Written by Sally Berenzweig, MEd, MA, Cherie Benjoseph, LCSW and Andrew Clemens, MSW from the KidSafe Foundation, an organization that provides prevention education to children, parents, teachers and other care-taking adults.
Something is happening in Florida…something very dangerous, very wrong, and it involves our children and youth. Child sex trafficking – the very phrase makes people tend to look the other way and believe their children could never be victimized by such crimes. Yet these crimes are happening in our own communities and to our own children. Our Kids Are Not For Sale – and the more we understand this world of child sex trafficking, the better we can prevent it.
Here are a few important facts to keep in mind about child sex trafficking:
- The average age a child is trafficked into the sex trade is just 11-14 years old.
- 90% of child sex traffic victims have a history of earlier child sexual abuse.
- Up to 300,000 American children are lured into the commercial sex trade every year.
With these alarming statistics, where do we begin in the battle to keep our children safe from trafficking? Since 90% of child sex traffic victims have a sexual abuse history, doesn’t it make sense that we safeguard all children with education and knowledge at an early age so they never become abuse victims in the first place?
Prevention Education Is Key. Children are educated about fire safety and pool safety. They learn to call 911 in emergencies. They are taught about stranger danger. But what are we teaching them about adults in their lives who may intend to harm them? Often, we teach them to trust and obey the very adults who end up abusing or exploiting them.
95% of abuse and exploitation of children is preventable with education (Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute, Inc.). Every child deserves the right to be safe, have a voice and know how to access help. However, even more importantly every adult must be educated to be the first line of defense in a child’s safety. So what steps can you take right now to help keep your children safe? Approach the topic of personal safety with your children through fun not fear. Children as young as 4 can understand important concepts of personal safety such as safe touch/unsafe touch, circle of safe adults, check first, and a host of other critical life safety skills.
The adults in their lives should also receive training on how to speak to the children in a language of safety that is comfortable, age-appropriate and consistent. This adult component of personal safety is crucial to protecting children from abuse– is it fair to place all the responsibility of safety and prevention on our kids? How can we expect them to speak up when many adults aren’t comfortable or aren’t quite sure how to advocate for these children? It is our responsibility as adults to protect children in every way possible, and education is the first step.
Imagine if every child in this country received some kind of prevention education. Now imagine someone trying to lure a well-educated teen. This teen would understand red flag signals, have a safety voice, and talk with someone in his or her circle of safe adults. Even a little hesitation on a child’s part could dissuade a trafficker from pursuing him or her.
We all need to send a strong message to people everywhere – we care and we will do everything in our power to protect them. Most importantly, “Our Kids Are Not For Sale!”
The Children’s Services Council of Broward County is an independent taxing authority which was established by a public referendum on September 5, 2000, and reauthorized via referendum on November 4, 2014, which, through Public Act, Chapter 2000-461 of the laws of Florida, authorized the Council to levy up to 0.5 mills of property taxes. The role of the Council is to provide the leadership, advocacy and resources necessary to enhance children’s lives and empower them to become responsible, productive adults through collaborative planning and funding of a continuum of quality care. To learn more about programs and services the Children’s Services Council funds, please call (954) 377-1000. For more information on the CSC, visit www.cscbroward.org.
Above content provided by Children’s Services Council of Broward County.