Special Education & Sex Trafficking Information for
9th-12th Grade Teachers
What is Sex Trafficking?
According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, sex trafficking is defined as a situation “in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age”.
A person under 18 years of age cannot vote, purchase a gun, or sell their body.
How does Sex Trafficking occur?
Typically, victimization starts out online. Traffickers are looking for public accounts where the user is posting vulnerable posts about themselves, this could be about how much they hate their family or their life, or even posts about wanting to get away. Those posts may be an outlet to let off steam, but it is extremely dangerous to do this when an individual’s profile settings are public, their location services are in public, and personal posts are made about family, home, friends, etc. This is the information traffickers need to identify what makes someone vulnerable and begin a conversation that makes someone feel seen, heard, taken care of, and loved. When a trafficker knows where the individual lives, knows who their family is, and knows what their interests are, traffickers have more power in manipulating individuals and creating threats. If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, remember it is not your fault. Find a trusted adult for help. There are two types of traffickers: Guerilla Pimps and Romeo Pimps.
Guerilla pimps are those who use physical abuse to manipulate individuals and keep them under their control.
Romeo pimps are those who use love to lure individuals in and manipulate them with love and attention. Romeo pimps can turn into guerilla pimps.
What makes someone vulnerable?
Someone could be experiencing one or more risk factors, but it does not mean they are a victim of sex trafficking. They are VULNERABLE to being a victim.
- Child abuse
- Alcohol and drug use in the home
- Domestic violence, neglect, and abandonment
- Running away from home
What do traffickers look like?
Traffickers do not necessarily look like what is displayed in movies. Traffickers look like any other person we may come across. Typically traffickers are known to the victim. Traffickers know personal information about the victim to keep them under their control but there is trust between the victim and trafficker already established. It is less common for traffickers to forcibly take a person off the streets.
Example stories have been modified to protect the victim. This is not a common example, but this situation still happens:
A 16 year old girl ran away from home. She got to the gas station and realized that she wanted to go back home. A guy pulled over and offered the girl a ride. She asked him to take her home and he agreed. When she got in the car she noticed four other guys were inside and they took her to their home.
A more common example:
A 16 year old girl in Colorado got in a fight with her dad and turned to Instagram to vent. Her profile was public and she did not monitor who was following her. She posted about how upset she was and how much she wanted to leave. A guy from another state saw her posts and privately messaged her. The 16 year old and the stranger spent a day online sharing personal information about themselves and venting about life. The stranger drove from New Mexico to Colorado to pick her up. She ran away from home and went to New Mexico with the stranger. They arrived at his house and he was very controlling, he would not let her leave the house, and was physically and verbally abusive towards the victim.
About a week later, the victim was able to share her geolocation with some friends who told her dad where she was. The dad was able to contact the police in New Mexico to help the victim get out of the situation.
What Society Tells Us
Norms of healthy and unhealthy relationships
Many movies and shows today promote unhealthy and even dangerous romantic behavior as being caring, loving, and sweet. However, if many of those romantic situations took place in real life, it would not be interpreted as loving, caring, or sweet. For example, in the TV show You. In You, the main character is an emotionally abusive stalker who resorts to murdering to get the girl to be dependent on him. As the audience, we are listening to his thoughts and reasoning, which we validate his thoughts and actions because we know his reasoning. Would we let one of our friends date a person who is controlling, emotionally abusive and physically abusive?
When TV shows or movies glamorize certain behaviors to be sweet or cute, it can be hard for us to recognize when it is actually abusive behavior.
It is never the victim’s fault.
You should always believe your peers/friends. Peers looking out for peers; friends looking out for friends.
Sometimes it takes friends to spot red flags that individuals don’t see, because “it’s hard to see when it’s you4.” When talking with friends about the situation, they may think that the person is jealous. It can be easy to give up and let a friend continue to date the “creepy TA (teacher assistant)4”, or speak to some guy they met online. As we may think “it’s not my job to get into her business.4” However, “wouldn’t you want someone to get into your business to help you?4” As a friend, continuing to reach out to a friend and be there for them is enough. Remember that it is not the friend’s fault. Don’t forget that teachers, school counselors, and other school staff are there to help. Get a trusted adult’s help.
