We know the feeling well.
When this issue hits you, it hits you hard, and your first thought is: “What can I do to help?”
By choosing to learn more about this issue, you’ve already taken the first step towards building a better world for children, one where online child sexual exploitation has been eliminated. But before we get to live in that world we have a lot of work to do.
The good news is that there are tangible things you can do today to make a meaningful difference in reaching victims of child sex trafficking faster and prevent trafficking in the first place.
Join us. Roll up your sleeves and let’s get to work.
Here’s what you can do right now to help defend children from child sex trafficking:
1. Talk to your kids about sextortion and grooming
A recent New York Times article highlighted that even video games designed for young children can house predatory grooming—a tactic used by online predators to coerce children into sexual exploitation. Through grooming, an adult may initiate a conversation through in-game chat with a child and develop a relationship to build trust over time before requesting or sharing sexual content.
Grooming often goes hand in hand with sextortion, which is the threat to reveal intimate images in order to coerce victims—often into creating more abusive content or eventually becoming groomed into in-person exploitation like trafficking.
It’s a conversation that needs to happen, and there’s no time to waste. The good news is Thorn for Parents offers usable tips for parents who are concerned about their kids growing up while navigating online risks.
The most important thing? Try to keep a level head and avoid shaming and blaming. Online predators use sophisticated technology and psychological tactics to coerce the most vulnerable children. Keep that in mind when you have this conversation.
2. Report trafficking activity and abusive content
Technology has allowed for the proliferation of online sex trafficking and the abusive content that can often accompany it. If you come across any of this content, you have friends in this fight.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Kids (NCMEC) acts as the national clearinghouse and reporting center for child victimization, including fielding over 10,000 reports of child sex trafficking last year alone. If you have evidence of minor sex trafficking or have encountered related abusive material, you can call 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678) or use the Cyber Tipline.
We’ve also worked with Polaris to develop a textline shortcode that those in need of help can use to discreetly connect with resources, simply by texting BeFree to 233733. Polaris also offers support via phone and email.
Even if you don’t have anything to report, sharing the above numbers with your social networks can help to raise awareness of these options. 90% of minor sex trafficking victims reported that they still had access to social media during their abuse. You never know who you might reach with critical help.
3. Talk to your representatives about child sex trafficking legislation
At the intersection of technology and child sex trafficking, legislation can and must be a part of the solution.
Educate yourself on local, state, and federal laws around child sex trafficking, and get to know your representatives at all levels of government. Ask them what legislation they’re working on to protect children from online sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.
And you don’t have to wait outside their offices or get ahold of their cellphone numbers to do this—social media is a powerful platform for reaching your representatives, too. If there’s a critical mass of messages on the same topic, they will listen.
In fact, 80% of congressional staffers say that just 10 social media posts on a particular topic would cause their office to take note.
Your voice is important, and your representatives are waiting to hear from you.
4. Donate to organizations addressing child sex trafficking
This issue is deeply complicated, and addressing it successfully requires a variety of approaches from a spectrum of organizations.
Whether building technology to address child trafficking, providing opportunities for exploited children to connect with resources, equipping survivors with ongoing support, developing public policy or any of the multitude of efforts being pointed towards ending child sex trafficking, hard-working organizations can use your help.
If you’re not sure where to start, look at local organizations that are making an impact in your community. We’ve compiled a list of organizations in every state, but there are many more out there that can put your donation dollars to good use.
5. Stay informed and share what you’ve learned
In addition to being a challenging topic to talk about, child sex trafficking is an issue that’s constantly evolving, requiring flexibility and continued learning.
Sign up for our emails below and follow Thorn and our partners on social media to stay updated on the issue. And, perhaps most importantly, take the courageous step of being the person in your social network that is willing to talk about the issue. You can be proactive or you can wait for others to come to you, but simply being open to having the conversation is an important step that will lead to real change when enough of us accept the challenge.
There are many ways to help, and no matter how you choose to get involved you’ll be building a better world—one where kids can be safe, curious, and happy.