style or new hair extensions. These are tactics boyfriend pimps often use to lure in young women. Her friends or other classmates show up to school with a designer purse or acrylic nails and she wants the same. These status symbols serve a few purposes: it tells everyone that she is ‘taken care of’ and shows other young women they can also have the same thing, it’s a recruiting tactic. He is also grooming her for his clients, introducing her to other pimps and working girls, preparing her to fit in with other women in the industry and getting her ready to be sold to a sex trafficker.
The cool mom will invite your daughter to join vacations, go on trips, shopping sprees, to the spa, etc., with her daughter. She gives your daughter her ‘hand me down clothes when she cleans out her closet’, she invites her along to nail appointments. Her long-time guy friend (aka your daughters sugar daddy in waiting) will give pay for her salon appointments, give her expensive jewelry, a credit card, or even an apartment or car. He’s grooming her to get accustomed to his lifestyle of ‘freebies’ and eventually it morphs into the casual overnight after a couple glasses of wine. Then, once she enters into a lifestyle ‘trading time’ for financial security it becomes difficult and almost impossible to turn back.
3) The internet and social media.
Being proactive and aware is the key to prevention. Be cautious on social media. Showing distinguishing features about your home, cars, regular coffee shop in Instagram and TikTok posts act as a calling card for someone who is motivated to figure out where someone lives. Predators are super savvy on social media; you absolutely cannot underestimate them. They will scour every inch of the web, looking for the two-story blue house on the corner with a driveway on the right side and a tree in the yard on the left. Then they’ll get to know her routine and she has a new friend. You know better, but she may not even think about it. Make a point to bring up this topic. There are ways to post on social media and remain discreet about your location. For example, make sure the GPS is turned off of smart phone cameras. For more tips on staying safe while maintaining an online presence, visit this post.
Answering online ads to become an Instagram model, or receive free photos in exchange for helping the photographer build his portfolio, it’s called TFC (or trade for content), are another gateway into prostitution. Sometimes they’ll offer pay-per-shoot, maybe $100 or so, or say they are auditioning for a larger firm or an upcoming show. This one is easier to hide because you are less likely to know if is responding to modeling ads on Craigslist. But if you are going to have a conversation you should include this topic because the more information young women have about sex traffickers the safer they will be from becoming another statistic.
Knowledge is power.
Sometimes the shoot or audition just fades away as her interests wane. Sometimes the photos will be posted to an online database and she’ll forget about them until they reappear at an inconvenient time, or they’ll be used as blackmail. Or she may get a return phone call for another shoot and decides to go back. Once she starts down that path it is almost impossible for her to break away. Photoshoots are an easy segway into prostitution.
Have the talk about sex traffickers.
In these situations, your radar might go up, but hers might not. Have a casual conversation, just like you would with other topics, it’s a normal part of life. Remember when you were young and living at home and met someone cool and fun who had a car and money to toss around….don’t make it heavy and scary and un-relatable.
Modern-day predators and sex traffickers have a lot going on for them. They’re around to lean on when the going gets tough. They lend an ear and a shoulder. They invite her to do things and go places. She may already be aware of drugs that could be slipped into her drink. She may not go to parties at all , but she may not be on alert to the predator whose next paycheck depends on bringing in girls just like her.
If you see something like this happening, proceed carefully, because you don’t want to push her away. You don’t want to become the enemy. Just be aware. Pay attention. People are very protective over their relationships with others, you don’t want to get in between her and a new friend, and make her choose. Have a talk, and remember:
It’s not you against your daughter in this situation, its you and your daughter against the unknown. She doesn’t want to go be exploited just as much as you don’t want her to experience it.
Also, there are gifts that provide peace of mind for both her and you and is designed for young women who may be at risk of falling victim to a sex traffickers. Like these cool bracelets with gps that send out an alarm if something go awry.
For a more detailed discussion about the different types of pimps and true stories of the ways they recruit women, visit this post.