The Value of Raising Awareness about the Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Youth

Person looking at birds in the sky

I see things that I didn’t see before. I understand the things I see better than I did before. 

I am what many might refer to as a “seasoned professional” - a nice way of saying that I’ve been doing work with and on behalf of children, youth, and young adults for more than a few years. I have benefitted in many ways and I count the increased knowledge and understanding that I’ve gained over the 40 years of my career as one that I most value. Five years ago, I joined the work supporting programs working to prevent and support youth victimized by commercial sexual exploitation through mentoring and other services. I was always clear that I had much to learn about this aspect of our work with youth - I was not clear on the extent of that learning and that it would continue well beyond the project itself to be lifelong.

As we launch a new decade with National Human Trafficking Awareness Month 2020, I reflect on my own personal awareness journey and the value of what I’ve learned. I see things that I didn’t see before. I understand things better when I see them. I have resources on hand to suggest when a need emerges. This is ultimately the value of awareness in preventing and stopping the subjugation of those in vulnerable situations, particularly children and youth. Something that doesn’t quite seem right will help us to pay closer attention, perhaps check on safety when we might not have thought to do so. We are better to listen when someone “tests” us with a bit of information to see if we’re really able and ready to hear more and provide a safe response. The invisible nature of this exploitation optimizes the success of those who are doing the exploitation. Exploitation is done purposefully using a very systematic and effective strategy that we can begin to interrupt simply by “seeing” it. This, for me, is what makes it especially  important for us to raise awareness in January and throughout the year. Here are just a few resources that can assist us with this shared and vital goal: 

Raising Awareness of Sex Trafficking of Youth in the US is a national campaign developed in partnership with youth who have a personal understanding of this work. There are 3 articles that help us understand just how easily a person can become a victim of exploitation and the resilience it takes to move forward.

Shining Light on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Toolkit to Build Understanding is a toolkit that offers 20 modules that expand our understanding.

Look Beneath the Surface to End Trafficking is a series of media tools designed to raise awareness in January 2020 and year long. 

National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733 (BEFREE)