When we hear about human trafficking, we think about the movie Taken, and scary strangers kidnapping people and selling them. In real life, trafficking can take many forms. Basically, trafficking is the use of coercion or force to make someone do something for the trafficker’s profit. When it comes to someone under the age of 18, this counts as trafficking whether the youth was willing or forced. Trafficking can include selling pictures, labor, or engaging in sexual acts for money, rent or other goods. Traffickers will look for and exploit vulnerabilities, like if someone is homeless, lonely, or being abused by another person.
Identifying Red Flags:
Watch out for red flags from someone you’re talking to online or in real life:
“Do you have a pic?”
Think about it carefully before you send a photo. It may seem harmless, but once someone has your photo, they could potentially use it against you later on.
“You seem sad, what’s bothering you?”
It makes sense for a friend to be concerned for you, but keep in mind that concern might be faked in an attempt to create a sense of care and trust.
“I know a way you can make money fast.”
Anyone offering you a way to make money fast should probably not be trusted. Avoid getting caught up in a situation with someone you don’t know, especially if it includes sending photos or videos of yourself.
“What’s your phone number/address?”
Personal info can be used to track you.
“I love you.”
Everyone enjoys hearing the words “I love you” but sometimes people might use this to manipulate you into doing things you might not do otherwise. Be cautious with anyone who claims to love you really early on.
Thinking about sending a photo?
Ask yourself: Would I do this face to face? Would I be okay with this photo being posted in my school’s hallway? Do I feel pressure to send something? If so, who can I talk to about it?
See a classmate’s photo being passed around? If this were a photo of me, how would I want others to react? Tell a teacher or school counselor about the photo (you can ask them not to share who told them if you’re afraid about how others will react).
Someone sent you a picture you didn’t ask for? Tell someone you trust. Even if you’re upset, don’t pass the picture on. Consider blocking or reporting them.
If someone threatens to share your picture if you don’t do what they ask: Tell someone! You don’t have to deal with this alone. Document the harassment and consider blocking or reporting the person.