Editor’s Note: “Brad Riley is the founder and president of iEmpathize, a non-profit that combats crimes against children, with a focus on prevention. Its Empower Youth Program equips young people and adults to recognise issues of exploitation. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
CNN — Across the U.S., there is a movement to prioritise human trafficking prevention in our nation’s communities. Schools, youth service programs, juvenile corrections services, group homes, and other youth-oriented spaces have begun to recognise their great potential to empower youth to stay safe from exploitation.
Because our youth are experiencing exploitation now, we have to prioritise prevention now. We need to prevent it before it grows. And if you want to eradicate the weed of exploitation entirely, you must go for the roots.
Exploitation and human trafficking are not just criminal problems; they are cultural. If they were only criminal then we could relegate our responses to law enforcement. However, our law enforcement partners say that we will never arrest our way out of this problem. That approach is reactive, but we need to be proactive. These issues will only change when our communities step up to ensure they are prevented.
Seeing through the disguise
Exploitative people, including traffickers, use psychological manipulation as the primary means of control. They come into the lives of vulnerable girls and boys online through social media, in-person at places like school and the mall, and through the established relationships that youth have in their families and communities.
Exploiters get to know a youth’s vulnerabilities in order to become the person that the child desires to have in their life. Once trust is gained, exploitation begins. Read more