Child Sex Trafficking Indicators for Moms & Dads to Pay Attention Too!

Parents need to learn about sex trafficking


In my many years of experience as an undercover detective in a large city, I was assigned to the Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit.  While in that unit, I have investigated thousands of child sex trafficking cases. I have been a part of Investigations where parents were not knowledgeable of what their child was doing when they were not at home with them and or were home and were not paying attention to what their child was doing… right in front of them!


I have had investigations where parents thought that allowing their daughter to walk to the nearby gas station would be safe, when it was not… Or allowing their child to have only one social media account, thinking that they could be responsible enough to not talk with a stranger online.  


What Moms and Dads really need to know about sex trafficking is that their children are being targeted! 

They are being targeted online on social media applications as well as other applications on their cell phones. They are being targeted out on the street, and they are being targeted, unfortunately, by people, they may know.


Parents need to look out for several indicators.


#1.  If a child starts to talk in a different way.  

The sex trafficking industry language uses specific terminology.  If a child starts speaking and using certain terms, those terms could be an indicator that they are around people speaking that way and that should be a red flag. 


Download my freebie "Tips for Parents & Teens.



#2.  Parents should pay attention to how their child is dressing.  

This could be difficult, especially with young girls, however when their child starts changing the way they dress, specifically dressing more provocatively, then parents should ask questions, they should pay attention and they should look into why this is happening. It could be that their child is trying to fit in at school, but then it could be that they are packing an extra change of clothes in their backpack so that they can leave the campus during the day to go meet up with a potential trafficker.


I once investigated a case where a mom thought her daughter was at school all day and then at volleyball practice in the evening.  In actuality, their daughter was with the trafficker who had the teenager working for him making money, and committing sex acts during the school day and briefly in the evenings, the parents did not even know the child was gone somewhere else.  Yes, there should be a question to the school as to where the child was, I agree… In this instance, this is a school and parent problem.  The school should have been notifying the parents that their daughter was not at school, however unfortunately it went on for several months without anyone finding out until there was an incident where the teenager was assaulted by her trafficker and she couldn't hide the injuries she sustained and had to say something.


#3.  Parents should pay attention to what their child is doing on the internet and on their phone.  

I know that we want to trust our children and we want to allow them the space to grow up, however, we should check into the applications and the phone conversations or the internet conversations our kids are having.  For example, I had a parent who was a police officer at my own agency, he was struggling with his daughter who was able to find a way at 13 years old, to communicate on an iPod where she was able to converse with a man who was offering her money for sex.  She had been grounded and even had her phone taken away, but she was resourceful and found a way to get online on the iPod and was making arrangements to run away.  


Furthermore, parents need to have access to their children's social media accounts.  I am a parent too and I have always told my child that “there is NO EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY in my home”. I made known to my child that I will search through the phone when I want and as often as I want.  I will always have access to social media and the phone passcode at all times.  Believe me, parents I know this is a strict mindset but to be honest… THIS IS WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE OUR KIDS SAFE… it happens when parents are involved and vigilant! 


During my time as an undercover, I have engaged in 100’s of conversations with traffickers attempting to recruit me on my undercover social media accounts. I have 6 Facebook, 3 Instagram’s, 2 Snapchats, MeetMe, Bumble, Plenty of Fish, and many more!  All undercover personas all made with the purpose for traffickers to try to recruit me instead of a live victim. They obviously did not know who they were talking to, but the conversations consisted of them using manipulative techniques in an attempt to convince me to leave home and to go with them.  It is the same conversation your child could be having with an online stranger!!


Additionally, If a child comes home with a random electronic device…this is a HUGE RED FLAG!  Parents need to take it away!  Even if the device is a cracked up screen and appears to only have WIFI capabilities.  Even if the child claims that “they found it”.  Don’t let them keep it!


Contact me at for more info on what applications to look out for that could be on the phone, including hidden apps!


#4.  Parents need to ask questions if their child comes home with money, gifts, or anything of value that has not been provided to them by a family member or teacher. 

What I mean is, we have all been alive long enough to know the reality that most people do not give a person a gift without expecting something in return.  Parents should always ask and verify how their child receives items of value, and parents should take the extra steps to verify the facts of the person giving the gift. 


Check out other articles for more information on things traffickers do to recruit and groom their victims… using gifts is one of them!


#5.  It is extremely alarming if a child comes home branded! 

A brand is a tattoo that traffickers place on the victims that they “own”.  It is an advertisement to other traffickers that the victim is owned by them and it helps them show how successful of a trafficker they are, if they “own” several victims with tattoos on them.  This tattoo could be a moniker name or a symbol and is usually in an area for everyone to see, but could be hidden as well.  


I had a case a few years ago where a special needs 16-year-old arrived back to school after fall break with a trafficker's name tattooed on her upper breast area.  This was observed by the school counselor and police and her parents were alerted.  Not only is she not old enough to get a tattoo without parental permission, but this was placed in a location that could be seen by everyone.  Placing this brand on her was exactly what the trafficker wanted to do to be known by all who saw it despite the chance that her parents would see it.  Traffickers don’t care…they care that she was to be seen as his property!

There are more indicators of trafficking that can be found in other articles I’ve authored, and download the list I created!

 Parents, please take the time to be “nosy”, and get in the business of your kids. They will grow up knowing that you care about them and they will also know that you will be looking into - looking out for them… it’s a win-win!


Also, check out the course I created "The Power of Awareness" to learn all about sex trafficking and what you can do to join the fight!

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