Expert warns of summer sex trafficking dangers

Catch the Wave of Hope founder Lynne Barletta.

Local kids will soon be out of school for summer break, and experts say sex predators and traffickers will be hard at work.

They say children can be trafficked from the comfort of their own home through social media, on their phones and even while gaming online.

Lynne Barletta is the founder of Catch the Wave of Hope, which is a nonprofit organization that has a mission to stop human trafficking. She says during the summer, traffickers are also at beaches, in malls – anywhere children and teens could be unsupervised.

“That’s where they make their approaches, and that’s where they try to begin their grooming technique,” Barletta says.

While anyone can be a victim, she says 13-year-old girls and 11-year-old boys are the prime targets, and the children used to recruit them are often the same age.

“They have expert training by their traffickers, so they know how to approach a child, how to make something seem appealing, how to make them seem non-life-threatening and invite them,” says Barletta.

So how do they get close to someone?

Experts say offers of modeling or other summer dream jobs are popular techniques. Last year, Barletta says a mother came to her after her daughter received an Instagram message that seemed strange.

“This is something that might appeal to a young girl in high school,” Barletta says. “They’re doing a big summer hiring push, would you be down with this? That was that last sentence.”

It was a first step in the recruiting process.

Barletta says knowing what your child is doing and who they’re with could save their life.

“If the child leaves and goes to meet them, and the parents are unaware of this, it could be too late,” says Barletta.

Help your kids by communicating

Be emotionally available – predators often target kids who crave attention;

Set internet and cellphone rules – many victims are first approached on the internet;

Explain what sex trafficking is in frank terms.

Observe

Look for new friends you’re not familiar with;

Or changes in dress, attitude, behavior;

And a sudden influx of money can mean they’re being groomed;

And keep your eyes open when you’re out and about – a vast majority of child-victim rescues begin with a phone call.

Oregon’s human trafficking line is 503-251-2479.

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