Myths and Prevention of Human Trafficking

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January is human trafficking awareness month, and as a full-time professional in the movement against human trafficking, I stand in awe of and gratitude for the work being done in to help keep children safe from harm and abuse. Child abuse prevention work is trafficking prevention, and parents, family, and communities all play a role in the prevention of both.

Myths about human trafficking abound, especially regarding trafficking of minors. People frequently assume trafficking is connected to a kidnapping, possibly by a stranger with ties to organized crime, like happened in the movie Taken. While these cases do happen, the vast majority of child trafficking cases do not happen this way. A child might be trafficked by a caregiver or family member, and when this happens substance use disorders may be involved. A trafficker might pose as a boyfriend to gain trust, and use manipulation to exploit that trust, or violence and threats to force the child into sex or labor.

A trafficker might reach vulnerable youth through offering job opportunities that are “too good to be true,” or through insistence on “modeling” opportunities that play on vulnerable adolescents’ desire to be acknowledged by others. While any child can be trafficked, some children are at greater risk of being trafficked due to specific vulnerabilities like poverty, homelessness, and past trauma. Prior sexual abuse history is correlated to trafficking vulnerability; prior sexual abuse history plus experiencing other forms of abuse is strongly correlated.

Human trafficking is complex. The ways in which children come into a trafficking situation are varied. The individual, interpersonal, community, and societal factors that influence each trafficking case are different. And this kind of complexity means we need our prevention efforts to be equally complex and diversified.

What can we do?

  • Teach children and youth about healthy relationships, consent, and bodily autonomy from a young age.
  • Teach youth how to recognize common tactics exploiters use. Project Starfish has a brief introduction to child sex trafficking on their website: http://projectstarfish.education/Certification/
  • Teach youth how to recognize red flags in job offers and employment opportunities.
  • Support programs that reduce primary child abuse by reducing caregiver stress and teaching healthy parenting skills.
  • Work at alleviating poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity, and advocating for equality and education, and making informed choices about products you purchase, so that all families are less vulnerable.
  • Follow the lead of agencies in your area working tirelessly to prevent child abuse and provide treatment and recovery when it has happened.
  • Be a protective factor in children’s lives by telling them you believe in them, listening when they speak, and letting them know they deserve unconditional love and respect.

No one of us can single-handedly stop trafficking of children, but each of us can play our part through simple, everyday actions that show our commitment to change. Together, we are a force. Together, we can change our communities and our world.

Christy Croft

Anti-Human Trafficking Specialist

NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault

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Disaster Touches Them Too!

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My mom woke me up in the middle of the night.  “April, we have to go.  The water is going to come in our home.”

I lived in Rocky Mount, NC in September 1999 when Hurricane Floyd flooded our home on Bridgedale Drive with over three feet of water.  I was in the seventh grade.  I waded through waist deep water with my mother and father to escape our home.  We spent one night in the shelter at Benvenue Elementary School, and then the next day we reached the home of close friends in Nashville, NC.

When we were finally able to return home several days after the water receded, our home was a disaster.  I can still remember the smell.  I remember sitting on my soaked bed crying over everything we had lost.  Close friends and our church family washed our clothes, cut pictures out of albums to save the pictures, sanitized things we hoped to save, and helped us empty our home.  At first we thought FEMA might help us save our home, but it was determined that our home would never be the same – harmful mold was always going to be an issue.  So eventually, our home was bought out by FEMA.  A portion of Bridedale Drive is now empty lots where homes used to sit.

I realize that my family was far more fortunate than others.  We were together.  We had saved our cars.  We turned to my grandmother’s home for refuge.  But, for the first time in my life, I realized that my parents could not always protect me.  Yes, they did their best to keep me safe.  We got out.  We survived, but the devastation of this hurricane was painful.  It was scary.  It was hard.

As we recover as a community from Hurricane Florence, remember the children.  Remember that many of them feel as lost and as unsettled as their families do.  Where do you turn when the adults in your life are supposed to have all the answers, but they do not?

We turn to one another.  I made it through Floyd with friends who took me for sleepovers, trusted adults who helped get me to school, a church who brought me new jeans and a blow dryer, and a community who step by step found life again.

We have done this before, and we will do this again.  I simply encourage you to remember the children.  Disaster touches them too.

