This month, Red Light Rebellion was invited to three schools in the Phoenix Union High School District for tabling events promoting Domestic Violence Awareness month. Paint Phoenix Purpose is an Arizona campaign to raise awareness and create prevention surrounding domestic violence. We were invited to their school events because DV and trafficking are so closely related.
I love talking with students, especially the class clowns and trouble makers. They end up being the most receptive to stranger’s information because they are not afraid to strike up a conversation. Between myself and Gabby, we talked to hundreds of students this month. The two questions we always asked:
Have you heard of sex slavery before?
What do you know about it?
It was surprising how many students have never heard of sex trafficking before! The ones who did were pretty unanimous in their definitions and included at least one of these two things: kidnapping and taken to another country. Few students even mentioned the selling sex part.
“Isn’t it where kids get kidnapped and taken to other countries and forced to do things they don’t want to do?”
That was almost verbatim what every student told me. Students from one school even had a survivor visit and tell her story last school year. They were greatly impacted by this woman’s story, but walked away without understanding how sex trafficking even happens.
What about pimps posing as friends and boyfriends? Or pimps pretending to be modeling agents and rap artists? What about online recruitment? Not one student had any concept of these things. If individuals and organizations want to reach students with education on the dangers of sex trafficking, we must educate them on HOW this happens, not just on what happens. Teenagers understand the “what” to most things, it’s the “how” they don’t understand.
And with this issue, if they do not understand the how they are just as vulnerable as if they did not even know the “what”.