Know the Signs: Sex Trafficking Isn’t just in Big Cities

Trigger Warning

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Ayla Faullin, Reporter/Feature Writer

Child sexual abuse is a serious and tragic problem. In one year alone, over 60,000 cases of children were sexually abused. It can seem like such a distant problem at times, but in truth, the signs may be all around that we ignore. Even worse, 93% of children are abused by someone they already know, not a stranger. This may often follow grooming when an adult builds an emotional connection with a child or teen to manipulate and abuse them. Anyone can be a groomer, no matter age, gender, background, or how well-respected. Many groomers use a power dynamic to their advantage to be in a position of authority over their intended victim. But how can we recognize when someone in authority may be grooming? There are a lot of signs to keep an eye out for, signs that often slip right under our noses, displayed to me by a victim I spoke to, “R,” a person in our community who prefers to remain anonymous.  

A groomer will gain the victims’ trust by showering them with gifts or secrets and giving them a lot of attention to make them feel special. They often try to fulfill a need, seek out victims who feel unloved, and offer a listening ear, concentration, and care. R said she was a middle child, and she felt unloved and lost in the shuffle, and turned to the internet because online, there were people who would pay attention to her and shower them with the love she wanted. Having unexplainable gifts, secrecy, and spending more time away or close to home or on the internet are vital signs. Although the family didn’t always notice, R spent more and more time online, talking to anyone who would give her attention. That was how she ended up conversing with the man that would try to groom her.