Protecting our Kids from Predators – Part 1 of 2

This is the first of two parts. It’s a difficult subject, but so important. Please read to learn and understand how to protect your kids.

Predators are out there among us. There are two main ways they are reaching our kids: 1) Personal interaction and 2) Social media.

We all know as parents to pay attention to who our kids are hanging out with. But, today, it’s more important than ever to really know who they are spending their time with–in person and online. That new friend at school or work may not be so great after all.

Below are notes from a dad who’s daughter was a victim of human trafficking–all thanks to a new “friend”:

The people who work in the trafficking business are active and patient. They are not walking our sidewalks trolling for children, but they are working in Fort Bend County and many other communities. They use a process that may take many months. The specific details of what they do can have many different variations. Regardless of the details, the process will follow the same basic steps. I realize this may sound a little like someone claiming the CIA killed JFK, but I assure it is no crazy conspiracy theory. We lived it. 

Step 1
Befriend – It starts in a way that seems innocent and remains that way for many weeks or months. The ‘friends’ that start this process are not always a guy. It is often a girl (usually a few years older). The new friend takes your daughter places, she is fun, she has a lot of advice, and gives the impression she is sort of a mentor. This person is referred to as a “groomer”. Their job is to identify potential targets. The groomer is likely a recent high school graduate living on their own, without a job (or not enough of a job to pay their expenses). The whole purpose of step 1 is to establish trust.

Step 2
Intoxicate – The friend introduces drugs and /or alcohol. If the targeted teen has already experimented the groomer will increase the frequency of use and ease of access. 

Step 3
Alienate – The groomer will be very polite in front of the parents, but when alone the groomer is constantly trying to drive a wedge between the teen and the parents. “Your mom is such a b¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬…… She treats you like a child.” “Your father grounded you for that? He never lets you do anything.” “I bet you can’t wait to get out that house.” 

Step 4
Isolate – The groomer will begin to slowly separate the teen from their other friends and introduce new friends.

Step 5
Desensitize – The groomer knows this really cool guy. He is an up and coming rapper. Sometimes he works as a DJ at some of the coolest clubs in town. He is fun, has money, and is always on his way to a party. After a friendship develops he offers to get your teen into a club even though she is underage. He is working a private party and can put her on the guest list. That happens a time or two. The teen gets to sneak a few drinks at the club and hang out with a group of people who are four or five years older. The people at the club fawn over the teen and make her feel very special. The newest friends reinforce the same idea the groomer started. “Your parents are the worst. If you ever need a place to stay just give me a call.”

A cool girl is introduced. She is nice, fun, and pretty. She has her own apartment and seems to have money. A new friendship is developing. Then it is revealed that the cool girl is a dancer. She dances in videos and makes appearances at clubs with the rapper and gets paid for it. Can you believe that? Life is so easy when you are pretty and cool. Who needs college or parents? 

Step 6
Capitalize – They take advantage of the right opportunity when it presents itself. It could be the teen getting into trouble or fighting with the parents. Or it could be an offer to take a ride with the rapper right after the 18th birthday. It happens with younger teens too, but a girl who just turned 18 is a real target. Your daughter goes to a party and disappears. If she is 18 law enforcement is handcuffed. Unless there is clear evidence of a crime, she is just another young adult who decided to leave home. If the people who led her away can keep her away for three weeks the chances you will ever see your daughter again decrease significantly.

It’s frightening and it’s scary. There are no stereotypes for race, creed or socioeconomic status. They are looking for the vulnerable. They will take their time and work their victim. It can happen to any of us. Be smart. Be aware. Be safe!

Please share this with your daughters AND sons. Teach them to be smart and aware.

Next blog post, part 2…. How Predators Use Social Media to Lure Victims

Hint: Snapchat is dangerous and are those apps on their phone really what you think they are?