Over decades of working with children and teens, I have seen what happens to kids who don’t get enough positive, meaningful parental attention. Whether it is upper middle class children with parents who work so much they barely see their children or children who are abused or abandoned by their parents, the resulting brokenness in the child never fails to break my heart.
I thought I had seen and heard it all until I begin to learn about sex trafficking. What I learned has broken my heart and increased the urgency I feel to encourage fellow moms (and dads) to take the time to pay attention – I mean real, meaningful attention – to their children and every child they meet.
If you have not read much about sex trafficking, you may be under the mistaken idea that it happens only to kids growing up in poverty. You may believe it is rare and only occurs in cities like New York, or overseas. You may think these boys and girls are somehow wanting to get into prostitution. And you couldn’t be more wrong.
The reality is there are thousands of kids involved in sex trafficking in the United States alone. Worldwide the numbers are staggering. The average child is lured into the industry between the ages of nine and twelve. Children who are lured can be from any social class and any type of family.
The common denominator is that the children are not receiving enough positive, meaningful adult attention. They do not feel heard by their parents and in turn do not feel loved. This makes them vulnerable to “Romeo” pimps and recruiters who lure the children by giving them the attention and “love” the children so desperately want. It is insidious and can happen to children you know.
I know your initial reaction to what you just read was probably disbelief. If you question that it could happen to your children or children you know, I strongly encourage you to read the book Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor by Katariina Rosenblatt, PhD. Rosenblatt was lured into sex trafficking at a young age. Her story is frightening to say the least. Her mother jumped into action more than once – too late to prevent her daughter from being lured into trafficking – but at least once, quickly enough to save her daughter’s life.
As you read this woman’s story, I urge you to let it spur you to action. I am not sure whether she intended to convey the message she did, but what I heard loud and clear was that any child is vulnerable if they do not receive enough positive, meaningful adult attention. It was clear from her story that her mother loved her and wanted what was best for her daughter. Unfortunately, her daughter did not feel that because the mother was so wrapped up in work and her own problems that Katariina got little meaningful attention.
If you think it happened because of her social class, Rosenblatt mentions helping one girl in trafficking whom she had met a few years earlier when the child was a student at a private Christian school. Reading this book will open your eyes in ways that well meaning articles written by non-victims can never communicate.
I beg you to read this book and take action. Make sure your children not only know you love them, but genuinely feel that love. Make sure you take time every day to listen to what they have to say to you and show them you care about what they have shared. Don’t stop there. Every child and every teen you meet should get as much positive attention from you as you have time to give.
I wondered as I read her book how things would have been different had some teacher, some Sunday school teacher or Girl Scout leader taken the time to give her positive, meaningful attention to help compensate for what she was not getting from her parents. I have to think she would not have been such an easy target for the various recruiters over the years. Perhaps the saddest part of the story is that Rosenblatt is one of the few survivors. Most victims are dead by the age of 25. I hope you will take up the cause – giving your children and the children you meet all of the “momtention” you can give. You may change a life.
P.S. Special thanks to all of you who are involved in providing foster care and/or adoptive homes or work with children’s homes around the world. What you are doing is saving many of those children from what Rosenblatt experienced.
This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. I think every young parent needs to read it as a cautionary story.