“…sometimes hope keeps us in situations that common sense would have kept us out of like when we hope a toxic person will change, but they don’t. I believe in starting over a thousand times vs. giving in on someone cause they didn’t get it right the first time.” – DeeDee
Working with survivors of child sex trafficking means opening my eyes to a world that honestly, I will never fully understand as someone who has not personally experienced this trauma. With that said, I also get the opportunity to see the world through a different lens by listening to their stories.
Most survivors of child sex trafficking were never taught boundaries. When child sexual abuse is a precursor to sex trafficking for majority of survivors, this often started between the age of 6 to 8 years old. For an average child, these are pivotal years in learning healthy and unhealthy relationships, safe and unsafe people, and boundaries. But when a child is sexually abused at a young age, their brain is not learning these lessons. They never develop the sense of self or self-confidence to deter predators later on.
Fast forward, a few years and a child of sexual abuse becomes a prime target for a trafficker because they have a predisposition to abuse. They do not know how to say “no”. They do not know who is safe and unsafe because the very people that should have been protecting them as a young child were abusing them. They have been fed lies about “this is our secret,” “you don’t want to break-up our family,” or “don’t you love me?”.
What they did learn as a child is how to keep secrets, how to people please, and that their body is not their own. They also develop Stockholm-Syndrome or Trauma Bonding where they have a strong relationship with the person abusing them, so they are less likely to self-identify as a victim. They hope that the person will change. They protect the people that are actually hurting them.
If you believe a child is a victim of child sexual abuse or child sex trafficking, please understand that the child feels shame, fear, guilt, and usually some love toward the abuser. It will take time for a child to feel comfortable revealing the abuse, and they are often terrified of being taken away from the only home they have ever known. They are afraid of uncertainty, and do not know who they can truly trust.
These kids need us to stand in the gap for them, but to effectively do that we must be trauma informed. With 1 in 9 girls now being sexually abused under the age of 18, please take the time to understand child sexual abuse and trafficking in America because it has woven itself into the fabric of our nation.
To learn more, please visit www,SafeHouseProject.org
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or Text "Help" of "Info" to BeFree