The "STOP, DROP, & ROll" of Trafficking is "PAST, TASK, ASK" or PTA
What is your past with this person? Who are they to you? Are they just coming into your life now or becoming more involved now? If so, why?
What are they asking from you? Is it a bigger request every time? Are you uncomfortable with the request? Have they asked for something before?
Reach out to the people around you, ask what others think about the person, ask the person more questions to learn more, ask yourself if the situation feels normal/ right?
1. UNDERSTAND THE FACTS...
MYTHS & TRUTHS
"More than ever before, we should be teaching our kids about 'stranger danger'"
Children are far more likely to be trafficked by people they know - including members of their own family.
In 2019, of the 40,425 RCMP missing children reports, 30,000 were runaways, 122 were parental abductions, and only 16 were related to stranger abduction.
Instead of teaching the blanket lesson that "all strangers are dangerous," guardians should teach their children the difference between a trusted stranger they can go to in case they need help, and a potentially dangerous stranger they should avoid. It's about fostering a safe environment where children feel they can ask questions when faced with uncertainty about a person or situation. Teaching them to trust their "tummy" or gut/ intuition.
"Traffickers target victims they don't know"
Many survivors have been trafficked by romantic partners (including spouses) and by family members (including parents)
"Trafficking is always or usually a violent crime"
Most traffickers use psychological means such as tricking, defrauding, manipulating, or threatening victims into providing commercial sex
Studies shown that thousands of trafficked victims are legal working citizens. However, minorities are more likely to be targets
"Only undocumented foreign nationals get trafficked"
"If the trafficked person consents to their situation, then it cannot be human or sex trafficking"
Initial consent to commercial sex or a labour setting prior to acts of force, fraud, or coercion (or if the victim is a minor in a sex trafficking situation) is not relevant to the crime, nor is payment
Men and boys are also victimized by sex traffickers. LGBTQ+ boys and young men are seen as particularly vulnerable to trafficking
"Only women and girls are victims/ survivors of sex trafficking"
"Only men are traffickers"
Though 81% of people convicted of trafficking are men, women are known to either lead or aid in trafficking efforts as well.
A 17-year-old girl was convicted of human trafficking in Oshawa
"Only old men in white vans are traffickers"
41% of accused traffickers are aged 18 to 24, and 36% are between the ages of 25 and 34
"Trafficking doesn't happen in Canada"
Trafficking can happen anywhere.
Between 2010 - 2020, just under half (48%) of all police reported trafficking incidents were reported in 5 major cities: Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, and Hamilton
2. Build Confidence...
The Importance of Family
The Omega Project values the family in society because education begins in the home. Creating an environment for safe and open discussions with children is critical for their development.
Foster a Safe Environment for Discussions
The most important thing when building an open and safe environment is having the parents "walk it as they talk it." Children mimic their parents, from small to big behavioural patterns including self-talk, how conflict is handled, how they communicate, treat others, and so forth.
"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."
Things for parents to consider:
1. You can only pour into others if you are filled yourself. Ensure you are setting time aside for yourself to pause and reflect on what your values are.
2. How you see yourself will impact your relationships with others. You are loved, have value, and have a purpose. Sometimes seeing these things is difficult, but when you allow the negative voice dominate your thought process, your insecurities will effect the love you are able to receive from others and give to others. Parents & guardians - this will create a divide between you and your children. It may be draining, but they are always looking to you as an example. Are you treating yourself the way you want your children to treat themselves?
3. What habits do you have that might counter your speech? Are you actively trying to live as an example of your values?
4. No one is perfect. You will fail time and time again, but that's okay. You are only human, but each time you actively choose to live the way you talk, you are setting the kind of example that others can look to.
5. Make time for your loved ones. Sometimes it's as simple as building a routine that allows the space for discussion and relational bonding. For parents & guardians, refer back to the Benjamin Franklyn quote above. Normalizing the conversation about the more difficult topics of the world, such as trafficking, with your children is critical to fostering confidence rather than fear into them. Involve them in the discussions so they know they are loved and respected by you, though this can look like different depths of details depending on the age of the children.
Being a parent is often about 90% listening and 10% speaking truth. It's important for children to feel like they are heard. When you give them the space to share, you will also be given the chance to practice active listening.
What is meant is never what is said.
Learning the meaning behind what your child says, rather than making assumptions, allows for you to respond in a way that is more effective and meaningful to your child.
3. Set Boundaries...
The Social Divide
The world has changed so fast through the rise of technology, that the foundations of interpersonal communication have shifted – impacting how relationships of various kinds are developed and maintained on a global scale.
Through this shift, national education systems have failed to properly pivot and address these changes. This means that teachers, parents, guardians, and communities are unable to properly educate our youth against the predatory acts of others (families and strangers alike). Because of this, trafficking has risen 317% in the past 12 years.
In short, the impact of technology has been bittersweet for our society. Though it has meant incredible innovation and growth, a shift in dynamic has occurred in the home. As children start to teach their parents/ guardians on how to use the new technologies, the children are less likely to feel comfortable coming to their parents when they need help.
This is an issue because 40% of trafficking cases start online and the average age of trafficked victims in Canada is 17. 90% of teens aged 13 to 17 use social media. 2/3 have their own private devices and internet access. On average, teens spend 9 hours a day on their personal devices.
A respect has been lost, but setting healthy boundaries can help.
Your solution doesn't need to be a ban from all social media
This is up to the guardians, however, there are potential benefits of social media. Simply cutting it out of your child's life may lead to resentment and rebellion, especially when not provided the "why" behind your actions. Rather than banning it, help shape your child's perception of social media.
Social media allows for people to:
1. Stay more connected to friends
2. Learn more about interpersonal communication methods in our world
3. Find communities and support for specific activities
4. Share creative work and ideas
5. Room to explore or express oneself
Normalizing the conversation
1. Ensure your children know their identity is not in the opinions of others. Build up their sense of security and self-worth first.
2. Limit the dependency on phone use. Normalize "no screen" times, such as no screens at the dinner table, in bedrooms, after a certain time of day, or until homework is done. These habits will also help teach kids about prioritization and balance. Start small if your kids already have social media accounts or personal devices.
3. Turn privacy settings to "limit access to personal information" on personal devices to limit target ads and tracking.
4. Friending or following your child's social media accounts with an agreement about whether you will or wont interact with their posts by commenting or liking them publicly.
5. Teach them not to share full names, addresses, phone numbers, social security information, passwords, and financial information.
6. Have location enabled services turned "off" to limit private location sharing
7. Do NOT preach at them, instead walk it as you talk it. Understand that your kids are growing up with a different and unique worldview from your own. Allow your kids the space to teach you things too.