It is one o’clock in the morning and your fifteen year old daughter is nowhere to be found. You are in a helpless panic. You have been fighting for the last few months, come to think of it, maybe it all started when she hit puberty, but lately she has just shut you out completely. Now she is gone. The fact that you two had not been communicating well seems to hamper coming up with ideas of where she could be.
It’s a startling statistic: One in three teenagers who runaway become involved in commercial sexual exploitation within forty-eight hours of disappearance. Time is of the essence, but time focusing on mending broken relationships should not begin after the disappearance of a child.
Are You Too Busy To Notice?
As a counselor I (Laura) am far too aware of the slippery slope that families can skid down. Busyness replaces quality time spent together at mealtime. Saying ‘no’ to work and ‘yes’ to family time around the supper table is not popular. Being overly involved in as many activities as possible has replaced the quality of discussion and learning opportunities that can occur as a family. Meanwhile, the children, learn to depend more on what they learn from their peers, and have rejected their parents.
Asserting independence is healthy and is a developmental expectation that we should see in children and teens. However, a child also needs the certainty of a firm foundation with strong parents. They need to know that they can come to their parents with questions and concerns. They need to know that their parents value their feelings.
Don’t let that last statement slip past…they need to know that you value their feelings. This may seem tricky when one week your sixteen year old son is in puppy love with the girl that sits next to him in geometry. As a parent with much more life experience, it can be far too easy to dismiss puppy love or a secret crush. How you respond to the glimpses they give you of their feelings is paramount.
It is about the little things. For adults what we deem as “little” can mean the world to them. Mom and dad, allow yourself to take a moment, take a breath, and be intentional about showing care. It can make all the difference.
Runaway Facts & Statistics
Teens are often “groomed” into human trafficking. Offenders who traffic persons often “spy” on children and teens, looking for weaknesses in support systems. This means they look for vulnerabilities such as the teen not having a solid family background, or they entice the teen with opportunities to make money.
Sometimes offenders use other teens to do their bidding. An offender may use a teenage boy to lure a teenage girl by having him show special interest in her.
North Carolina is ranked as a top ten state for human trafficking, with Charlotte being one of the top destinations.
It is estimated that thirty million people are enslaved worldwide.
Human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world, after drug smuggling.
Approximately 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation.
For more information on human trafficking, visit www.traffickingresourcecenter.org or Project FIGHT@ www.salvationarmycarolinas.org
*Facts and statistics from Project FIGHT (Freeing Individuals Gripped by Human Trafficking) and the Mecklenburg County Community Support Services DV & Violence Prevention Services