This month more than 5 million kids across Texas are heading back to school, signaling the start of all-too-familiar rituals like carpool lines, lunchboxes, old friends, and new teachers.
Like many parents, I felt a dual sense of pride and concern as I watched my two oldest kids march into their classrooms without so much as a glance back at me. A few thoughts ran through my head: “I hope they have fun! I hope they develop a love of learning! I hope they stay safe!”
Navigating school can be complex in the best of times, much less during a global pandemic. The conversation about school safety encompasses several topics, including how to prevent abuse, exploitation, and trafficking. Sometimes fear can dominate the discussion, with “stranger danger” or sensational stories grabbing headlines.
We think an honest, informed, and hopeful approach is best; one that empowers students and parents to work in partnership with teachers and administrators to prevent exploitation. The truth is that human trafficking is a relational crime. Victims often know, and even initially trust, their trafficker.
We used Lighthouse to analyze over 47,000 screenings of youth for sex trafficking between 2016-2021, revealing clear themes such as interpersonal violence, system involvement, and abuse. Of the 5,369 screenings of youth scored as “clear concern” — those most likely to have experienced trafficking — the average age at screening is 16. The chart below shows the top 10 indicators that are most prevalent among youth with clear concern screenings. While it may seem obvious, the data reinforces that young people’s relationships with their parents, their peers, and their romantic partners matter.
The top 10 most prevalent clear concern indicators for 5,369 screenings of youth in Texas who score clear concern overall on the CSE-IT between 2016-2021.*
As a parent, teacher, or concerned citizen, one of the best things you can do to protect youth from sex trafficking is to model healthy, trust-based relationships and empower youth to cultivate the same.
That’s the goal of the Real Friends Don’t campaign, presented by The McCain Institute with partners like the Office of the Texas Governor’s Child Sex Trafficking Team. The campaign focuses on protecting kids online and offers resources for parents, caregivers, and teens.
And if you are an administrator, educator, or counselor who wants to learn more about how to use Lighthouse to screen for sex trafficking in your school, reach out to our team.
PS – watch for news in this space about a major Lighthouse partnership we’ve established with a school district!
*The data, statistics, content and visualizations in Lighthouse are provided as-is with no warranties, express or implied. The data, statistics, content and visualizations in Lighthouse are intended to provide general information about human trafficking and are not intended to predict human trafficking cases, demonstrate the efficacy of solutions, or identify individual victims or survivors. Allies Against Slavery is not responsible and hereby disclaims any liability for your use of data, statistics, content and visualizations in Lighthouse. © 2021 ALLIES AGAINST SLAVERY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.