Teens today get information about relationships and sex from all sorts of places, including television, radio, and online. Talking to our children about these topics can be hard. But, there are people looking to take advantage of kids and we can’t protect them if we aren’t willing to have the conversation.
A growing problem across the country and Wisconsin is youth sex trafficking. Sex trafficking occurs when an adult has a young person engage in a sexual act in exchange for something of value. Traffickers go after both boys and girls. They may make promises of quick money, supply them with drugs, or offer false promise of fame. They might give them food or a place to stay in exchange for sex. They may even say they are the youth’s boyfriend or girlfriend. But traffickers lie. What a trafficker calls “love” is unhealthy. They will find ways to control and even separate youth from friends and family. They may even resort to violence in order to keep the youth under their control.
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families recently launched the WI, We Need to Talk public awareness campaign in response to the problem of sex trafficking. It helps parents and other adults recognize the warning signs of youth sex trafficking. Here are some signs you should look for:
- Starts to skip school
- Runs away frequently or for several days at a time
- Begins hanging out with a different group of friends you do not know
- Won’t tell you who they are hanging out with or where they are going
- Suddenly has money, electronics, or clothing that you did not give them and you know they can’t afford
- Has an older boyfriend or girlfriend they do not want to tell you about
- You find sexually explicit photos of the child on their phone, computer, or online
- Unusual or unexplained tattoos
- Are seen going in and out of hotels frequently
If you suspect a child is at risk or needs assistance, you can call 2-1-1. You can also visit the DCF website to report abuse.
Help us prevent youth sex trafficking by starting the conversation with the young people in your family and community. Together we can protect our kids from experiencing this horrible crime. Visit www.WisconsinTalks.org for more information and free materials to download.