A student in the gifted and talented classes, twelve-year-old Carrie was walking home from middle school when a man in a fancy car drove up beside her and told her she was pretty. She didn’t tell her parents that every day he met her after school, gave her small gifts, and made her feel special. After six months she finally agreed to get into his car.

When the door closed, he drove her from state to state. As a victim of human trafficking, she prayed someone would rescue her.  

The Tim Tebow Foundation asked Congress for legislation to provide dedicated, specially trained victim identification analysts equipped with cutting edge tools to modernize the International Child Sexual Exploitation database and partner with Homeland Security and Interpol to rescue children like Carrie.

Child Sexual Exploitation In Our Backyard

Theresa Flores was blackmailed by a local trafficking ring and sexually exploited for two years as a high school student. Unlike many who are taken, all the while, Theresa lived at home.

Tebow urged lawmakers to take action against child sexual exploitation by funding a rescue team. In his testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance, Tebow tearfully read a letter from a young abuse victim raped for seven years. He called for enhanced capability to locate more than 50,000 unidentified children currently abused, raped, and tortured.

According to the Tim Tebow Foundation, 156 images of child sexual abuse are shared, uploaded, and distributed across the internet every second. The harm inflicted on these young victims, created in God’s image, is devastating.

Today there are more slaves in the world than at any time in history. Not legal in any nation on the globe, modern slavery particularly targets teens and pre-teens. Congressional findings report that in the United States alone, an estimated 300,000 American children are exploited yearly.

The Key Players in Child Sexual Exploitation: Victims, Traffickers, and Johns

One aspect of child sexual exploitation is human trafficking. There are three players in human trafficking: the victim, the trafficker, and the john.

  1. The average victim is 11-years-old, 80 percent are girls, and 70 percent are exploited for commercial sex.
  2. Also called pimps, traffickers blackmail, coerce, deceive, force, manipulate, and threaten those who are vulnerable.
  3. Johns are the men who pay to have sex with a child sex slave. Their desire is the demand in this economic supply and demand relationship between trafficker and john. Johns are husbands and fathers who are financially able to pay for the use of a slave, and they are addicted to pornography.

Child Sexual Exploitation Targets The Vulnerable

According to Dr. Earl Henslin, pornography can rewire a brain, transforming a person from our natural role as protector to predator.

Scripture speaks of the impact of what we allow into our minds in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Traffickers and johns victimize a child every 30 seconds. Past and present, slavery is not based on race, color, or religion. Those who exploit the vulnerable find people who can be easily coerced, forced, manipulated, and exploited.

  • people without strong support networks
  • the disadvantaged
  • those in poverty
  • the lonely
  • children traumatized by abuse
  • neglected people
  • those that hope for a better future

Identify And Rescue

Parents, educators, coaches, law enforcement, medical, and counseling professionals as well as siblings, peers, friends, neighbors, and fellow community members can trust their intuition when something appears not right in the life of another.

Communities benefit when professionals and neighbors protect all children in the neighborhood by being alert to red flags including

  • abrasions around the wrists, ankles, or neck
  • bruises or other signs of physical abuse
  • frequent body soreness
  • inability to go to another place without someone’s permission
  • fear 
  • depression 
  • change in behavior
  • sudden drop in grades 
  • new set of friends, particularly older ones who are unfriendly and distant to adults
  • new cell phone, expensive jewelry, or other items their family could not afford
  • frequent, unexplained absences from school
  • often truant 
  • dropping out of activities they used to enjoy
  • out in public without identification or money
  • chronically runs away from home
  • hungry or malnourished
  • inappropriately dressed, such as a child who may be hiding marks by wearing long sleeves in hot temperatures
  • has a noticeably older boyfriend

Keeping Your Children Safe

Be certain you have your children’s computer and phone passwords. Make sure they understand you can and will check them regularly.

  • Have conversations with your child about who they communicate with.
  • Make sure they understand they can and should always say no to anything that makes them feel uncomfortable and don’t want to do.
  • Make certain you or another trusted adult always knows where they are.
  • Have them always carry identification.
  • Install, or enable GPS tracking on their cellphones.
  • Limit overnighters.

Zero Tolerance for Bullies or Abuse

Quite the opposite of the safe home parents work to create, today’s headlines make us aware of the necessity to be alert. Exploiters groom children who are insecure, lack confidence, have little adult supervision, are needy for attention, and are easily bullied. We must be ever vigilant and protect our children without apology.

When something or someone causes a check in your spirit or a twinge in your gut, remove yourself and your child from that relationship or setting.

Give your child permission to alert you anytime she feels uncomfortable. You may never know why something felt odd, but you will be thankful you took precautions.

Ask questions, know your child’s world and interests.

Occasionally check your child’s phone contacts, digital messages, and computer history. This is not because we don’t trust our child. Nor do we blame children. A child does not understand when someone is setting him up or grooming her to be taken advantage of.

Know who your child spends time with, and have the address and phone number to every place where your child goes.

Be involved in school activities. View your child in the school setting and know how they interact with others. Occasionally drop in unannounced at school and extracurricular activities.

Be the parent who takes kids to and from activities, school, and friends’ homes.

Be the home where your children and their friends hang out.

Listen to your child. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see anything that needs your attention.

Pray daily for your child.

Regularly spend time one on one with your child. Find an activity you both enjoy and hear your child. (For more information about protecting your child, see Slavery in the Land of the Free: A student’s guide to modern day slavery by PeggySue Wells)

We Can Make A Difference

On her way to work, a woman noticed a change in the curtains at a home that was unoccupied. “I don’t know if this is important,” she said when she phoned the police, “but wanted to let you know.” Officers investigated the address and rescued a girl who was being trafficked because a local resident noticed something amiss.

We abolished slavery once. It happened because people dared to passionately care about others. Slavery can once again be stopped despite the fact that the exploitation of humans has taken a new and more insidious form.

We are the solution.

Sharing neighborhoods, cities, nations, and the globe, we can make a difference by protecting ourselves, caring for our family, and supporting those in our circle of influence.

If you suspect someone needs help, intervention, or rescue

  1. If appropriate, ask the child if he or she needs help
  2. Share your concerns with someone with authority in the situation such as a school counselor, teacher, pastor, youth leader, or the child’s parent
  3. Alert the local authorities when you see something that looks like it may be trafficking or exploitation
  • Call the human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888 when you suspect a child is in danger or being trafficked.

Understanding Child Sexual Exploitation and Its Impact

Cherishing and guarding our young ones from abuse and child sexual exploitation has never been more important for our families and our nation. If you know a child is lonely or vulnerable, help get the boy or girl plugged into a supportive and safe community. Partner with others who are working to protect children including the Tim Tebow Foundation and Focus on the Family.

“I’ve had the privilege of playing for a lot of sports teams in my life,” Tebow said. “And on almost all of them, we’ve had incredible resources to give us a better chance at winning a game, something that ultimately, as much as we care about it, doesn’t matter.” 

Tebow urged Congress to advance legislation that would create a position focused on victim identification within law enforcement and the funding to deploy these analysts around the world. “Why would we not give as much, if not more resources,” he said, “to the frontline heroes that are going after the most vulnerable boys and girls on the planet?”

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” Proverbs 24:11-12.  

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