 

By: April Coleman, Pastor of Families and Children, Lafayette Baptist Church, Fayetteville, NC

Impacting Our Community…

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     I was so excited at the opportunity to become a Stewards of Children Facilitator.  As a survivor of child sexual abuse myself I know firsthand the impact that this has on a child and the after effects that it has on those close to the survivor and the community in which they live in.  I am still haunted by feelings of being surrounded by people, suffocating yet no one sees me.  Often thinking I wish one adult would see me and make this stop.  As we have learned from this valuable training often times adults are too frightened to act when they see something suspicious, or they are unaware of the signs of abuse happening or being presented right in front of them.  I set a goal for myself to take this training out and train as many people possible.  Education is power and if we train our community and one child is saved that would be worth all the effort.

My first goal was to train the members of the Fayetteville Police Department.  As a department of over 400 sworn officers who respond to calls daily where children are present, and who work at various events where we are surrounded by children, training these officers was vital to my mission.  Not only do police officers serve and protect the children of our community I know our department has a heart for our communities children.  In speaking with Chief Hawkins about the training, without hesitation she was excited about the training and gave her approval to have the entire department go through the training.  Not only were the 433 sworn officers trained but all of our civilian staff, and dispatchers were trained as well.

My next goal was to train my church family and those in the congregation that work with our children.  Not only do I work with the smaller children I also work with the youth at my church.  The children of Refuge Church are like my church grandchildren and protecting them and any other child who walks through our doors was extremely important to me.  I spoke with my pastor’s wife who is in charge of our children’s ministry and she like Chief Hawkins was immediately receptive and supportive.  I believe so much in this training and the lives it can change that I look forward to continuing to push this training out to all who will invite us, and pray that God will use it to save our children, because it really does take a village to raise happy healthy children, and what we do does make a difference.

Peggy Smith, Police Sergeant

Special Victims Unit/Youth Services Unit
Fayetteville Police Department

Prevention is Key to Stopping Child Abuse in Our Community

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Child abuse is a community problem, one that affects all of us either directly or indirectly.  Research has told us for many years that childhood trauma has long-term negative impact for the child and society.  Adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death in the United States, as well as for poor quality of life.  Not only do these consequences cost our children their happiness and well-being, they cost our community economically.  The rising cost of health care and mental health services, substance abuse, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency and drop-out rates affect all of us and have a negative impact on our community.  Programs that offer parents, teachers, child care providers, coaches and anyone who is in a child’s life tools to provide children with positive, nurturing environments have been shown to reverse that negative impact.  Effective prevention and intervention holds potential for lessening the suffering and trauma experienced by children and greatly reducing these economic costs.

It is easy to feel powerless and overwhelmed in the face of the headlines, but you can turn that anger and frustration into positive action for victimized children.  Here are some positive actions you can start doing today:  Ask if the youth-serving organizations in your community have policies in place that govern how adults interact with youth. Do these organizations offer regular trainings for staff and volunteers so that no one is left wondering what their legal or moral obligation is when abuse is suspected? Do they know how to make a report and whom to call? Do they perform background checks on staff and volunteers? How do they monitor adult/youth interactions? Look to see if an organization displays the Partner in Prevention Seal. Contact the Child Advocacy Center to schedule a Stewards of Children training. Lastly, pledge to not keep silent if you see, hear, suspect or in any way become aware that a child is being abused.  Sadly, we cannot change what has already occurred, but we can learn from the mistakes made and we can all pledge to become better educated and more aware of what goes on in our own community.

The Child Advocacy Center offers many programs to teach the community how to Recognize and Report Child Abuse and Neglect, and how to protect children from sexual abuse.  These programs include:  Darkness to Light – Stewards of Children Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, Chosen, Internet Safety 101 and Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse.  Hundreds of thousands of children are sexually violated by adults they know and trust every year.  More than 90% of the time, the child is abused by someone the family knows and trusts, and that is why it is crucial for every adult in our community to become educated on how to prevent and recognize child abuse and how to make a report if they suspect abuse.  In Cumberland County, contact the Department of Social Services at 910-677-2450 or call 911.

Roberta J. Humphries, Executive Director, Child Advocacy Center

 

 

 

Children are Born with Limitless Possibilities

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Every day a child is born into this world with limitless possibilities. Possibilities that can ensure bright futures for each. We as a community have the opportunity to support, strengthen and encourage each of these children.

Children our are future. There are three things we need to let them know on a consistent basis. “You are important! You are special! You are loved!”

They are important. Who they are matters. They are valued. Encourage them to explore, to learn and try new things, to discover just who you are.

