By Molly Hackett
Molly Hackett is a principal at Nix Conference & Meeting Management and Exchange Initiative. She and Nix co-owner Jane Quinn were the first to sign the ECPAT Meeting Planners Code of Conduct and are active in developing events and resources to fight sex trafficking. This piece originally ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Talking to teens on just about any topic can be difficult. That’s unfortunate, because school age children from every socioeconomic background are at risk for a danger few parents know much about — child sex trafficking.
The statistics are shocking. Up to 300,000 children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation in the United States each year. According to the Department of Justice, 2,200 kids are reported missing every day. Within 48 hours, one in three runaways will be approached by sex traffickers, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
But the most shocking stat of all is the number “13” — the average age that children are recruited into sex trafficking.
Jane Quinn and I, co-owners of St. Louis-based Nix Conference & Meeting Management, realized we could do something about it and launched Exchange Initiative, a new social action organization.
We can teach teens to identify dangerous situations. We can warn them about being lured into trafficking with promises of fame, fortune and a great life. We can show them the role that social media plays in sex trafficking, how to identify recruiters and what to do if a dangerous situation arises.
Sometimes teachers, administrators and school counselors are the only adults in a child’s life who really notice and listen to them. School staff can learn the progressive warning signs of a student being forced into a life of sex trafficking.
Maybe you’re not a parent or teacher, or you believe your child could never be approached. You may assume that human trafficking has nothing to do with you, or that there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
If so, you would be wrong.
Anyone can help fight sex trafficking by being aware of the signs and learning what to do. Whether you travel on business or pleasure, watch for the “red flags” of a trafficking situation. Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 888-373-7888, local law enforcement, or the U.S. Department of Justice trafficking hotline at 888-428-7581 if you see someone who:
- Appears helpless, shamed, afraid, nervous or disoriented;
- Avoids eye contact;
- Is emotionally flat or confused;
- Won’t speak for himself or herself;
- Gives scripted answers or inconsistent stories, or tells blatant lies;
- Has no personal items, money or ID;
- Shows signs of abuse, such as bruising;
- Appears malnourished;
- Wears inappropriate clothing;
- Has tattoos that reflect ownership or money.