Tag: lonliness

6 Things to do to Protect Kids From Sex Traffickers

By Deanna Johnson Cauthen

Deanna Cauthen is as a contributing writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Decatur Dispatch and Tucker Times news magazines, publications of Hometown Newspapers.

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Recently, while shopping at our local supermarket, my daughter Adrianna was approached by a young, attractive, African-American woman wearing sunglasses, in the produce department,. I was several feet away when I looked over and noticed the uncomfortable expression on my daughter’s face, so I stopped what I was doing and walked over to her.

I told the woman that I was Adrianna’s mother and asked her what she needed. At that point, she immediately took off without giving me an answer. Surprised, I turned to my daughter and asked her what the woman wanted. She told me that the woman asked her age and said that she would like to get to know her better. She also asked her if she had a family and whether or not she live with them.

It took me a few minutes to process what had just happened, but when I did, my heart was gripped with fear because everything about the transaction pointed to sex trafficking. I was shocked and horrified.

Never in a million years could I have imagined that my daughter would come face to face with a sexual predator. Even more surprising was that the person who approached her was a woman. We proceeded to the front of the store and reported the incident to the manager and then to the police.

What exactly is sex trafficking? Sex trafficking occurs when someone uses threats, violence or other forms of coercion to convince children and even some adults to participate in sex acts against their will.

Sex trafficking is a big business and it thrives because there is a serious demand. It’s happening not only in the United States, but globally. According to numbers released by the National Human Research Trafficking Resource Center, human trafficking produced $150 billion in revenue worldwide.

With these facts in mind, it’s imperative that we as parents, and the community at large, educate ourselves on what things what can be done to combat this problem. Although this is by no means a conclusive list, here are six things we can do to protect our own children and the other children in the community.

  1.  Take time to connect with your children.

As parents, sometimes we get caught up with our own problems and become emotionally unavailable to our children, many times without meaning to do so.  We need to, however, take deliberate actions to connect with our children on a daily basis.

You’ve probably heard people say that quality time is more important than quantity, but that’s not true. Kids need both quantity and quality time. This means talking with them and asking open-ended questions and not just talking at them and barking out orders.

Sexual predators are looking for children who feel disconnected and who lack supportive families. It’s not enough to say ‘I love you’. Your kids need to feel and know that you are there for them.

  1. Set boundaries and model healthy behavior.

Your children are watching how you handle problems and interact with others. A few months ago, I was in a store with my daughter when a young man became agitated with me and started exhibiting threatening behavior. I immediately went and found a manager and told him about the situation. I asked him to walk me and my daughter to our car, which he did, and he stayed with us until we drove away.

The lesson my daughter learned that day was when you need help, ask for it. You don’t have to go it alone. She also learned that it was important to trust your gut and honor your own senses. They need to know that if they feel uncomfortable, they have the right to protect themselves, but they can only do that if they see that kind of behavior being modeled at home.

  1. Stay informed and alert.

When I posted the incident that happened in the store on Facebook, there were several of my friends who did not realize that sex trafficking was such a big problem. This tells me means that we, as a community, have some catching up to do when it comes to getting informed about this issue.

It’s worth mentioning again that the sexual predator that approached my daughter was not some big, scary man, but a charming, attractive, young woman.  According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, about four in 10 human traffickers throughout the globe are female, dispelling the general perception that sex trafficking is a male-dominated industry.

Becky McDonald, the founder of the Michigan-based nonprofit Women At Risk International, recently spoke to an audience at the World Affairs Council of Palm Beach about sex trafficking. “The face of trafficking, often the actual trafficker who is doing the sale of that person against their will, is a female”, said McDonald.

Sex trafficking can take place through online contact as well, so pay close attention to your children’s internet accessible devices. Do periodic, random cell phone and tablet checks and monitor other internet activities.

With the internet literally at our fingertips, we can arm ourselves with the information we need and become a part of the solution to this problem. Understanding the nature of sex trafficking and knowing what to look for, can not only help your child, but other children in the community, as well. The FAIR Girls Organization and the US Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign are two of many good online resources.

  1. Don’t assume that your child is immune from this type of activity.

As I mentioned previously, sex traffickers are looking for children who are lonely, isolated, depressed and who have a weak family structure, but don’t assume that because your child comes from “a good home” that they are not susceptible.  Depending on what’s going on in the home at the current time, along with other factors like school and friendships, your child’s emotional state may be more fragile than you think.

Although I was almost sure that my daughter would never have willingly gone with this woman, I used the situation as a time to take her emotional temperature. I asked her how she felt about the incident that had just happened and about other things going on in her life to make sure that I wasn’t missing anything.

  1. Help them develop a plan of action to use if they’re confronted by a predator.

When we got home, my daughter, husband, and I talked about the experience at the store. First, we reassured her that she did nothing wrong and that what happened wasn’t her fault in any way. Secondly, we discussed a plan of action in case this situation or something similar were to happen again. Below are some specific courses of actions we advised her to take.

  • Walk away from the person. Remember, you don’t owe a stranger anything and you don’t have to be polite to a person who you think is dangerous.
  • If they persist, look them in the eye and firmly say, ‘I am not interested’ and continue to walk away and distance yourself from them. Don’t engage them in a conversation or give out any personal information.
  • If you are in a store or another place of business, get help. Ask for a manager or proceed to a security guard or police officer and notify them about the situation.
  • Stay with a responsible adult until help arrives.
  • Call or tell your parent or guardian about the incident so that they can make an official report with the local authorities.
  1. Provide support for at-risk kids in your neighborhood during the summer break. Unfortunately, summertime is a prime time when sexual predators are looking to recruit. They know that children are out of school which gives them more access. Additionally, there are many parents who cannot afford proper childcare and who leave children home alone with nothing to do and little supervision. These kids are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking.