Red Flags and Healthy/Unhealthy Relationships
Consent means two people agree to engage in an event, such as sexual behavior. Both parties have the right to say no at any time, however, “if a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they are legally not able to give consent.”1 It is important to note when “engaging in sexual behavior with someone who does not or cannot consent [it is considered] sexual assault or rape.” 1 It is also important to note “the gender gap in attitudes [is] very clear2” towards sex and consent between males and females. When dating, it is important to make sure you are asking your partner for explicit consent. Silence does not give consent. There is no look that is consent. A verbal yes, is consent.
Healthy/Unhealthy Romantic Relationships
Intimate Partner Violence.
“Abusive relationships don’t start out abusive. They start out exciting and exhilarating. There’s an intensity of affection and emotion . . . it feels really good10.” However, it is important to note that “it is not how a relationship starts that matters, it’s how it evolves10.” Both parties need to be comfortable with the pace of the relationship, not moving too fast or moving too slow. Whether it is holding someone’s hand or kissing, if someone is not ready to do those things, we must respect them and listen.
Red Flags for identifying unhealthy relationships
As we enter a romantic relationship, it is important to note what makes a relationship feel good and what makes relationships not feel good. Taking the time to learn about the red flags of what makes an unhealthy relationship a green flag that shows characteristics of what a healthy relationship looks like.
OneLove has an extensive list of red flags for unhealthy relationships- many of these characteristics can overlap and they are not characteristics that we want in our romantic relationships. See the following OneLove videos to supplement the descriptions of red flags below, https://www.joinonelove.org/videos/
- Intensity is when a romantic partner is showing extreme feelings and over the top behavior that may feel overwhelming to you9. This can look like a romantic partner is not giving you space, is always wanting to be with you texting or calling you a lot, and showing up wherever you go.
- Possessiveness is when a romantic partner is so jealous that they try to control where you go and who you see9. This can look like a romantic partner telling you who and who you cannot be friends with.
- Manipulation is when a romantic partner tries to control your choices, what you do, and how you feel9. This can look like a romantic partner may try to convince you to move more quickly in a relationship, like hold hands sooner or try to kiss you when you don’t want to.
- Sabotage is when a romantic partner tries to ruin your reputation, achievements, or success9. This can look like a romantic partner not celebrating or congratulating you for accomplishing something.
- Belittling is when a romantic partner does something and says things to make you feel bad about yourself9. This can look like a romantic partner making you feel bad for staying after school to get help on a homework assignment.
- Guilting is when a romantic partner makes you feel responsible for their actions, or makes you feel like it’s their job to keep them happy9. This can look like a romantic partner blaming you for them not being happy.
- Jealousy is when a romantic partner is making us uncomfortable by being more demanding to know where we are going or know what we are doing at all times9. This can look like a romantic partner questioning who we are following online or who we are spending time with.
- Verbal abuse is when a romantic partner makes fun of you that hurts your feelings9. This can look like a romantic partner ignoring us when we ask them to stop making jokes about us that we don’t like.
- Volatility is when someone has unpredictable behavior that makes you feel scared, confused, or intimidated9. This can look like a romantic partner yelling and blaming you for their behavior. After fighting, the romantic partner says sorry. However, this behavior is repetitive and can lead you feeling confused, scared, and uncomfortable.
- Isolation is when a romantic partner keeps you away from family, friends, and other people9. This occurs when the romantic partner does not allow you to spend time with family or friends. This can be tough to recognize as being in a relationship can be exciting. However, if our friends and family make comments to us like, “You’ve been spending a lot of time with your new romantic partner. When can you spend time with me/us?” Hear their concerns and reflect on what is going on.
- Deflecting responsibility is when a romantic partner repeatedly makes excuses for their unhealthy behavior91. This can look like a romantic partner blaming their dishonesty or actions on something else.
- Betrayal is when someone is disloyal or acts in an intentionally dishonest way9. This can look like a romantic partner holds hands or kisses someone else.
Green Flags for Identifying healthy relationships
OneLove also has an extensive list of green flags for healthy relationships – these are the characteristics that we want to experience in our romantic relationships.
- Comfortable pace is when the relationship moves at a speed that feels enjoyable and comfortable for each person9. For example, neither romantic partner pressures each other to do, to be, or to say anything that is not themselves.
- Trust is having confidence that your partner won’t do anything to hurt you or ruin the relationship9. For example, both romantic partners can hangout with friends and family on their own and respect each other to not do or say something that will hurt them.
- Honesty when you can be truthful and candid without fearing how the other person will respond9. For example, it can be hard to have tough conversations, like being ready to have sex or asking how the other person looks — both individuals are there to support one another.
