Sex Traffickers use Social Media to find victims

Friday evening I attended an event held by my friend and colleague, Anne Crothers of Healing Works. Each year she hosts an annual poetry event for sexual abuse awareness month. Victims and survivors of sexual abuse are invited to share poetry, stories and thoughts on their journey of healing. This year, the program benefited a non-profit organization in Allentown, PA called VAST – Valley Against Sexual Trafficking.

At this event, Linda Brownback, a member of the organization, shared a story of a young woman from our area who was trafficked. I will paraphrase the story here. Linda shared that there was a young teenage girl from the area who had a fight with her father over normal teenage things. She, as many teenagers do, got online and was engaging in social media and messaging. She met another girl in the digital world and they were chatting and sharing parental woes and feelings. During the chat, the other girl, from Philadelphia, told her that her boyfriend had a car and they could come pick her up. It would be better to talk in person than via text/chat. The boyfriend did come to pick up the young distressed girl. However, the boyfriend ended up being a pimp and the young girl had unknowingly entered the sex trafficking world. She was able to escape after two weeks being trafficked in Philadelphia.

Why do I share this story? I normally talk about teen sexting, chatting and pornography use from a different perspective. Because I work in addiction as well as with people whose addiction has broken the law, I have a skew when I talk about teen use of social media or digital sexuality. This story was an eye opening event for me. It opened me up to my own bias. It also made me realize that there are other risks out there for teens who are using digital media. These risks are talked about even less than the risks of sexting and the use of pornography.

The sex trafficking industry in the United States is something that no one talks about. It is talked about even less than pornography or sexting or any other type of sexuality. We tend to think that sex trafficking is the type of horrible crime that happens in other countries, not ours. The truth is that sex trafficking in the United States is very real and happens every single day. As technology advances, so do the means that traffickers have of gaining access to new victims. We need to add sex trafficking and the risk of traffickers being online to gain access to victims to the list of very important though uncomfortable things that parents MUST talk about to their children.

I was very excited to learn about VAST and hope to work with them in the future.

For more about how to talk to your child about sexting, cybersex and digital sexuality go to or pre-order my book at

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