• Human Trafficking Happens Everywhere – Protect Your Teenager | Cathy Knauf | Episode 75

  • Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal activities. Traffickers generate approximately $39 billion annually on the exploitation of children alone. This isn’t just happening in third-world countries, it includes teens from all 50 states and from families like yours. Join Mighty Parenting podcast host Sandy Fowler as she interviews Cathy Knauf from the Southwest Michigan Human Trafficking Taskforce. They discuss the problem and how it affects our teens. They cover warning signs so we can recognize if a child we know is being trafficked as well as making sure we know how to protect our children.



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    A Favorite Quote from the Show: 

    “Our children don’t understand this one moment is changing their whole life.”

    High Points of Our Reflections on Human Trafficking:

    human trafficking happens everywhere - protect your childThe biggest misconception about human trafficking is believing it doesn’t happen here. We don’t believe it can happen in my city, state, country, community.

    There are two types of human trafficking: commercial sex trafficking and labor trafficking. 

    Myth: Trafficking is always a violent crime and victims are kidnapped or moved to other locations. The truth is that it’s usually a psychological crime. Victims are groomed over time and often left in their own home.

    Myth: Most human traffickers are strangers. The truth is that victims are often groomed by people they know.

    Teresa Florres’ family moved to an upper middle class suburb of Detroit, Michigan when she was 15. Her family is financially well off, she was an athlete, a Christian, and was not allowed to date. She was groomed by a young man at school and was forced into sex trafficking. Teresa was stuck in that world until her family moved because of her father’s career. (Hear Cathy share her human trafficking story on the podcast or read her book The Slave Across the Street.)

    Warning Signs that someone is being sex trafficked include weight change, slipping grades, dropped sports, physical scars, scrapes, or bruises, and being tired. When teens isolate themselves or their friends drop away it’s certainly time to investigate. Similarly, if their id is “lost”, or they own an additional cell phone check things out.

    Myth: Only women and girls are sex trafficked.

    Kids are groomed online through social media and online games. They can also be groomed in person through touching and emotional support.

    Human trafficking is the second largest criminal activity in the world and happens across the U.S.

    We assume sex trafficking only affects girls but boys are trafficked too. Traffickers often use pornography as a lead-in to trafficking boys.

    Vulnerable populations are trafficked at a higher rate. These kids often suffer emotionally or need logicistical help. As a result, traffickers can meet these needs and build a relationship. Some of our most vulnerable populations include runaways, foster children, the homeless, those with a disability, and the LBGTQ community.

    They don’t understand this one moment is changing their whole life, therefore, they don’t make good decisions.

    Have a conversation with your teen. Be honest with them and tell them about the resources which are available to them. Most certainly, warn them not to make new friends online.

    If you suspect a child is being trafficked, certainly you should talk to them. They are likely not to share the truth right away although this can change as you communicate. If it’s your child, tell them you are worried about them therefore you need to see their email, computer, phone and social media. Additionally, you can call the national hotline, contact your community task force, or contact your local YWCA.

    Teach your child that if they think someone is being trafficked they can go to a trusted adult. Help them identify an adult they would talk to such as a parent, teacher, counselor, coach, religious ed leader, etc. Also be sure they have the national hotline number in their phone. They can call 888.373.7888 or text 233733.

    Resources Mentioned in the Show:

    U.S. Departement of Education Human Trafficking Fact Sheet

    The Slave Across the Street: The True Story of how an American Teen Survived the World of Human Trafficking

    Kindle version of The Slave Across the Street

    Slavery Footprint

    Additional resources shared by our guest:

    A powerful video for parents

    Polaris Project

    Dept. of Homeland Security Blue Campaign 

    National Human Trafficking Resource Center 

    Our Guest:

    Cathy Knauf founded the SW Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force in 2012 to educate and bring awareness to the communities of southwest Michigan about human trafficking and to develop a plan for a victim-centered approach using a multi-disiplinary team and a collaboration of law enforcement, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations and concerned citizens. The organization has  raised the funds to train over 30% of all law enforcement in the state of Mi on human trafficking.

    Cathy presented the human trafficking training resources, through the Safe Action Project, to the Michigan Lodging And Tourism State Board and it was adopted state wide. Together with the Michigan Women’s Commission, the Taskforce brought this program to the state of Michigan to the hospitality industry which has aided in the identifying of traffickers.

    To learn more or connect with our guest visit https://swmihumantrafficking.org