Special Education & Sex Trafficking for
Why care about sex trafficking? Why be aware of it?
According to the Youth Experiences Survey (YES), “the average age of [first] sex trafficking experience was 13 years old” (Roe-Sepowitz, 2020). Many minors are not being identified as being a sex trafficking victim, because it is assumed that sex trafficking does not happen within our communities/cities. It can also be tricky to identify sex trafficking when it isn’t clear what red flags people should be looking for.
Risk factors to sex trafficking are :
- Child abuse
- Parental alcohol and drug use
- Domestic violence, neglect, and abandonment
- Running away from home
- Homelessness, economic needs, and poverty.
- A minor could be experiencing one or more of these risk factors and not be a sex trafficking victim, but they become increasingly vulnerable.
Within schools, red flags that staff can watch for are the following. If the child is experiencing one or more of these symptoms more than their usual behavior, pull them aside and check in with them.
- Academic | Unengaged in class; grades slipping; unengaged in extracurricular activities; missing class/skipping school; answering phone in class
- Behavioral | Avoids eye contact; more tired than usual; gaps in memory
- Physical | Visible scars/bruises; unusual tattoos; appears to be malnourished; signs for drug or alcohol use; materialistic items (expensive clothing, expensive backpack/purse, new phone, nails painted, etc.)
Is always wearing the same piece of jewelry, such as a necklace, bracelet or ring that has a charm or symbol on it. Rather than a tattoo to brand a victim, traffickers may also use “soft branding” by having their victims wear their brand on a piece of jewelry. The student will be very attached to the piece of jewelry, as it is seen as a gift/token from her “boyfriend” and is a sign of loyalty to him.
- Emotional | Low self-esteem; sudden outbursts of anger; showing signs of depression, anxiety, fear
- Social | Older romantic partner; lives in unstable housing; isolating or distancing self-more than usual