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Wedgwood Christian Services shares prevention tips on human trafficking

Card that reads "Stop Human Trafficking"
CrittentonSoCal licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
CrittentonSoCal licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Stop Human Trafficking and Thank You to Supporters Message

"Trafficking is highly relational. It is important to create healthy and safe relationships while using a trauma informed response."

It’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and trainers with Wedgwood Christian Services are helping the community identify red flags for child exploitation.

The Manasseh Project at Wedgwood Christian Services works year-round to raise awareness and activate change around human trafficking. Program Coordinator and Lead Trainer, Nikeidra Battle-DeBarge, said ensuring people know what trafficking is, can be the first step to prevention.

“Human trafficking is when someone uses force, fraud or coercion to take advantage of someone for sex or for labor. So we have sex trafficking, and we have labor trafficking, which is oftentimes not talked about," she explained.

Her team focuses on youth prevention and say creating relationships between kids and trusted adults is paramount. It can help kids understand healthy relationships and adults identify red flags.

“The hard thing about this is you may not be able to see it. If you don’t necessarily have a relationship with someone you won’t know the changes that they may be exhibiting," Battle-DeBarge said. "...Trafficking is highly relational. It is important to create healthy and safe relationships while using a trauma informed response."

She told WGVU, trafficking isn’t just what’s portrayed in movies. It’s not always physically violent, and it doesn’t require movement or strangers. People can be trafficked in their own homes. According to The Manasseh Project, in nearly half of the child trafficking cases reported worldwide, family members were involved.

The Manasseh Project has a list “red flags” to watch for:

  • New phone, clothes, jewelry, extra cash or other items
  • Minor dating older person
  • Signs of physical abuse, malnutrition
  • Homelessness, running away, missing school
  • Change in behavior and/or relationships
  • Tattoos suggesting ownership by trafficker
  • Subtle mention of a dysfunctional home life.
  • Inappropriate sexual references, beyond age-specific norms.
  • Seemingly rehearsed responses to questions
  • Excuses for a family member’s, boyfriend’s, or girlfriend’s potentially abusive behavior.
  • Work is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Student works excessively long hours, someone else controls the student's money).

Battle-DeBarge suggests simply asking “Are you okay?” if individuals suspect someone could be being trafficked. However, she cautions people not to make a scene that could put them or the victim in a dangerous situation.
It’s hard to find reliable data of just how many people are trafficked each year. The hidden nature of the crime and challenges in identifying victims and survivors are significant barriers, but global data suggests its tens of millions.

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