How to avoid becoming a human trafficking victim

Today, women and children are being targeted for human trafficking more than ever. It’s important to protect yourself and your family from criminals who would harm you. Here are some tips you can teach your child to help them avoid being kidnapped.

The first step is to be aware of your surroundings and to recognize any potential threats you could face. Be sure to let others know where you’re going when traveling and the route you will take. Keep a charged cellphone with you and don’t travel alone if you can avoid it.

The police cannot always be there to protect you. Many police departments are struggling with officer shortages and are spreading officers over a much wider area, resulting in even longer delays in response. It can take them more time than you think to arrive if someone is attacking you. When seconds count, the police are minutes away.

Do your research on where you will be traveling

Some areas have more crime than others. Knowing the safest routes to and from your destination to avoid high crime areas is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of becoming a victim.

People will let their guard down when they are in their home area and expose themselves to unnecessary risks because of their comfort level. The behavior of someone can be predicted with careful observation and that’s exactly what some criminals will do.

If someone is watching you, it might be a good idea to change up your route to and from your destination. Changing your direction of travel makes it harder for someone to predict where you may be.

Take the time to form a plan of action if something were to happen

A self-defense situation never goes as planned but having a plan can give you a framework of response. Think ahead of the actions you will take if certain things were to happen.

As you walk through a parking lot, look around you to see if there is anyone watching you or if there is anything that looks suspicious. If there is a van pulled directly beside your car when there are few other parking spots taken, that could be a potential threat. The best thing you could do is to ask for help if you feel concerned.

Never willingly go with someone who is trying to force you

The worst thing you can do in any kidnapping situation is to give in and go with the individual. The criminal who is trying to kidnap you is going to pick a location to take you that benefits them. If someone pulls a gun on you and tries to force you into their car, you’re better off getting shot where you are then allowing them to take you somewhere else.

If you are out in public, someone would be able to get you help and potentially save your life. If the criminal takes you to where they want you to be, you will have very little chance of someone getting to you quickly. Human trafficking victims are kept hidden or abused to the point they don’t want their kidnapper to become angry with them.

Teach your kids how to avoid being kidnapped

The more you do to protect yourself and your family, the lower risk you will face. Some of the things you should teach your kids, beginning at a young age is to stay away from strangers. Explain to your kids what makes a person a stranger. Also, even someone with a familiar face is a stranger if you don’t know them well.

Stay away from anyone who is following you on foot or in a car. Don’t get close to them. And don’t feel as though you must answer any questions they ask you. Run and scream if someone tries to force you to go somewhere with them or tries to push you into a car.

Memorize a secret code word. Tell your child not to go with anyone under any circumstances unless that person also knows this code word. You don’t need to help an adult. Adults shouldn’t ask children for help. For example, a child shouldn’t trust grown-ups who ask kids for directions or for help finding a puppy or kitten.

A child who is approached in this way should tell the person, “Wait here, and I’ll check,” and then go find their parent or caregiver right away.

Always ask for permission before going anywhere with anybody. Ask a parent or the grown-up in charge before leaving the yard or play area, or before going into someone’s home. Do not accept any unplanned offers for a rideā€”from someone known or unknown.

Kids should also tell their parents where you are going. Always tell a parent where you’re going, how you’ll get there, who is going with you, and when you’ll be back. Be home at the agreed-upon time, or else find a way to contact home directly.