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Protect Your Youth from Sexual Exploitation

1. Build up child’s self-esteem and morals

Developing a strong emotional connection with your child is crucial so you can be that safe person your child will naturally want to go to for questions and counsel. Knowing you love him/her unconditionally and will be there for them no matter what, will enable your child to trust you with their heart and struggles.

a. Relationship: Seek ways to build a positive emotional connection with your child by spending quality 1:1 time with him/her and by being a good listener. Practice active listening and seek to validate their feelings first before giving them advice. Foster positive and fun conversations during meal times with your child (for example by showing interest in how their day went). Avoid ‘correcting’ or arguing.

b. Activities: Have your children get involved in extracurricular activities such as sports, art, dance, or music ideally according to their interests.

Make time for FUN activities with your child (it could be going out on an ice-cream date, play a board game, go to a movie, see the sunset at the beach, go out for a meal 1:1 etc.)- never underestimate the power of having fun moments with your child in building a positive connection with them. This will foster their desire to spend more time with you.

c. Personal Faith: Get involved as a family in a loving church community and find ways to encourage and mentor your children to grow in their personal faith. Explore with your children which services/church activities they want to get involved in (i.e. praise and worship, mission work, etc.) and support them in joining. Pray with and for your child regularly.

d. Affirmations: Affirm your child with positive words of love, affirmation and value. Make positive ‘deposits into your child’s life by investing quality time, blessing them with gifts (it doesn’t have to be expensive as it could be their favorite candy bar), giving them hugs, and doing something kind to serve them. Discover the way your child receives love the best and seek to show love to them in that way as much as possible.

e. Teach your Children and Youth: Engage in heart to heart conversations with your children and youth regarding what is right and wrong. Show them empathy and teach them ways to express empathy to others. Share your life experiences vulnerably with your child in age-appropriate ways to connect heart to heart and to mentor them in life issues.


It’s important to have an ongoing, open, and honest dialogue with your children about these issues - it’s not a one-time conversation, and you don’t have to talk about everything at once. You don’t want to evoke great fear in them, but you do want them to be aware and gain wisdom. Listen more than you speak. As adults we want to keep our children safe, but we can’t be with them all the time. Children need information about the realities of abuse and trafficking, so they are aware of their personal safety and know what to do if they sense something just doesn’t ‘feel right.’ As adults, we can communicate our care and be a safe person to come to for questions or if something happens.

Children also need information about what is healthy regarding personal boundaries, consent, relationships, and sexuality. Help your child identify their feelings and indicators of healthy relationships. Help them to recognize when someone is not honoring their boundaries and wishes (use age-appropriate examples they can relate to). Remind them that if someone does harm them, it is never their fault and you will believe them.

Assure your child that it is ok to say, “No.”

Tell your child to tell you immediately if something happens. Assure them to not be fearful of getting in trouble - even if they made bad choices! Remind them you are for them and want to be there to support and love them through any circumstance!

a. Encourage your youth to talk with you or a caring adult about their questions, and/or troubling or confusing circumstances.

Help your child/youth identify loving, wise, trustworthy adults in their life who they can turn to for support in addition to parents.

Learn ways to foster a shame-free culture in your family where your home is a safe place to talk about anything without being judged - if you don’t know the answers, you can discover answers together!

b. Start discussing human sexuality and other relevant topics early and frequently in age appropriate ways. Discuss topics such as sex, abuse, drugs, suicide and sex trafficking. Take courage to bring up these topics and enjoy the interactions - these should not be a ‘dreaded’ conversations! Stay calm, composed and as natural as can be. You want your child to come to you for questions they have on any subject

Find resources to help you to discuss these topics with your child. If you don’t mentor you child/youth in sexuality, their friends or our culture will.

Discuss topics briefly with your child in ‘teachable moments’ in addition to planned discussion times. Teachable moments happen unexpectedly such as after watching a movie scene, while watching a news story, or experiencing a certain situation together.

c. How to respond if/when your child/youth discloses that they were trafficked (or about anything that would be troubling to you):

-Know that even though you teach your child and youth on what is safe and unsafe behavior and what is right and wrong, there are NO guarantees they will always make right choices! Instead, listen and seek to understand.

-Stay calm. Don’t act shocked or horrified. Refrain from exploding in anger (even though you are feeling it!) because you want your child to feel that they can come to you with their struggles. Watch your language and refrain from name calling and put downs such as, “What’s the matter with you?” or “That was so stupid!” or “Didn’t I teach you better?!” If your child was trafficked, you don’t want your child to run back to the trafficker because they feel no grace or forgiveness from you.

