How many students in our middle and high schools experience this same type of horror; student by day and sex slave by night? It is almost like a Lifetime movie where the naive young girl is enticed by a handsome young man or kind woman to hang out in the evenings. Gradually, the pimp lavishes the youth with gifts and attention; she is persuaded to wear seductive clothes to be noticed by others; she may experiment with mind altering drugs; and ever so slowly she becomes trapped in this unforgiving lifestyle. After reading this news article, I began to wonder who were the students in my school in this same situation and how can they be identified?
To be honest I know that sex trafficking exists, but I have not thought of it as a local issue. I often think of sex trafficking as occurring in Singapore, in the Red Light District, or in the movies. If one were to look through the catalogs of movies in our lifetime, you would see numerous movies glorifying and normalizing sex with minors.
Lolita – an older man has a burning desire for a young preteen.
Walking the Halls–Lifetime movie about a school cop who runs a high school prostitution ring.
Angel– school girl by day and prostitute by night.
Taxi– stars Jodi Foster as a adolescent prostitute.
Not only are movies normalizing the sex industry, but so is the music industry.
So I am riding the bike in the gym and this song comes on. Normally, I don’t pay much attention to the lyrics, but then there was this one moment when I realized what the song was all about…drugs and prostitution. Sorry if you like the song, but to me it was really offensive. So offensive that I only included a couple of lines. I have attached the lyrics if you want to read more.
Here is another popular song that I caught my daughter listening to last year called Porn Star Dancing by My Darkest Days. You guessed it…it is about a stripper.
She wraps those hands around that pole
She licks those lips and off we go
She takes it off nice and slow
Because that’s pornstar dancin’
She don’t play nice, she makes me beg
She drops that dress around her legs
And I’m sittin’ right by the stage for this
Porn Star Dancing
I first heard about minors in the sex industry as a novice high school counselor. It was rumored that two of our teenagers reportedly were working as strippers along with their mother in a night club. In fact, if you asked me to identify the characteristics of a child who has been involved in sex trafficking I would not have an answer for you.
From my research, I would like to share some information for school counselors about sex trafficking, its warning signs, and steps to take if you think a student is involved in this type of activity.
Definition of Sex Trafficking
Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) is the buying, selling, or trading sexual services through prostitution, pornography, stripping, or other sexual services. Other terms for sex trafficking include sex slavery, child exploitation, or child prostitution.
How widespread is the problem in the United States?
Statistics say that over 1.68 million teens run away each year and the majority of those teens become involved in sex trafficking. In fact, over 100,000 minors are enslaved in the sex trafficking in the US each year.
Major contributing factors
- AGE-13 is the average age in sex trafficking.
- Child abuse
- Running away from home
- Older boyfriend
- Signs of trauma (physical or mental)
- Traveling with older male who is not her father/guardian
- Chronically running away from home
- Special tattoos
- Substance Abuse
- Not free to come and go
- Fearful that law enforcement may be involved
- Owes a large debt
- Few possessions
- Educate students-school counselors can provide education, facts, and information to counteract common cultural norms regarding the sex industry.
- Model behavior:
- Stop using words that normalize the sex industry as innocent (ho, pimp, whore).
- Challenge the stereotypes and myths about prostitution.
4. Support tourism companies that have signed the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children in Travel and Tourism.
5. Do not visit countries that support sex trafficking.
6. Support agencies that work with exploited youth in your area.
7. Educate students and parents about internet safety.
- Educate students about the dangers of pornography and its impact on society.
- Interrupt jokes that are against another groups of people.
- Educate students about the myths regarding rape.
- Do not support companies, agencies, or media that encourage and/or glorify sexual violence.
- Build male allies to stand against the rape culture.
- Educate parents on appropriate sexual contact and help them create a safety plan for children.
- Boycott companies/media that exploits children sexually.
- Report suspected child abuse.
- If you hear students blaming the victim of rape, inform them that most victims do not lie about rape and the majority go unreported.
- Support local rape shelters with donations.
- Raise awareness about rape. April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
- Become part or develop a SART.
- Give facts and practical tips for individuals to fight against child sex trafficking.
Educators Resource Guide from Unicef
High School Educators Toolkit
State Department Resources
Sex Slavery US Map
Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
FBI Prevention Strategies
Lesson from Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
Men as Partners in Ending Demand
Truckers Against Trafficking
If you have any experiences in working with students in sex trafficking, please feel free to share any information, tips, or ideas.