Recap: Civilian First Responder Training

April 5 was the Civilian First Responder training in Minneapolis. Becky McDonald, founder of Women At Risk (WAR) International, was our key note speaker, giving us three sessions about trafficking.

As a leading member of the hosting agency, I did spend quite a bit of time volunteering and networking. But I will share some of the take-away’s I got from the training.

Session 1: Overview

Much of the information was not new to me. However, I did appreciate some of her suggestions:

  • If you suspect something or come in contact with a victim, call people you know, not just the hotline. So, get to know your local law enforcement so that you have someone to call!
  • The fastest growing population of traffickers are popular teenage girls who trade unpopular girls for gifts, drugs, money from boys or men (or other girls).
  • There are more children trafficked each day in New York City than all the women who died of breast cancer last year.

We heard also from a survivor from a small farming town in Michigan. Her step father and her mother sold her and her siblings to relatives and other men in the community. It was so a part of her childhood that she thought all children went home to this kind of horror. She was incredibly confused as to how kids at school could act so happy when they went home to that. She thought something was wrong with her for being sad about it. Her mother blamed her for her abuse: “If you weren’t pretty, they wouldn’t want you.” As an adult she tried to get saved, but never felt “qualified.” By God’s grace this woman eventually learned about God’s unconditional grace–that she did not have to be qualified to receive it. She now is an amazing woman of faith and strives to create safe places for other children.

Later, this survivor leader was very frank toward Christians. She said:

“Be real. You want to start a ministry but you won’t even walk out to the girl alone on the street because it’s a ‘bad neighborhood?’ Take a risk. Jesus took risks. Be real outside the building. Be Jesus to the people who irritate you.”

Session 2: Identification and Flashpoints

Much of this session was a step-by-step from inside a resource book that WAR provided the attendees. Generally speaking, the following were covered:

  • If you see something suspicious, think like a detective if you see something. What people are wearing, identifying features, licence plate numbers, etc. Always share the tip–it might be the final piece of a larger investigation.
  • Be the place the kids are at. Develop a relationship with your child’s friends. Ask questions like what they want to be when they grow up. Also ask questions like what makes them feel sad. Keep an ear out for answers that may indicate abuse or vulnerability.
  • Becky also shared the book/awareness campaign: Oral Sex is the New Goodnight Kiss, which she did suggest parents to read (with discretion). It does have some good information about what is going on in youth culture today.
Session 3: Breakout sessions.

I went to one by an elderly couple about parenting. They are parents of a survivor and have developed curriculum out of their experience to train other parents and grandparents on how to keep children from being vulnerable. They shared their story as well as a very brief overview of their curriculum, which was available for purchase. 

I am personally excited to work next to them through the Human Trafficking Coalition.

Session 4: Panel and Q&A.
  •  “Trafficking starts with our words. Teach your kids to speak life giving words.”
  • Challenge to us: If Jesus was downtown, you’d clear your schedule and do everything you could to go down and see Him in person. Men, women, children at risk, homeless people, addicts — they are all Jesus. (Matthew 25:31-46)

Final comments

I am super excited to take all of the new resources I gathered and share them with others. I was especially challenged and encouraged by the survivor who spoke. What a powerful story. I am also motivated to encourage parents in my life to train their kids to not be vulnerable–I hope to train my own children some day as well.

What have you done recently to become more aware of trafficking and exploitation?