It's time for our December In the Know: A Survivor's Perspective blog! This one is written by Kyra Doubek, and she has some great advice for parents and educators to help safeguard their kids from trafficking!
"There are a variety of topics I could write about or speak to as a survivor working in this movement to end commercial sexual exploitation. It’s difficult to discern what people should know most. It’s a lot of pressure to choose wisely.
I wish people would understand how much it isn’t a choice. The public hides this issue from our most vulnerable population: teens and pre-teens. In a few short weeks, I will be participating in “The Game of Life” as a guest presenter at a human trafficking workshop to middle- and high-school-aged students. My topic: “We Are Free.” When I visited the Youth Board, run by the Kent Police Department, I wanted to ask these “youth experts” what they already knew.
Overwhelmingly, I heard “nobody really tells us what it is.” It’s some “big secret” that we keep from our children to protect their innocence. Now, I can hear some well-meaning parents saying “of course we don’t want to talk about prostitution with our kids.” Please hear me: we are doing our youth and generations to come a disservice by shielding them from the realities of prostitution and trafficking. This strategy will backfire, because they are the most at-risk of being trafficked.
I’ve provided direct services to survivors, followed up on runaway reports, and seen and compiled statistics specifically on this issue. Many human trafficking victims that “get out of prostitution” in their 30s/40s were commercially sexually exploited children that received no help or exit services. They are lucky to have made it so long, because many of us don’t escape with our lives.
People don’t talk about that though. They don’t want to hear that this system of violence begins when people are children ... that there was never “choice” to begin with. Is our society to blame because we missed crucial pieces in the socialization and education process? Are we caring for at-risk populations, like our foster youth, as we should? Do we provide comprehensive services to victims of abuse so that they can heal and not be re-exploited?
The “choice” argument is obsolete. The law clearly states you can’t choose prostitution as a minor. That’s trafficking.
We talk about Internet safety, but do we really teach about Internet safety? Do we talk about the levels of exploitation? It seems we give topics like healthy dating, self-respect, domestic violence and Internet safety little or no attention. I’ll say it for the people sitting in the back: these topics matter. These are fundamental life topics, and it’s time we wake up and put forth our best efforts into prevention work. Damage control will never fix what’s broken in our system, and we are scurrying about with limited funds to fix preventable problems.
I will admit, I’m nervous about my upcoming presentation, mostly because I don’t want parents calling me, or my boss upset. It’s a dream of mine to work myself out of a job. Prevention is the key.
When I was 28 and had been out of “the life” for just over two years, I reached out for help. The Organization for Prostitution Survivors was instrumental in helping me rebuild myself emotionally, spiritually and professionally. I knew I had been a prostitute as an adult. That much was clear.
It was in that time that I learned as an adult that I had been trafficked as a child. If, as an adult, I didn’t know what trafficking was, surely at 15, when I was first trafficked, I did not. Healthy relationships were never discussed in health class 15 years ago. The closest we got to learning anything about such topics was the differences between boys and girls. The second that your health teacher writes under the column for boys that they are “ruffer” than girls (misspelling it) … there is a problem.
We are doing better, but we aren’t keeping up with the social-emotional-psychological needs of our kids. I know, because I meet so many youth that have experienced more brutal violence, hurt, and pain than any one person every should have to experience in a lifetime.
As a survivor, here is my plea: please be more honest with your kids. Help them, empower them, and give them everything they could possibly need to be healthy and safe. Your kids are smart and can handle age-appropriate information about this topic. Show them healthy. Teach them the truth about human trafficking. Together we could end this.