To inspire and empower everyone to do their part.
By Karen Davis
In 2016, as a graduate student at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University, I was first introduced to human trafficking. I learned there were kids and adults, males and females, of all races, that were being forced, tricked or manipulated into manual and sexual servitude. I was sickened such an experience was happening in other cultures and far off places. Then I learned human trafficking happens in the United States. In fact, it occurs right here in Waco, Texas. Because traffickers play on basic human vulnerabilities, everyone is potentially susceptible to their lies, but particularly the innocent. The more I learned, the more I became passionate about educating people about how traffickers operate, how they groom their victims.
Grooming is the process of gradually, methodically and deceptively building the trust of a targeted individual with the purpose of exploiting the individual through forced commercial sex or labor practices. Grooming can happen to any targeted potential victim. In the case of grooming minors, often the predator grooms the family surrounding the child and/or the community the child belongs to. This process can take weeks, months or years. Traffickers can be extraordinarily patient.
Stages of Grooming:
1. Targeting a victim
They prey on the physically and emotionally vulnerable. They are astute observers of human behavior. They can tell if a person is insecure, experiencing financial difficulties, or lacking a strong support system. They look for those with poor social connections, low self-esteem or financial needs. (more…)
Parents, take a moment to imagine, “some scary person comes to your front door, knocks on it and asks to talk to your 12-year-old child. You would look at them, slam the door on their face, and probably call the police” (Kirsta Melton, Office of the Texas Attorney General, 2018). It is chilling to think that this may be happening everyday as your child surfs the web and uses apps on their cell phone. UnBound has worked with children that are being approached by traffickers on social media, online gaming platforms, and apps like musical.ly or Snapchat.
There’s no easy fix, but here are some basic steps every parent can take to help keep kids safe from traffickers on social media:
1. Monitor your teen’s internet and social media usage
In addition to placing computers and gaming stations in a common area, you should supervise your children’s use of technology by monitoring their app usage and social media accounts. Pay specific attention to platforms where your teens can hold private conversations, such as Instagram, Snapchat, Xbox Live, or Facebook Messenger. This includes not allowing your child to have access to their phones and gaming stations overnight so that traffickers can communicate with them while they are unsupervised. Taking your teen’s phone at night also provides you with an opportunity to oversee their accounts. (more…)
Writing this post has been much harder than I imagined. I have shared my personal story countless times and never hesitated but this time it is different. This time I am sharing it in light of what it actually entails – human trafficking.
I would like to offer a word of caution regarding this post. I am sharing the details of my experience in some detail although I have used great discernment and my experience studying counseling so as to no victimize anyone reading. That is my hope at least.
Additionally, this post is not just about my story. My story is only one part. This post is intended to be a resource for anyone who needs to understand human trafficking whether as a parent to protect their child(ren), a survivor, a school teacher wanting to understand what to look for with students, and the list goes on. This is a resource above all things.
2017 was an incredible year of growth, learning and many opportunities across UnBound worldwide! Founded and headquartered in Waco, Texas, UnBound has expanded into other locations across the country and across the world over the past six years. 2017 showed the most significant growth of any year yet, with many of our smaller chapters growing and thriving to have significant impact. From building relationships with at-risk youth, to intervening with victims about to be transported across borders, to training other agencies and churches, it’s an honor to be part of the fight against human trafficking in each community we serve.
Below are a few of the highlights of what our UnBound locations accomplished in 2017. Behind every number and accomplishment lies what really matters – real lives, real communities and real progress in the fight against human trafficking.
“In 2017, we saw great relationships developed between community members, churches, organizations and law enforcement in our city, as we worked together to combat the issue of human trafficking in Mongolia. Our presence in the community has increased as we opened our own office and hired more staff to support our work. We started ‘transit monitoring’ as a project of ‘Love Justice International’ organization. We operate transit monitoring at stations such as Ulaanbaatar Railway Station to look for signs of trafficking. Every day, five staff go to the train station and question girls who might be victims. We have questioned around 1,600 women and girls between the ages of 18-35, given them awareness information and intercepted four girls who were potentially being trafficked. We also went to monitor at the border of China and Mongolia in Zamin-Uud for two weeks as pilot project in November. Through the ‘Not In My Country,’ project we went to small cities at the borders of Mongolia for awareness trainings. We are amazed at the opportunities God gave us in 2017 and are excited to have even greater impact this next year.”
