A message to teens: 10 tips for prevention against traffickers

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times

Group of Teens

WASHINGTON, DC, July 26, 2012 – This column is for the tweens and teens out there. Parents should show it to them. Print it out, stick it in their school books, or post it to their mirrors.

There are ways to protect yourself, or your child, from becoming a victim of a sex trafficker. Familiarize yourself with the following ten tips; share them with friends.

Parents, review these with your child and be aware so that if something changes in your teen’s life, you can catch your child before he or she becomes a statistic.

1.  Become media literate.  If you don’t know what “media literacy” means, I encourage you to research the topic. It is important that you understand how business enterprises are sending you distorted messages via the media in order to make a profit from selling you their products.

Read the article on the Washington Times website

A letter to trafficking survivors interested in speaking

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times

Microphone

WASHINGTON, DC, July 19, 2012 – Dear Survivor,

As awareness of human trafficking spreads across America, the interest in hearing personal stories of survival is rising.  Before you agree to share your story, however, I encourage you to consider why you feel compelled to speak out.

Are you feeling nervous or confused about sharing details about your life before an audience?  Are you feeling pressured by an organization or activist to share your story at an upcoming event?  Are you interested in speaking because you think it is the only way for survivors to contribute to the cause?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, I strongly encourage you to connect with a reputable service provider or survivor network for advice and support before speaking.  There are many ways for survivors to be involved in the movement, and it doesn’t have to include sharing your personal story.  Also, keep in mind that speaking on the topic of human trafficking does not have to include sharing your personal story!

Read the article on the Washington Times website

Ten trafficking prevention tips for middle schools

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times

Chalkboard

WASHINGTON, DC, July 12, 2012 – As a follow-up to my article last month listing prevention tips for elementary schools, I’d like to provide the following list of tips for trafficking prevention programs in intermediate and middle schools.

1. Media Literacy. As I have stated before, preteens and teenagers must be educated about the media, especially advertising. Business enterprises are sending distorted messages to teens via the media in order to make a profit. These messages include: You aren’t pretty unless you buy this, you aren’t cool unless you own this, owning this product is more important than anything else, etc. Traffickers understand what popular culture is telling teens and they are using it to their advantage educate kids about the dynamics behind advertising. For more information, please see my article on the importance of media literacy in prevention programs.

2. Coping Skills. Children in intermediate and middle schools are often struggling with a myriad of personal and social issues: bullying, teen pregnancy, peer pressure, poor self-image, etc. Educate students about different ways to cope with stress. A teen who is losing the battle against any one of these pressures can be lured into what a stranger might call “a better way of life.” Coping strategies can include meditation, self-defense classes, exercise, writing, reading, music, sports, crafting, etc.  Also, investigate your local child-focused volunteer organizations (e.g.Big Brothers Big SistersGirls for a ChangeHardy Girls Healthy Women, among many others) and make this list available to students. Having a relationship with a mentor is an excellent coping strategy.

Read the article on the Washington Times website

How the media inhibits FREEDOM from child victims of trafficking

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times

On July 2nd, 1992 I was lured into running away from home with a man who promised me a new life. This man told me that he would introduce me to Hollywood celebrities and that he would help me travel cross-country to experience different cities and different cultures. He said he could help me become a model or an actor or a songwriter. This man promised to change my life and to make my dreams come true.

Within hours of running away from home, this man threatened me and forced me into a life of prostitution. Approximately 36 hours later, I was spotted on the street by Atlantic City police officers. I was arrested, strip-searched, and threatened with juvenile detention until I gave them my real name. Handcuffed to a bench, I waited for my parents to arrive at the station.

I ask you- did I choose to do this? Based on these facts, would you say that I, at 14 years of age, set out to be a prostitute in Atlantic City? No, I didn’t. If I was guilty of anything, I was guilty of naivety.

Read the Article on the Washington Times website