Police were swarming. I stood in my Grandfather’s driveway that evening, just frozen. Not speaking or moving. My trafficker stood behind me talking with another police officer… their voices sounded muffled to me. Was this panic? My heart was pounding. Sweaty palms. Overthinking. It was panic…
The Calvary was here and ready to take me far away from this place, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. My trafficker… I mean, my father behind me. I can just hear his harsh whispers seared into my brain already, “Don’t. Say. A. Word.”
Honestly, my father didn’t have to say anything to me, he conditioned me to shut my mouth. No matter what the consequences would bring. Because who would believe me anyway? And you know… Nothing “actually happened.” And that… “I overreacted…”
My trafficker. My father was completely immersed in our community. He later became a pastor and preached about how to “become a Godly father for your children in a sinful world.” My father owned a small “family business,” and was even my soccer coach. The community respected my father, and not one person disliked him. But at home, he was cold and sinister, but still somehow managed to make me believe that I loved him.
This is Familial Trafficking.
Familial trafficking is perhaps one of the most challenging types of domestic minor sex trafficking types to detect. There is little research on this topic because no one talks about it. This is a family business. Most children are introduced to sex trafficking as early as possible within their families.
For me, I was introduced at 4 years old. It is difficult to see the signs from the outside perspective.
Hopefully, these three reasons why Familial Trafficking goes unnoticed will open your eyes to the inside world of Familial Trafficking.
1. Family Traffickers are intentional in building relationships – especially within the community.
Who would ever guess that your Soccer Coach would be a trafficker? Who would imagine your pastor or a firefighter would be a trafficker? That’s the point. Family traffickers are narcissists. They love being the center of attention and being well loved. They want and even strive for power and control which is why traffickers will work hard to maintain normalcy to the outside world. Many children continue to attend school regularly, may receive good grades and often participate in extracurricular activities.
A study was done by the McCain Institute—The research team identified 1,416 persons arrested for sex trafficking of a minor in the United States from 2010 to 2015. There were sex trafficking of minor arrests in all states except Alaska, Hawaii, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Below describes what each of their occupations was:
*A study was done by the McCain Institute / http://ssw.dtn.asu.edu/sextrafficker
2. People think Familial Traffickers look innately disturbed.
This goes with Reason Why #1. Unfortunately, this is most likely not the case. They try so hard to be the “family man (or woman).” They will be well loved, may sit on a board/committee, can be extroverted, they will insert themselves in community events. They strive to show others from the “outside world” that they are a perfect family and have complete normalcy.
3. Society thinks children will have a bad relationship with their trafficker.
I didn’t have a bad relationship with my father. Not until I turned 17 years old, I was already making my own decisions in life and began listening to others’ advice and eventually left the life completely. But years before, I remember crying when I wasn’t visiting him because I missed him.
I have lived most of my life knowing only trafficking. You’re taught it is normal. I didn’t understand that “trafficking” was a term being used to describe my situation.
There was a lot of grooming, the belief that my father really loved me and gave me everything I ever wanted (trips to Disney World and other parks, a beautiful bedroom, toys, long vacations, road trips, etc.) And It’s your family – there is no stronger bond than that.
So what do you do?
It seems impossible to understand the signs of Familial Trafficking, but I would say you don’t give up. But pray.
Luke 8:17 says, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” So pray for this evil to come into the light. And the Lord takes abusing children very seriously. As it also says in Luke 17:1-2, Jesus said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks will come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Meaning there is nothing that you can hide from God and that He protects his children from those who cause them to stumble.
You can pay attention. Immerse yourself in the fight against sex trafficking. Learn more. Begin your own training. Talk to a survivor. Be an advocate. Fight for better legislation. Vote! Never stop fighting. As a survivor of Child & Familial Sex Trafficking, I can say the worst you could do is nothing.