– Munkhsaruul Ganbold, UnBound Mongolia (more…)
Every semester, UnBound Waco goes into local middle schools to teach girls about human trafficking. Over the course of 10 weeks, our volunteer facilitators cover topics like sex trafficking, value and worth, safe social media usage, healthy relationships and vulnerabilities. This fall we had 11 volunteers leading 7 groups in 3 different middle schools around Waco for a total of 56 sessions.
We surveyed the students at the beginning of the course to find that:
- 43% – had never heard of sex trafficking, or were not sure what it was.
- 82% – didn’t know or strongly disagreed that kids in their school or neighborhood were at-risk for sex trafficking.
- 35% – believed that if things are hard at home, running away is a good option.
During the course of the group, girls began to learn about what human trafficking was and even identified that some of their friends were at risk for trafficking
When the leaders were teaching the students about safe social media usage, the seventh grade girls spoke about how men they did not know contact them “all the time” on Instagram. One girl told the following story. “Well I had been dating this guy I met on Instagram for like 3 months. We talked a lot, and one day he called me. His voice sounded really deep. I asked him ‘how old are you,’ and he said 34.” When the group was teaching about vulnerabilities one of the leaders spoke to the girls about the dangers of running away. One girl from the group said, “I just ran away from home. When I was gone I was walking down a street and a man started following me. He was chasing me, and I ran and ran to get away. I was so scared. So this stuff is real. Don’t run away from home guys it’s not safe.”
This post was written and published by KCEN-TV. See the original post on the KCEN-TV website.
A woman messaged our Facebook page earlier this week with a question about our recent “Selling Girls” stories, which focused on exposing the scope of child sex trafficking in the United States and how to prevent more young children from becoming victims.
She asked if we could compile some information parents could use about how to talk to their children about the issue. So, we reached out to UnBound Waco, an organization working to curb human trafficking in Central Texas and offering support to victims who escaped the billion-dollar-a-year industry in the United States.
Below is some of the advice UnBound Waco offered.
1. Talk to your children about social media
Last year, we covered a story about a Houston father who said his teenage daughter was lured into the sex trade by an older man on the social media app Snapchat. The trafficker used the app to slowly groom her beginning at age 16, eventually getting her to agree to meet him at a party, where she disappeared.
Advice: Take every opportunity to chat with your children about the danger of talking to strangers on social media and ask them to disable location sharing capabilities on their social media accounts and photos. Predators are patient, and they will pose as your children’s friends — using any bit of information they can glean from public social media accounts to groom them by pretending to share similar interests and being in the same places at the right times. (more…)
2016 has been an exciting year for UnBound, around the world! We want to share with you some of the highlights from this past year and what we’re looking forward to in 2017. Behind every number and accomplishment lies what really matters — real lives, real communities and real progress in the fight against human trafficking.
“In 2016, we saw great relationships develop between community members, churches, organizations and law enforcement in our city, as we worked together to combat the issue of human trafficking in Fort Worth. In 2017, we would like to see this trend continue, as we believe that community awareness and community members working together are the greatest ways to battle human trafficking in our city. We’re starting January off with a big Not In My City event sponsored by the Fort Worth Police Department in partnership with the Tarrant County 5-Stones Taskforce and Christ Chapel (a large church in town). We are hoping that this event will be a catalyst for what is to come this year in terms of community collaboration and prevention efforts.”
– Lisa Nottoli, UnBound Fort Worth (more…)
The Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition was launched in January 2015 in an effort to coordinate efforts to combat human trafficking in the six-county region surrounding Waco, Texas. UnBound Waco had been working in Waco for a few years to educate the community and build relationships with service providers and law enforcement, but founder Susan Peters and other community partners decided something bigger needed to happen.
Over the past two years, we’ve held meetings for representatives from more than 45 area agencies, coming together to learn, connect and move the fight forward. The coalition was growing and doing well, but, as in most things, could benefit from significant funding to fill some of the gaps of collaboration, training and service. When we found out about a $1.5 million Department of Justice grant for the development of human trafficking task forces, we decided to apply. With relatively little data for what we knew to be a significant trafficking issue, we weren’t sure if we could demonstrate the need to the federal government to fund this effort in a relatively small geographic region. However, after six months of waiting, we received the news that the Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition was funded for $1.5 million! (more…)
When you last heard from us, we had just launched UnBound Europe: an initiative to engage the crisis by providing critically needed services to refugees through human trafficking prevention and awareness. Strategically located in 5 cities throughout the refugee trail, we were able to spend the summer interacting with refugees and local community members, training short term teams, distributing awareness posters and “Signs To Look For” cards, as well as meeting with business owners, aid workers, and even government officials. (more…)