- Independence is having the space to be yourself outside of the relationship9. For example, romantic partners stay connected to their family and friends and support one another to partake in their own activities.
- Respect as you value one another’s beliefs and opinions and love the other person for who they are9. For example, both individuals feel comfortable and safe to share their opinions and to be heard even if they disagree.
- Equality in the relationship feels balanced and everyone puts the same effort into the success of the relationship9. For example, both individuals feel like their needs, wishes, and interests are just as important as the other persons.
- Kindness is that you’re caring and empathetic to one another and provide comfort and support9. For example, the romantic couple listens to each other with open hearts to support and be there for each other.
- Taking responsibility is owning your actions and words. You avoid placing blame and you admit when you have made a mistake9. For example, romantic relationships are not perfect and people do make mistakes. If we have a really hard day and accidentally yell at our partner, remember to acknowledge yelling at them was not kind and that you will work on it.
- Healthy conflict is openly and respectfully discussing issues and confronting disagreements non-judgmentally9. For example, if a disagreement occurs over whose house to go to, think about whose house you have gone to more often and find a solution that makes both parties happy.
- Fun: you enjoy spending time together and you bring out the best in each other9.
Watch the following video on how red flags are portrayed.
Don’t confuse love & abuse:
What is Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse is when another person does something sexual towards another person without consent6. It can happen to anyone, no matter what your gender orientation is. Remember, sexual abuse is also against the law6, so if someone did something sexaully to you that you did not give permission to, speak to a safe adult.
If it is with a friend, that line may feel like it can blur. Manipulation, blame, and pressure could occur, and financial abuse8.
Use of technology to hurt and exploit people.
Sexting, Relationships, and Risks
Online sexual abuse can be hard to identify when someone wants to please a romantic partner. This can occur through texting and online platforms when boundaries are not being respected. It can be hard to say no to a crush when they ask for revealing pictures. Many people think it is “normal” to send pictures of themselves. “It felt kind of good knowing somebody wanted to see [you]. Especially when [you don’t] always feel that good about [yourself].7” Many times, when someone asks for revealing photos, this can lead to more pressure, wanting more, and asking for more revealing photos. When a person wants to draw a boundary and says, “No more,” the perpetrator may threaten them or threaten to share the photos to the school, family, church, and to anyone to pressure the person into sending more provocative photos. This is not consent. If someone is uncomfortable, feeling stuck, and alone, know that they are not alone. Speak to a trusted adult to get help.
What is a safe adult?
A safe adult is someone you trust that will provide support. This could be a parent, sibling, counselor, family member, a teacher, a friend’s parent, etc.
Where Recruitment Occurs
Social Hangout Example
Becky and two friends were shopping at a mall. A young 26 year old guy approached them and asked them to spend a $500 gift card he won from a radio station. The three girls agreed that it would be okay because they were in a mall, others were around and security was there. At the end of the day, one of the girls was picked up by her mom, the second drove home, and Becky took the bus. The young man offered Becky a ride and promised he wasn’t a bad guy. She took him up on his offer and he drove her home. They exchanged instagram names and followed each other online when they arrived at her house. Becky shared about her home life, mom was working double shifts, dad was starting to drink again, and she lost her virginity. After a week, the young guy called Becky and told her that the gift card was fake and that if he didnt pay back what was on the card he was going to go to jail. Becky explained that she didn’t have $500 to give. He told her that she had two options, 1) she would come to a party with him and take off her shirt for $100 or 2) he would tell her parents all the secrets she told him.
We hope that the girl went to her parents and explained how she made a mistake and needed help, but she went to the party.
Case was resolved due to the girl’s younger brother noticing his sister climbing out her window late at night and coming back later. Police were able to get involved due to the brother having a picture of the license plate.
Force: Not applicable.
Fraud: Becky and her friends were tricked into spending the $500 gift card. Becky was tricked into having a friendship with the 26 year old guy.
Coercion: The 26 year old guy threatened to tell Becky’s parents all her secrets.
