April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Selah Freedom is one of the nation’s leading anti-sex trafficking organizations that offer youth and adult prevention awareness.
Childhood sexual abuse preys on the vulnerabilities of a young person. One out of 10 American children will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18, putting them at risk for trafficking.
Where does it all begin?
Childhood sexual abuse can begin at any age. The average age of entry into sex trafficking is approximately 15-17 years old. Sexual abuse can blur boundaries, innocence and create a
loss of control. Manipulation, fear, and coercion can quickly become the norm for these child victims and destroy their self-confidence and self-worth. Shame and secrets can become a part of a young person’s identity and play a significant, detrimental role in defining who they are and what they become. When the cycle of sexual abuse begins, abusers will work to place the blame on their victims, making them feel like it was their fault or they did something wrong. Gaslighting the victim into believing they brought this upon themselves is an exploiter’s tactic.
At Selah Freedom, we work to get ahead of the issue of sexual exploitation of children through prevention education geared toward youth and the adults who help shape who they become. Prevention education is the key to eliminating the exploiter’s manipulative constraints on a victim.
How can you be a part of the solution?
Social media can be an exploiter’s playground, because it is easy to connect and interact with youth through social apps and gaming sites. Therefore, recognizing the red flags is extremely important.
It is crucial to create a safe space to hear from youth and allow them to speak openly about their feelings. We can learn many things by listening and allowing a young person to communicate. We don’t have to wait for something unsafe to happen to talk about it!
Conversations Starters for Younger Youth
Trust Triangle – Help youth understand what makes an adult “safe,” then identify three safe people to whom a young person can go to get help. Next, identify safe adults in different places they spend their time (i.e., school, home, extracurricular activities, etc.).
Safety Planning/Role Playing – Having a safety plan can help reduce the risk of confusion when dealing with unsafe situations. Therefore, a safety plan should be created, and the use of role-playing used for clear understanding.
Safe vs. Unsafe Touch – Define the meaning of “safe touch” vs. “unsafe touch” and provide youth with some examples, including their private parts. Emphasize that safe touch from a trusted adult, guardian/parent, should be for cleaning and health only. It is essential to stay away from “good touch” and “bad touch” vocabulary, for it can cause guilt, shame, and confusion in a child.
Unsafe Secrets vs. Surprises – Youth need to understand that a safe adult will never ask a
child to keep an unsafe secret. Explain to youth the difference between a surprise and an unsafe secret and how a surprise can feel fun, but an unsafe secret can (in their own words) feel yucky.
Safe Screens – Parents need to set parameters when it comes to using technology. Children should ask permission to use computers, phones, iPads, etc., as well as understand the importance of being near a safe adult when using these items.
Selah Freedom has developed content that explains how to have conversations with youth in grades 6-12. Below you can find example conversation starters.
Who’s got your back?
“Do you feel like you have people you can talk to if you ever were stuck in a situation? Who are those people for you?”
“Do you feel like media can influence relationships? How so?”
“What do you feel is most important to you right now? Let’s list them out together.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships
“Have you seen an unhealthy relationship before? What made them unhealthy? What do you think a healthy relationship looks like?“
What do our boundaries look like?
“Do you feel like most kids your age have good physical/emotional/digital boundaries? How do you decide what those boundaries should be?”
Selah Freedom Prevention Trainings
Our Prevention Team offers monthly virtual training opportunities to further your education and ability to be successful in the active prevention of sex trafficking. You can sign up for current training here!
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Anyone who suspects signs of sex trafficking and victims in need of help can contact Selah Freedom at: 1-888-8-FREE-ME (888-837-3363)