Have you been to the beach this summer? I’ve had the opportunity to go twice. My immediately family went to St. Augustine for a couple of days and then I traveled to the NC coast to see my brother’s family for a few days.
My niece and nephew and I would go on treasure hunts each morning as we walked along the beach to see what we could find. My niece and I came upon a fisherman who caught a three foot shark. Thankfully for us, the shark was out of the water, on the beach, and his future didn’t look so bright (Sorry, I didn’t have my camera with me that morning. I wish I did because the shark was as big as my niece.).
Lately the NC coast has drawn a lot of attention because of shark attacks. This weekend two teens lost limbs due to shark attacks on the same NC beach hours apart. You can read more here.
- Both victims sustained life threatening injuries, losing limbs.
- Both teens were in public areas that were heavily populated by people.
- Both teens were in the water with others swimmers.
- Both became victims.
When asked about it, one woman said,
You didn’t used to hear about shark attacks like this, happening frequently. They were rare. The sharks seem bolder now.”
One shark expert was trying to narrow down the type of shark that likely attacked the teens. People want to know what to look for so others won’t fall victim.
Because of the work I do, I couldn’t help but see a similarity to these shark attack victims and the victims I work with. The only difference is they were attacked by a different kind of shark.
Sex traffickers are sharks.
They circle their prey looking for vulnerability before they strike. Their attack, like the swimmers’ attacks, are unprovoked. They fall victim just because they are seen by the shark.
Victims of sex trafficking:
- endure life threatening circumstances
- are typically approached in public, in heavily populated areas
- are typically hanging out where other people their age hang out
See the similarities? I asked one trafficker I interviewed for a description of the type of girl he looks for when choosing a target. His response?
Breathing. You can take me in any food court in any shopping mall and I can tell you how I’d get any girl I wanted.
The girl who is talking non-stop, the one everyone is listening to… I’d invite her to a party, because she likes to be where the action is, the center of attention. The girl who has acne or is overweight, I’d say, ‘Hey, beautiful,’ cuz nobody calls her beautiful. The girl hanging back from the crowd, maybe looking down instead of making eye contact, I’d ask her what she thinks, cuz she thinks she’s invisible, but she doesn’t want to be. Going to a mall looking for a girl is like shooting fish in a bucket.”
Why do teens fall prey to traffickers? The part of the brain that causes us to think through a possible chain of events is called the frontal lobe. It isn’t fully developed until around age 25 (To read more about this, go here.). This makes our young people very vulnerable to smooth talking sharks.
One way to better equip our young people is to talk with them about the dangers. Make them aware. Just as shark experts are telling beach goers steps to take to make them selves a less likely target for a shark in the ocean, like:
- Swim in groups.
- Avoid swimming in the early morning hours and after dark.
- Don’t go swimming with a bleeding wound.
We need to educate our young people on things they can do to protect themselves from a shark attack on land. Some things to keep in mind:
- Don’t talk to strangers. Just because you are a friend online, through social media or gaming sites, doesn’t mean they’re really your friend. They can pose as anyone online. They may be an older adult posing as someone your age to gain your trust.
- Don’t give out your personal information online, that includes your school, the sports you play or the position you play. It doesn’t take a detective to connect the dots to see that you’re the captain on the cheerleading squad at Smith High School based on your posts. Add that to the fact that they have your photograph so they know what you look like. One quick check of the school’s athletic schedule and they’ll know exactly where to find you and when.
- Be open with your parents. If you feel you need to lie or sneak around behind your parent’s backs about something, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Contrary to popular belief, your parents are there to keep you safe, not make your life miserable. If you’re adamant about you inability to talk with your parents then talk with another trustworthy adult.
For other tips on safety, go here.
Whether you call them land sharks, traffickers, lions or anything else, there is a real enemy out there and he’s playing for keeps. 1 Peter 5:8 says,
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Our young people think they’re invincible. It isn’t totally their fault. They’re brains aren’t fully developed. We can help them become more alert and aware by sharing the dangers with them, so they pay attention. If you don’t think they’ll listen to you, give them a book, like Rescuing Hope. Have them watch a movie, like Chosen.
Educate yourself on the issue of sex trafficking, as well as those you love. We have to take our heads out of the sand and take a stand before someone we know and love falls victim to a shark attack.