Issac never had a good relationship with his mom. The guy she was dating was always yelling at him. Isaac’s mom never stood up for him. One day Issac decided to come out to his mom. She was mad and frustrated at him for coming out and kicked him out of the home. Issac didn’t know where to go and he went to a park. An older man approached him and asked him what was wrong. After Issac explained his situation, the older man shared his experience of coming out to his family. Issac was surprised how relatable this guy was to Issac and liked being heard, seen, and validated. When the older man invited Issac to stay at his house, Issac said yes. Over the next few weeks, the older man and Issac decided to date. Overtime, Issac was going to school for fewer days. The school counselor saw him and asked how he was doing. Issac shared that he was living with his boyfriend. When Issac shared some details about his older boyfriend, the school counselor asked what they do together. Issac said, “Oh we do gay things, you wouldn’t understand.” The school counselor and Issac discussed healthy relationships for all romantic relationships. Issac confided that sometimes his boyfriend forced him to do sexaul acts with other men and he was starting to hit him if Issac didn’t do what he was told. If Issac did not do the acts, the older man threatened to kick him out. The counselor worked with Issac to get him a safe place to go for the night.
Force: The older man was forcing Issac to do sexual acts.
Fraud: Issac was tricked into thinking he was living with a kind, helpful man.
Coercion: Issac was worried he was going to get kicked out again.
School Example 1
Some days Sophie was able to drive her parents car to school and other days she had to take the bus and walk home. Lately her dad was needing to drive a lot to work so she had to walk and take the bus to school. Over a few days, a young guy in a nice looking blue car seemed to always pull into the parking lot when she was walking in. She figured it was another student. Eventually the guy started saying good morning to her and asking how she was. It became a daily thing for her and him to say, “Hi!”. One day he asked her if he could drive her to school and take her home. Sophie really appreciated the offer since summer was coming and it was getting warmer outside. Sophie agreed and began getting rides from him. One time he picked her up early from her house and suggested they go get breakfast on him. When they were eating the guy was flattering Sophie and commenting on how beautiful she was. He told her about a quick way she could make cash. He could drive her around and buy her new clothes that she liked. She asked what she would have to do and the guy told Sophie she would have to have sex with others. Sophie was scared, uncomfortable and left the restaurant. When she got to school she told her teacher what happened and Sophie was able to speak to someone for support.
Force: Not applicable to the story.
Fraud: Sophie was tricked into thinking she was only getting rides and getting breakfast.
Coercion: Not applicable to the story.
School Example 2
It has been a week since Brianna moved to a new school in a new city. Starting a new school can be really uncomfortable as she does not know where her classes are, who her teachers are, and she does not have any friends. In math class, Brianna met Chantelle. Chantelle was very kind and helpful to Brianna. Eventually Brianna and Chantelle began going over to each other’s houses to watch movies, dance and sing, and do fun things together. Brianna really wanted to buy herself a new jacket, but did not have the money, Chantelle told Brianna that her boyfriend runs a business and would be willing to hire her. Brianna was really excited to hear about this opportunity to earn some money. When Brianna asked Chantelle what kind of work she would have to do, Chantelle told Brianna that she would be babysitting. A few days later, Brianna showed up to the first house she was going to babysit for, but instead she was forced to have sex with people inside.
Force: Brianna was forced to have sex with strangers.
Fraud: Brianna was tricked, thinking she was going to babysit for money.
Coercion: Not applicable to the story.
What is the safety plan?
What are the programs/organizations/clubs that provide support services?
Identify a safe adult
Who are the adults in the person’s personal circles of support? These supports can be a family member, someone from school, a friend, etc.
- AMAZE Org. (2016, December 22). Consent Explained: What Is It? [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vmsfhw-czA
- VICE News. (2018, September 25). How To Get High Schoolers To Rethink Sexual Consent And Assault (HBO) [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4BxuG5xMD0
- AMAZE Org. (2019, September 13). What Is Sexual Assault? [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_yJZ9G-tt4
- Fight Child Abuse. (2020, April 16). Friends Can Help Stop Sexual Abuse [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3L0iKqCaC0
- Fight Child Abuse. (2020, April 20). Grooming and Sexual Abuse [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0Ujv3stTZM
- AMAZE Org. (2019, September 12). Sexual Abuse Can Happen to Anyone [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STyNOVjgxcM
- Fight Child Abuse. (2020, April 16). Online Sexual Abuse Can Happen [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEivufW2IWs
- AMAZE Org. (2019, May 9). Intimate Partner Violence [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vK3RhRwMwIg
- One Love Foundation. (2021, May 4). Learn to love better. https://www.joinonelove.org/
- Ted X [TED]. (2019, June 11). The difference between healthy and unhealthy love | katie hood [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ON4iy8hq2hM