There are many other lessons we can learn from rescued victims, but if we take just these three things, we can extrapolate from them some prevention strategies.
Ideas for preventing CSEC
Coercion: To coerce means to compel by force, intimidation, or authority, especially without regard for individual desire or volition. Persuasion, on the other hand, is a peaceful, non-threatening way to convince another person. Since the purpose of persuasion is to open the heart and mind of another, any changes in the opponent’s attitudes or actions are voluntary.
Teach the young people within your influence what coercion is, and the difference between coercion and persuasion. You can raise their awareness of coercion and the ability to avoid it by giving them examples of what coercion sounds like, and conversely, what persuasion sounds like. For example coercion may sound like, “if you really love me, you’ll do this,” or “if you don’t do this, I’m going to go get your little sister and make her do it.” Persuasion, on the other hand, may sound like, “if you want to be a lawyer someday, you need to buckle down and study now,” or “I would really like you to do this, but I understand if you don’t want to. I will care about you no matter what you decide.”
Once you’ve explained the difference between coercion, which benefits the person doing the coercing, and persuasion, which should always be in the best interest of everyone involved, move on to demonstrating some specific ways to avoid coercion. For example, teach young people to say things like, “No, I don’t want to go with you and your cousin.” Help them understand that they can and should say no if they have the slightest discomfort. Tell them that they are not obligated to give a reason to the person who is trying to coerce them. Let them know that societal politeness and cultural acceptability can be set aside when they feel threatened or afraid. And as Robert Martin, former LAPD Captain and personal protection consultant (www.facebook.com/captbobmartin), says, “learn to confidently and convincingly say NO MEANS NO.” In doing this, you’ll be helping young people protect themselves against all forms of coercion they may face in their lives.
Love: To help kids protect themselves against the lure of a trafficker who tries to make them feel wanted and loved, beat them to the punch! Act like you care about them, act like you want them in your family, and act like you love them. If they are difficult to love, as most wounded people are, ACT like you’re competing for an academy award until you can genuinely love them.
For kids who have felt unloved, generic compliments won’t work. Find something you genuinely like or admire about them and point it out to them. Are they especially courageous, resilient, or determined? Whatever good you can find in them is likely one of the good characteristics they can leverage to create their own successful life. Remember, you won’t always be there to protect them. They will think more highly of themselves, and be less vulnerable to a sweet talking person if they know that you think highly of them.
Substance abuse: Kids who have been hurt are not abusing drugs to have a good time—rather, they abuse drugs to medicate their pain. We can get to the root of this problem by making them feel loved, valued, and wanted. If they’re already medicating their pain, your job may be more difficult, but making them feel valued is the first step to alleviating their pain and giving them the ability to choose to quit self-medicating.
In conclusion, nearly all the rescued trafficking victims who have gone on to create good lives for themselves report that one person saw value or potential in them. Regardless of whether you are a foster parent who sees the child every day or the receptionist in the doctor’s office who sees them once a year, YOU CAN BE THE PERSON WHO SEES VALUE IN THEM. When you see something good, say something good.