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Child Abuse: A Precursor to Sex Trafficking
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Statistics show that kids who are victims of abuse at home are at risk of being trafficked. “According to Sandra Morgan, R.N., M.A., the director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice, “65 to 85 percent of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation have a history of child sexual abuse in their own community or home environment.”
Survivor Holly Smith wrote an article for the Washington Times telling her story and urging readers to help prevent child abuse. Part of her story is below.
Find out about the six protective factors that help prevent child abuse and trafficking.
My history of sexual abuse began when I was under the age of ten. To make this trauma worse, my parents instructed me to lie about it when confronted by a social worker at home. My parents seemed to believe that they needed to protect our family from the social stigma associated with child sexual abuse. But by squelching the truth, they in turn sentenced me to an adolescence of misunderstanding and distrust. My resilience and sense of self-worth further diminished.
Without proper counseling, I harbored a secret of past abuse, a secret which slowly ate away at my self-confidence. The day I met my trafficker, I was shuffling behind my friends in the mall. I was feeling angry and depressed. I hated my parents and teachers. At the same time, I was losing my friends in the naturally changing social circles between middle and high school.
My self-esteem had spiraled downward throughout intermediate and middle school. I endured several exploitations by older high school boys and men who prowled the neighborhood and local skating rink for unsupervised girls.
By the time the trafficker spotted me in that New Jersey shopping mall, I had already been broken down.
As traffickers are skilled predators, they look for girls that are withdrawn and quiet. They prey upon minors with emotional brokenness as my trafficker did in late June, 1992, soon after my eighth grade middle school graduation.
Child sexual abuse paralyzes many children with the inability to differentiate a healthy relationship from an exploitative one. I, too, thought that exploitive relationships were the norm. Prior to meeting my trafficker, I was already used to relationships based on deception.