This Christmas, I had asked for a copy of Chosen Plus (with the gang edition) by Shared Hope International. This is a video toolkit that people can use to raise awareness about minor sex trafficking and exploitation in the United States. My parents believe in my efforts so much that they got it for me as a bonus Christmas gift (thank you mom and dad!).
I have seen Chosen before but decided to watch it again over the weekend. This short, 20 minute video powerfully summarizes the urgency for parents, youth leaders and peers to understand the reality of sex trafficking in our own communities. I highly recommend it for schools and youth groups.
A key message in both the original Chosen and the Chosen: Gang Edition is the importance of peer intervention. Their message is that youth need to understand the signs of trafficking and grooming to be trafficked–not just for themselves, but also for their friends.
These signs include: an older boyfriend; sudden new clothes or accessories; tattoos of a name, barcode or money; moving beyond personal boundaries; asking friends to cover for her while she’s out with a guy.
Shared Hope’s message to friends of girls who may be asking them to cover is “don’t.” You may be breaking their trust now, but you may also be saving them from a life of extreme pain.
My own experience as a teenager made me extremely vulnerable, and I thank God every day that I was not picked up by a pimp–it would have been so easy because of the guys I flirted with and the “fun” my girl friends and I had. I shared this with a youth group last year, just to demonstrate how easy it is. A young woman came up to me later and shared some of what she was doing, asking if this kind of activity is what I meant. We were able to talk, and I found out later that she went to a trusted adult in the church and received help.
I guess, I say all this to encourage those of you who want to help fight sex trafficking and sexual violence to share this kind of information with the young people in your life. A friend saved one of the girls in the Chosen video by telling his parents the truth that she was going to run off to AZ with an older boyfriend. She felt betrayed then, but once she understood what was happening to her, she thanks him now for stepping in and protecting her from sex trafficking.
Empowering youth to understand when they need to speak up can save lives.