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Human Trafficking Experts: Educate Kids About Dangers When They're Really Young

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Credit Getty Images
The Florida Channel

An organization that deals a lot with human trafficked kids says it’s important to go into the schools and educate potential victims early about traffickers.

We all know that iconic line from the movie Taken, where Bryan Mills—a former government operative—is trying to save his daughter from sex traffickers…

“I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want,” said Liam Neeson's character. “If you're looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money... but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that will be the end of it - I will not look for you, I will not pursue you... but if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you... and I will kill you.”

“Folks still, after all the awareness that we’ve done, sort of have that movie 'Taken' in their minds that are youth are being kidnapped and held against their will and then being introduced to human trafficking,” said Dr. Kimberly McGrath.

McGrath helped found the Citrus Helping Adolescents Negatively affected by Commercial Exploitation (CHANCE) program, which helps human trafficking victims. She says a common misconception is victims do not want to be with their traffickers. And, McGrath adds because of this, a lot of times victims don’t identify themselves as victims.

“Our traffickers spend considerable amount of time grooming our youth, and they truly believe often that they are in relationships,” she added. “They call these people their boyfriends, their significant others. That’s the training that we need to give our youth. What does that look like? What are those red flags in that relationship? When do you start to get concerned? Does someone that loves you try to sell you for sex? And, we’re not having those conversations and those trainings.”

Meanwhile, there is a bill starting to move in the Florida Senate aimed at teaching middle and high school students about the dangers of human trafficking as part of public schools’ health curriculums.

Still, McGrath says it’s important to educate these kids about the dangers when they’re even younger.

“We’re not allowed in the elementary schools, and one of the reasons for that is the topic is related to sex,” McGrath continued. “However, the reality of the situation is average age of entry into the sex trade is 12-13 years old. That is 6 th grade. So, it’s too late. By the time we get to the middle and high schools, we’re too late. Our kids already know what this is. We need to be talking to our fifth graders, our fourth graders. And, it’s challenging to say, ‘I need to talk to a 10 and 11-year-old about sexual exploitation.’ But, it’s the reality.”

McGrath spoke before a House Committee that looks at children issues Thursday as part of a series of presentations on human trafficking.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner .

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