While on vacation in the beautiful South Africa, I was standing in the lobby of my hotel when I saw a small girl who looked to be about 8 years old. She was surrounded by European tourists and wearing what most Americans would call rags. The small thin Afrikan girl stuck out like a sore thumb yet no one seemed to acknowledge her presence until a tall white middle aged man walked in.
He was dressed in typical tourist gear, khaki shorts and short sleeve button down. She obviously knew the man because she immediately skipped towards him. There was no greeting or exchange of words between the two.
I tried to make sense of the man and this girl standing in the hotel lobby together. I’ve heard stories of childhood prostitution in impoverished cities. Some families even selling their sons and daughters for money, food or rent. I wanted to believe that he was a missionary helping her family and that at any moment her mother would appear.
But still after a few minutes of waiting, no one else showed up. I contemplated saying something to the hotel staff that was behind the counter. I’m certain that they saw the child, the lobby was not that big and she was there when I arrived. Maybe they knew something that I didn’t. Perhaps they know this guy and know that he is harmless. Still something in me just didn’t feel right.
I was in a foreign country and many things that would appear unusual back home can be customary here. Would they even help her if she was being exploited? Or would they find my sensitivity humoring and dismiss me as a “know it all do-gooder” who thinks the world outside of America is full of evil? And so reluctantly, I said nothing.
Unfortunately my decision to say nothing is one that I will regret for a very long time. I was an adult that saw a child that could have possibly been in danger and her safety should have overrode my fear of embarrassment.
When you know better you do better!
Let’s just agree that no matter where you are in the world Child Sex Trafficking is wrong.
Victims of Child Sex Trafficking can be found in or around hotels, truck stops, sporting events and venues, airports, conference centers and other public areas that attract a high numbers of tourist.
Child Sex Trafficking is a major issue in the U.S. and has been in our country for some time. President Obama referenced Sex Trafficking as “Modern Day Slavery.”
Whether they appear to be in distress or not, children do not posses the mental maturity to consent to being exploited.
Note: According to federal law, any minor under the age of 18 engaging in commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of the presence of force, fraud, or coercion.
8 Signs to Detect Child Sex Trafficking When You Travel:
- A young or teenage girl or boy traveling alone (may be dressed like an adult).
- Children that do not look comfortable with the adult they are traveling with or they are unaccompanied.
- They don’t know their destination or the name of the person they are meeting.
- They are not in possession of their travel documents or identification.
- They have very little or no personal possessions or suitcase.
- They avoid making eye contact or have noticeable wounds or bruises.
- They are inappropriately dressed for the time of day, weather, or location( i.e. Wearing a large coat in warm weather or night club clothing during the day at the airport.)
- They are fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid.
Any ONE of these signs can be an indicator and is a red flag that a child or person is being exploited. It is up to you to report what you see as soon as possible to the authorities.
If they appear to be in immediate danger dial 9-1-1
There are several national reporting agencies and local agencies if you are in a foreign country.
Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888: 24/7
You can search the internet for agencies in the country you are visiting or ask the local police or hospital for assistance.
Do not wait or second guess your intuition. If you feel like something is out of place than tell an authority right away!
Try and get a a detailed description of the victim, who they are with, and where the are heading. All of this information will aid in rescuing the child.
Additionally, you should report your suspicious to on site security guard, hotel manager, restaurant managers, and/or flight attendants.
For additional resources check out:
For a list of hotels that have pledged to take a stand against Child Sex Trafficking : http://www.thecode.org/who-have-signed/