A human trafficker could approach in the form of a…
Teacher, Coach, or Group Leader
ANYONE CAN BE A TRAFFICKER
When talking to youth about recognizing a predator or trafficker, it’s essential to focus on behavior and actions, not generalized characteristics. Traffickers are diverse and don’t always fit our assumptions or stereotypes.
We try to veer away from the movie Taken with the strangers lurking in the airport, waiting to kidnap an unexpected traveler. We also avoid the idea of the “creepy old man in the white van.” A trafficker can be anyone and look like anyone. We must move past the stereotypical images and our biases, especially those that villainize or criminalize Black men or other men of color as the only type of traffickers.
TRAFFICKERS ARE NOT USUALLY STRANGERS
Although trafficking by strangers does happen, it’s more likely to be done by someone that a person knows or trusts, such as a romantic partner, person in a position of power, or family member. Yes, youth can be trafficked by people they don’t initially know – even someone they meet online – but traffickers often put time and energy into cultivating a relationship before they victimize someone. And, when it comes to family members, there’s a level of trust within a family that can blur the lines of exploitation, especially for children who are dependent on those family members.
Traffickers could also be peers, gang members, employers, or other individuals. Sometimes, youth recruit peers or other children because their trafficker forces them to as part of their exploitation. Gangs often offer protection to young people and sometimes make them feel it’s necessary to join for survival, depending on their environment. For some, gang membership is expected because of family involvement.
They can also be an employer or a job recruiter, who one would expect to be professional and law-abiding. Employers could post fraudulent job opportunities with fake promises of a great job, benefits, and pay that they are in need of.
TRAFFICKERS ARE MEETING KIDS WHERE THEY’RE AT
Traffickers live in neighborhoods where kids also live. Traffickers work in various employment sectors both legal and illegal. Some have jobs at or serve as volunteers in positions that put them closer to kids – schools, religious communities, sports teams.
Traffickers also meet people online. Online predators can easily hide their identity and intentions on the internet. Youth connect with peers through social media and online gaming. Trackers are aware of that and are on the same sites to start their recruitment in their grooming.