They are special! They are uniquely made and designed with a purpose like no other. They have abilities that only they can do. As they explore, help them to discover just how those unique things about them make them special.

They are loved! They are loved for just being who they were created to be.

As we approach the month of April, we recognize it as being Child Abuse Prevention Month. For over 30 years now, April has been designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month. We want to bring awareness about the impact that child abuse and neglect has on our society as a whole. We do not hide the fact that the numbers alone are too great, and the impact is enormous. However, we don’t want to stop there. We also want to dedicate our efforts in encouraging individuals and communities to come together to support children and families. We all can recognize that a strong, stable family is the foundational piece that will lead to a promising childhood for all children.

The responsibilities of being a parent is enormous. Families facing hardships can be especially hard. Parenting is not about perfection. As we parent, we are to give it our best to provide healthy, nurturing environments for them to grow up in.

During the month of April, Child Abuse Prevention Month, let’s each commit to protect the safety and well-being of every child, while committing to raise a generation of children who can dream more and reach higher as they grow into responsible adults.

Over the next few weeks, you will begin to see blue pinwheels popping up all over Cumberland County. Shining in the sun, the pinwheels represent a bright future for our children and our community. We want all children to live in stable, loving and stimulating environments – at home, at school and in the community.

You can order a Pinwheel Kit today by visiting our website at www.cacfaync.org or coming by our the office at 222 Rowan Street.

Faith Boehmer

Prevention & Volunteer Coordinator

Child Advocacy Center

“What’s love got to do with it?”

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As we celebrate this month of love let us continue to show love, express love and be love.  Children need love and not abuse. Every child deserves a chance to experience the ultimate, surpassing feeling of love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  Love does not dishonor others, love is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

Children need love, as part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, to explain motivation for behavior.  The social needs in Maslow’s hierarchy include such things as love, acceptance and belonging. At this level the need for love drives human behavior. In order to avoid future problems related to loneliness, depression, anxiety, abuse, and human trafficking, it is important for children to feel loved and accepted.

 

According to Prevent Child Abuse America emotional abuse also includes “failure to provide the emotional nurturing necessary for a child’s psychological growth and development.” Failing to provide love, support or guidance is destructive to the healthy development of the brain, and the attachment needed to create strong parent-child relationships.

 

It takes a village to raise a child and we all are a part of this village. I challenge you to find a child among your village and show extraordinary love to them today.

 

So what’s love got to do with it? Click on link to find out    https://youtu.be/BcYlA58E_ss

Jennifer Harrington MSW, LCSW

Trauma Focused Therapist

NC Trauma Bully, LLC

Everyday Hero

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During my early days of motherhood, my husband and I pulled out all the stops to make our newborn son happy.  For months, we juggled swings, bouncy seats, books, toys, bottles, anything and everything to make life easier.  Many days for us were spent just trying to survive.  My husband would look up lullabies on YouTube.  I would sing my favorite songs from the 90’s.  Finally, we discovered the magic of Sesame Street.

Our son was amazed by Elmo, and he loved to hear the Sesame Street songs.  We had found our “sunny day”!  After you listen to these same songs over and over, you begin to have favorites.  I am convinced that no one can sing the alphabet like Usher.  One of the songs that caught my attention was entitled “Everyday Hero”.  This song was performed by Aloe Blacc in season 46.  Sesame Street is dedicated to making children smarter, stronger, and kinder, and this song focuses on teaching our children to be kind.  The concept is that all of us can be an everyday hero simply by being kind.

The chorus says, “You can be an everyday hero, just show kindness and caring each day.”  As an adult, that seemed to be a message I was forgetting.  Sure, I remember to spread good cheer during the holidays, and I have paid-it-forward once in a Starbucks drive-thru.  I realized as I listened to the song that this is exactly what I wanted for my son.  I absolutely want him to be smart, happy, and courageous, maybe eat some green vegetables every now and then.  However, more than anything, I want to raise my son to be kind.  I want him to consider others better than himself.  I want to set an example for him in the way I live my life.

Our world does not always value kindness, and some of you reading this may think it is naïve of me to desire this for my son and for myself.  Nevertheless, I am choosing kindness.  I am holding to generosity and consideration.  That might be a challenge when I fight the 5 o’clock Skibo Road traffic, but if kindness is my ambition for my son, it has to begin with me.

April V. Coleman

Minister of Families and Children

Lafayette Baptist Church