In the U.S. there is a movement to prioritize human trafficking prevention. Our nation’s communities have begun to acknowledge their potential to empower youth to stay safe from exploitation by implementing programs in schools, juvenile correction centers, group homes, and other youth-orientated spaces. Many youths are experiencing exploitation right now, and it’s imperative that the U.S. prioritizes prevention.
Human trafficking exploitation needs to be prevented before it grows. These issues will only change when our communities step up to ensure potential victims are prevented. One way to prevent exploitation is by educating communities and training them to see through the disguises used by exploitative people, including traffickers. Traffickers use psychological manipulation as a means of control and come into the lives of vulnerable individualsthrough multiple outlets including social media, in-person at places like school or the mall, and through established relationships that people have in their families and communities.
iEmpathize, a non-profit that combats crimes against children, prepares both young people and adults to recognize issues of exploitation. Their prevention resource, The Empower Youth Program, identified five “disguises” that a person looking to exploit someone may take on to gain trust:
1. Pretender: Someone who pretends to be something s/he is not, such as a boyfriend, a big sister, a father, etc.
2. Provider: Someone who offers to take care of an individual’s needs, such as for clothes, food, a place to live, etc. or their wants, like cool cell phones, purses, parties, etc.
3. Promiser: Someone who promises access to great things, like an amazing job or glamorous lifestyle of travel.
4. Protector: Someone who uses physical power or intimidation to protect (but also control) an individual.
5. Punisher: Someone who uses violence and threats to control an individual. When previous disguises have been exhausted, an exploitative person often becomes a Punish to maintain control.
The program helps both youths and adults recognize disguises and teaches youth how to cultivate authentic and safe relationships. In the future, when a trafficker meets a community aware of the horrors of trafficking, exploitation loses and justice will win.