Life's okay. Some days you fit in and some days you don't. Some days you have fun with friends and some days you don't. Today you get invited to hang out at the mall for a couple of hours by some really great classmates! You're nervous but you accept. You don't say much but are thrilled at the chance to tag along.
You're 13 (almost 14). You are an average student but lately you haven't been doing so well in math class. It's made your parents mad. At least… that's what they seem to fight about all the time these days: YOU. Your older brother seems to have it altogether. He's a cute, smart, football quarterback, and dates all the pretty girls. Sometimes when mom and dad work late they get him to watch you and your younger brothers, he brings his dates to your house. They don't do much except hang out and giggle and whisper to each other. But sometimes, your brother points at your chest and how it's just starting to 'make boobies'. The girls giggle and laugh and you turn away in shame, running for your biggest, baggiest hoodie. Mom and Dad fight, your brother humiliates you, your grades are dropping, your body isn't changing to be beautiful like other girls', and your world seems scary and out of control. Maybe life's not so okay. Maybe it kind of sucks.
But TODAY… COOL KIDS invite you out to the mall! It's a dream come true! You try and act natural but in all honesty you have no idea how to act. You want to fit in but there's not way on earth you want them to know about your life… about your brother… about your parents.
While you're hanging around the Orange Julius, this older guy comes along. You've seen him around the mall before. He's soooooo cute… perfect hair, sweet leather jacket, to-die-for smile. He's your latest crush! The other girls in the group notice him too. They're crushing on him too and giggle about having him as an older boyfriend.
Today he comes along to talk to your friends! Flashing that dazzling smile, he casually wanders up to your group…
"Hey guys! What's up?" Oh he's so dreamy! You immediately look away. There's no way he would EVER care about you. The other girls seem to have more confidence. They chatter with him easily and your guy friends pretend to be as cool and collected as this hottie.
Except the hottie has already chosen his favourite… you. And you don't even know it yet.
He comes back to the mall everyday when your group is there. At first he doesn't zero in on you specifically, but slowly he makes himself everyone's best friend… and he starts talking with you.
"You look down, hun. What's up?" he WANTS to listen to you! He cares! Finally… someone who cares. "You look down…"
You looked down.
In the first second when Hottie scoped out your group, you were the first girl to look down thus telling him that you were the one with the lowest self-esteem, the easiest target, the one he could most easily exploit. How were you to know? You couldn't have… but he knew.
Before you know it, he's won your complete trust. He buys you smoothies when your group hangs out, lets you use his iPod and even download some of your favourite songs. When your group walks around the mall, he stays close to you and asks you about school and friends and regular stuff. Eventually you start telling him about your brother… the way your dad drinks so much and acts so angry all the time… the way you try and talk to your mom but she's just upset over your bad grades… and you even confide in him about the friends you hang out with. How you don't fit. You tell him everything. He gives you comforting shoulder squeezes, buys you new clothes and even a beautiful locket!
The other girls in the group are GREEN with envy! They start whispering about you behind your back. They text everyone mean things about you and make your life a living hell. Now you go to the mall by yourself and he's always there… waiting and smiling. Usually with a gift. Today he buys a cell phone for you with ALL the coolest features. This guys really GETS you! You're in love with him… if this is what love feels like. You'd do anything for him.
A kiss… your very first. It's perfect!
Touching… but nothing bad. He's such a gentleman.
But then he asks for a picture… with you wearing some really grownup lingerie. You're scared and embarrassed. But he touches your cheek and whispers how he just wants to appreciate your beautiful body. Your insides melt… you'd do anything for him!
Suddenly he has pictures of you — with and without clothes. Suddenly he has all your secrets, pictures and a money debt over you that starts racking up the dollar signs. He's NEVER do bad things to you. He LOVES you!!! Doesn't he? He wouldn't forward all your nakes pics to everyone at school… would he???
Pimps use the most basic of tactics to recruit kids from public places. Sometimes pimps will do the job themselves, other times they use recruiters on their payroll, and other times they use people already trafficked into their possession. Whoever does it, the simple method of targeting the shyest girl in the group is one that is tried and true. This is the girl that can be totally controlled, totally owned, and totally broken.
Trust is gained, often rapidly, through buying gifts and dinners and dates. Sometimes drugs enter the scene at this point, sometimes not. The most important element here, however, is SECRETS. The recruiter has ALL of the girl's secrets now. Not only does she owe him financially for all the gifts he's given her, he has blackmail material galore.
Now having the secret of a immature big brother or an alcoholic father may not seem like huge issues to us through our eyes. But think of those issues through they eyes of a 13 year old girl with a low self esteem. What could be worse than being in debt to a pimp? Having that pimp tell ALL her secrets to everyone she knows… promising her that if she doesn't pay up he'll tell everything to everyone and her social life, her family life, her academic life… it all WILL BE OVER. Most girls that age cringe at the thought.
Trust and "Best Friends Forever" confidantes are vital to girls at this age. Truthfully, many women don't grow out of it. Pimps know this. And abuse it. All because of a few seconds of eye contact… or lack thereof.
Is every stranger at the mall a recruiter/pimp? No. Not at all. If your daughter/sister/niece/friend has low self-esteem, will she FOR SURE get trafficked? No. That's a knee-jerk reaction to our own fear and concern.
This entry is just to show one method people use to recruit girls into the sex trade. If we teach our girls to be street savvy, to be smart about dealing with people, about finding those desperately needed confidantes in safe places… they have a better chance of looking recruiters right in the eye and say "NO THANKS". Even the shy ones… they don't have to talk lots. They don't have to make a big scene. Just… no thanks. And go somewhere safe.
We want our children to be safe and have fun in these safe spaces. There are those who would exploit them and hurt them. So we arm ourselves with as much accurate information as possible, be open and honest with our children, get to know their friends/friends' families in case YOU need to be the safe place to come to, and nurture our own lives so we can be the examples our children can look up to… and be safe with.