-In such difficult conversations, communicate to your child/youth that you love them unconditionally - that no matter what wrong choices they made, you love them, are always there for them, and willing to forgive them and help them.

-Mentally remind yourself that abuse was common in biblical days and is not just a current issue.

-Refer to the Empathy Statements sheet on the last page of this Five Point Plan as a general guide for what empathetic words you can say when your child or anyone shares with you vulnerably about anything. Practice validating feelings. It takes great courage for your child to come to you and confess. You can affirm them on that point and appreciate that they came to you.


Recruiting can happen through friends and acquaintances in school, or such places as the mall, beach, or after school programs. Be aware of adults or older teens approaching you who attempt to get you to go with them somewhere. Never get into a car with someone you do not know well.

Know that a recruiter can ‘groom’ a victim over varied time frames. Some victims are lured within hours or days, while others are lured over many months by becoming a good friend or boyfriend.

a. Charming Behavior (grooming) - (Child or Adult) A person’s words and actions can seem too good to be true. The recruiter’s words initially make you feel special and cause you to believe they are there for you.

Recruiters may say things like the following to build trust and connection with you:

“Tell me everything about you. I want to know everything!”

(This is a common statement used to elicit deep and dark secrets from victims to later blackmailing them.)

“I’ve never met anyone like you. I feel like I can trust you with anything. I have told you things I have never told anyone else.”

This serves to rope in the victims, so they are made to feel responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of the trafficker. When the victim is ready to leave, the guilt of leaving someone who trusted them with everything often prevents them from leaving.

“You are so beautiful! I love you!”

Traffickers often target a person who is often overlooked by the general public and who is especially hungry for love and affirmation due to their family/peer experiences. For example, if two girls are walking down the street and one of the girls is obviously more attractive than the other, the trafficker will approach the less attractive friend, the one who probably receives less attention from others, and disregard the more attractive person. If the more attractive friend later tries to intervene when she sees her friend being mistreated or lured into exploitation, the trafficker probably would accuse the friend of being jealous because she is used to getting more attention due to her attractive looks. Afraid to lose the one person who view her as beautiful, would naturally not heed her friend’s warnings and becomes exploited.

“You are too hot to be wearing those shoes! You need to get with me so I can upgrade you!”

This comment serves to make victims feel good, and then immediately the trafficker would often belittle them, causing them greater vulnerability. Traffickers and recruiters utilize this tactic to capture a victim’s attention with flattery, but also embarrasses them by pointing out their low-quality clothes or accessory. The recruiter gives the victim an opportunity to elevate their status by giving the victim promises of ‘upgrading,’ which is purchasing them new shoes, clothes or other items they want or need. This also increases the victim’s sense of obligation to the recruiter.

The person may attempt to establish a sexual relationship with you to further bond you to them. Children raised in Christian households often fail to disclose to their parents when they lose control of the relationship for fear they will disappoint, “get in trouble”, be admonished, or be judged for engaging in premarital sex. This failure to report often results in Christian children being exploited for longer periods than their same age peers

The person may encourage you to take drugs and drink.

b. Luring - A person makes promises that seem too good to be true. The following are some lines that recruiters may use to lure victims:

“You want to make some money? I can show you how you can make a lot of money!”

This lures in victims who come from impoverished backgrounds. Victims never make money; they may be given small amounts of money in the beginning to gain trust or earn some wages by being ‘bottoms’ or ‘recruiters,’ but nowhere near what their trafficker makes. Money given to victims is often taken back at later time.

“You may as well make money for what someone is taking from you anyway.” Because traffickers often target youth with a history of molestation, they often use this line, which seems to make sense to someone who is actively being victimized at home.

Pay attention to your ‘sensing’ or ‘feeling’ - if you feel something is not ‘quite right’ or is making you feel uncomfortable, fearful, or ‘strange’, pay attention to those ‘red flags’ and leave the situation.

*If someone is bothering and/or following you in public by constantly trying to talk with you, get another adult involved. For example, if at a mall, go to a store employee and say something like, “This person keeps following me. Please help me.”

c. Isolating - A person who often uses shame and control to keep you away from friends and family.

d. Dependency - A person tries to get you to think he/she is the only one who will take care of you to get you to depend on them.

A person may attempt to learn your biggest wants and needs so they can manipulate you slowly into becoming dependent on them as a close friend. They may make promises to you that they will fulfill your dreams.