If you don’t already do this, talk with your neighbors and get to know them. Form a network to help those parents who might not otherwise be able to afford childcare. If you can afford it, sponsor a child for a week or two of daycare or offer to take turns watching each other’s kids.

Look for the warning signs of child sex trafficking including new tattoos (pimps use this as a way to brand victims), is withdrawn, depressed, or distracted, and signs of physical abuse such as burn marks, bruises or cuts. You can visit the Shared Hope International website for a more comprehensive list of warning signs. As the ancient, African proverb says, “Remember, it takes a village to raise a child”.

Embracing the Gift of Singleness

By Deanna Johnson Cauthen

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Some of you may be wondering why a happily married woman of almost 16 years is writing an article about being single. Well, the truth of the matter is, I haven’t always been happily married.  

I will spare you the sorted details, but let’s just say that my first marriage of 10 years did not work out, and at age 30, I was facing divorce along with the daunting task of supporting three young children. I had gotten married at the tender age of 20 years old, so I basically had been in a relationship all of my adult life and the idea of being single was not only scary but repulsive.  After all, who wants to be single, right?

I spent the first several months of my separation dreading singleness and living in denial. I  hoped against hope that things would work out with my former husband. It didn’t. After two years of being separated, my divorce became final and slowly the reality of the situation began to set in.  I was, now, unmarried, and the question became how was I going to handle it?

Well, the good news is that I not only survived, but I thrived during my time of singleness. The very thing that I despised, ended up being one of my life’s greatest gifts because it challenged me to do several things that up to that point I had not been doing.

Below are seven things I learned during my time as a single person. I encourage you to take some time and consider each of them to see how you can incorporate them into your life.
 

  1. I embraced my community.

During the five years that I was single, I discovered that there were a wealth of people who wanted to be there for me. Not only did I have a biological family who cared about me, but I had a church family which loved and helped me in practical ways. I  also began to talk to and form close, meaningful relationships with my neighbors, most of whom were older, and they nurtured me and my children.

Singleness does not have to equate to a life sentence of loneliness and relegate you into the shadows of society. Community is all around you–it’s your family, your church, your neighbors, the lady at the grocery store, the kid walking down the street. And, remember, being in community is a two-way street. It’s not just about getting support. You need to be giving back, as well. Consider becoming a volunteer with an organization. Start reaching out to the people around you and they will reach back.

  1. I engaged my brain and helped myself.  

One of the first decisions I had to make as a single mom was where I and my kids were going to live. I had a little money in savings, and with the help of my parents, I was able to purchase my first house. As a new homeowner, I was faced with fixing and maintaining things on a regular basis. I learned how to paint walls, repair broken window panes and screens, patch holes in the sheetrock, plant a garden, and a host of other things. I also learned how to make a budget and manage the money for my household.

Although naturally independent, up until this point, I had not made many decisions on my own. Because I married so young, I basically went from my parent’s house to my husband’s house. Being unattached was empowering because it forced me to stand on my own two feet and think of ways to help myself. It allowed me to tap into my own strengths, make decisions, and value and trust my own thoughts, abilities, and ideas.

  1. I took the time to address unfinished emotional business.

Singleness gave me the time that I needed to work through some of my own underlying emotional issues. There was a reason that my first marriage failed, and although my former husband had serious issues, I married him, which meant I had issues, too. I had entered the marriage prematurely trying to escape the pain of my past, but the marriage didn’t solve any of my original problems. At best, it served as a temporary distraction.

Being alone can feel scary, but resist the temptation to jump into the next relationship before you’re ready. I know people who have done this and it has resulted in a string of failed unions. Do the hard work required to get healthy. If it means getting professional therapy or joining a 12-step support group, do it. You’ll be glad you did.

  1. I stopped looking for people to complete me.

Here’s a news flash: No one can complete you. Only God can do that and there are no substitutes. Does God put people in our lives who can share life’s journey with us? Of course, he does, but that’s very different from the codependent, dysfunctional relationships that are played out in the media.

A friend of mine, who is also a math teacher, told me something a long time ago and I’ve never forgotten it. She said, A half times another half does not equal a whole, but a quarter.” When broken people get together, it just creates more brokenness.

  1. I found an accountability partner.

Like any good pilot, sometimes you need help navigating the journey of your life. This is where a good friend can be a priceless tool. My accountability partner was the person I went to when I was about to make an important life decision and I needed help applying the practical truths of scripture to the situation. Having this component in place was the single most important element for growth in my life.

The trick is finding someone in your life who is strong enough to tell you the truth when you need to hear it, but gentle enough to provide a crying shoulder, as well.  It needs to be someone who is spiritually mature and someone who has proven themselves trustworthy. Ask God to send them to you. He will.

Let me offer a word of caution, though. Because of the advisory role this person will be playing in your life, there may be a temptation to become overly dependent on them or to put them on a spiritual pedestal. Remember that they are just an instrument of grace in the hands of the Master and that God is the ultimate source for meeting your needs.

  1. I was willing to try new things.

During the five years that I was a single woman, I tried and learned more new things than at any of time in my adult life. In some ways, it was better than a college education.

It was during this time that I purchased and learned how to drive a stick-shift car, change a flat tire, ski down a mountain, and own and operate an office cleaning business. In the end, I discovered that I was stronger and more capable than I ever realized and that I had gifts and talents that I didn’t even know that I had.

I once heard it said, “That nothing beats a failure, but a try.” For those of you who’ve been shrinking back from doing the next thing, stop saying, ‘I can’t’ and get out there and try.