If you are reading this and you feel that you or someone you know are being groomed online or might be a victim of trafficking, it is not your nor their fault and you are not alone. You can contact The Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline 24/7 at 1.833.900.1010.
Although social media platforms are a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, especially during a pandemic, these platforms are also increasingly being used by traffickers and other sexual predators to lure and recruit young people into sexual acts or services. In this week’s blog post, The Centre provides you insight into some of the techniques used by traffickers on social media.
Because of perceived distance and safety, young people are often more willing to engage with strangers online more freely than in person. However, this also means that social media can provide an easy point of access into conversation and relationships with young individuals.
For traffickers, it all begins with a profile. It is not uncommon for traffickers to create a fake online profile to appear to be approximately the same age as those they are speaking to, in order to gain their trust more easily. Traffickers are not always strangers to the targeted young person. They could, for example, be an acquaintance, a friend of a friend, a friend or even a family member.
A trafficker may appear to be pursuing friendship and may message many people at a time after creating a fake profile. If they manage to establish any type of contact or connection, traffickers will then bombard the victim with messages and attention, while using the information they gathered from their profile to lure them into this new relationship and give them a false sense of security. The trafficker may also try to figure out where the child or young person is located within the family home to ensure their conversation(s) remain secret.
Once the trust and bond has been established, the trafficker may then start to change the nature of the conversation and it may become more sexual in nature. Traffickers posing as friends or potential love interest may ask the child for naked pictures (also known as “nudes”) or to participate in sexually explicit acts via live stream. Once the young person has sent this content, the trafficker will often screen cap the video or use the imagery to blackmail or extort the young person into additional sex acts or commercial sexual exploitation. Feelings of fear, anger and hopelessness may cause the young person to agree to the request, including sexual acts with/for other people.
If you find yourself in this situation, please note that there are not for profit organizations and law enforcement professionals dedicated to supporting victims of this type of crime and assisting in ensuring that internet service providers are doing their due diligence to removing the flagged imagery from the internet.
Several weeks ago, The Centre published the blog post titled “Why is it so hard to leave”, which focused on the stages a trafficker might move an individual through as they recruit and lure them into sex trafficking. Although we haven’t mentioned these stages in this blog post, it is important to note that they can also apply to trafficking activity that happens online.
Reposted from the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking website. With permission.