Discuss with your child what a ‘trauma’ is and examples of traumas that people experience. Being sensitive to what is age appropriate, share traumas you have experienced in life and what you went through. Ask your child if they have past traumas. You may not be aware about all events or how it continues to affect them, so it is important to get professional help and support.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse happens more often than we realize. Sexual abuse, molestation, inappropriate touch can happen through child to child interactions, adult to child interactions, as well as through exposure to pornography.

Early sexualization

Understand that if a child becomes sexually active or exposed to pornography early, this often can lead to re-enactment of activity experienced or witnessed. Youth often become overly sexualized which is displayed as promiscuity, inappropriate dress, stronger sexual

urges, lower boundaries, and multiple sexual partners. Note that the average age of first exposure to pornography is 8 years old according to research stated by Focus on the Family.

Child abuse

Child abuse can be experienced through neglect, verbal abuse, and physical harm. Abuse leads to trauma, and trauma leads to re-enactment of the activities experienced or witnessed.


Because children can be groomed and recruited through ways such as social media and gaming relationships, it is important to be involved in creating safe boundaries for your child regarding their smartphone and internet usage. Attend educational trainings for online safety, filtering, and parental control apps. There is constantly new information for parents to learn. Know what your children are doing on the internet and talk to them regularly about their online life. Ongoing ‘tech talks’ can help lower the chances of your child getting involved with an online predator.

a. Phones & tablets

b. Games & YouTube videos and YouTube live: People on games are still strangers - do not meet up with anyone your met online. *Note that the Very Young Girls Pimp Tactics video does contain some profanity)

The following are YouTube links shown at the LISTEN event that you can share with your youth and others that can springboard teachable moments/conversations:

Coby Person. (2015, August 10). The Dangers of Social Media (Child Predator Experiment) [video file]. Retrieved from

Coby Person. (2017, November 13). The Dangers of Snapchat (Child Predator Experiment) [video file]. Retrieved from

NCJFCJ. (2014, November 17). Very Young Girls Pimp Tactics [video file]. Retrieved from

c. Sharing Photos - such as nude or immodest photos

d. Apps - dating, messaging

e. Social Media Monitoring: Set social media settings to private and do not give personal information to anyone online. Do not meet up with anyone you met on social media (they are strangers).

In his videos, Coby Person recommends considering the MSPY app that allows you as a parent to see/monitor conversations on your child’s phone.

Empathetic Responses

By Vicky Wong, MSCP, LMFT, LMHC, NCC

It is not always easy to know what to say when someone tells you something very vulnerable and personal. There is power in words which can encourage and uplift or hurt and condemn. Careless words keep people isolated and silent for years. Supportive words bring healing, restoration, and courage to talk about their burden or their experiences. Here are some tips on what to say vs what not to say through a person’s healing process.

Note: after someone shares something heavy and vulnerable, it can very hurtful to not say anything, quickly change the subject, or make a joke/comment to lighten to mood. When appropriate, a hand on shoulder, a hand squeeze or a hug also can communicate comfort and empathy. *Don’t start immediately sharing your experience that is similar. This time is not about you. It is about listening to them eye to eye. Giving advice and encouraging words comes later after they feel validated and heard, and you sense they are ready for that.

Vulnerability + Empathy = Breaks Shame


You just need to let go and move on.

Other people have it worse than you.

You’re making too much of a big deal of this.

You just need to trust God and pray harder.

Are you just trying to get attention?

I can’t believe this really happened.

Tell me every detail and don’t leave anything out.

How come you just can’t forgive?

You are sinning if you just can’t forgive and forget!

Did you enjoy it? (the abuse)

What are you going to do about it now?

At least…. (minimizing issue)


Sounds like you are feeling really (angry, sad, excited, shocked etc.) by what happened. I don’t’ know exactly what to say right now except that I’m here for you.

I’m so sorry that happened to you.

This must be so tough for you.

You are very brave and courageous to talk about what happened.

It took a lot of courage to talk about this, and I’m proud of you.

I am here to help you through your sadness.

I care about you. I am here to listen and help you in any way.

I am so glad you are sharing this with me.

You are not alone.

I believe in you!

I’m so sorry that awful thing happened to you.

You didn’t deserve this (abuse, hurtful situation)

You are not to blame. This is not your fault. (if they were a victim of abuse) Healing is possible!

You can be whole again.

Forgiveness for such a deep hurt is a process and will happen over time. What I hear you saying is…(reflect back what they said/reflect back what you sense they are feeling)

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