Written by: Jenifer Gerae
© December 13, 2018
Children At Risk
Do you know what makes a child at risk for sexual abuse and trafficking? It starts with simply being a child. Children are vulnerable by default. Vulnerability is a predator’s green light to make a move. It is a slow methodical process that is set in motion to coerce and groom a child into a false sense of trust leading to exploitation. Society today is faced with an increase in these crimes against our children. At fullcircle40, we are determined to end it, by raising awareness and increasing education on this horrific epidemic.
Children are vulnerable and prime targets for predators simply because of their innocence, naivety and tendency to trust. They are meant to look to the adults in their life to love and protect them, for instance to teach them right from wrong, to pay attention to and listen to them. Because each child is unique and will have their own personality, the interactions they have with adults will inevitably help shape who they become and how they get there. When a child thinks they can trust an adult but they fail them, this only adds to their level of vulnerability.
We all understand that what happened to us during our childhood and how we were raised, whether positive or negative, has had a lasting effect well into our adulthood. This is the cycle of life, unavoidable and unmistakable and a child’s future is literally at the mercy of the adults who are in their lives.
Positive experiences in childhood lead us to live a more healthy, balanced life with a fairly solid view of the world and how we fit in it. Vulnerability transforms into self-confidence. Our purpose and calling may be more clear at a younger age so that we spend less time trying to figure out who we are and ‘what we want to be when we grow up’. A nurturing, stable and protected childhood environment gives us the determination as adults to be the best we can be and gives the courage to keep moving forward, even when it gets tough. It doesn’t make life perfect, however it certainly does make it easier.
Any negative childhood experience makes growing up and “adulting” extremely difficult and requires extra energy and effort to overcome and flourish in life. For those in this spectrum, sometimes, it is near impossible to move through life undaunted.
Childhood trauma affects us physically, mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually. It can be malicious and purposeful or unintentional and even accidental. Dependent of course on the circumstance, the level of adversity and the longer time spent under stress or pain the more a child who experiences trauma will experience more difficulty adjusting to life, making decisions, controlling their destiny. Their adulthood is already tainted by the trauma itself. The adversity and trauma will have a lasting effect. This is a fact.
Full Circle Back – Vulnerability
Now, let’s return to the predators number one motivator – vulnerability. Children are vulnerable when they experience life with any form of chronic stress, neglect, abuse or trauma is automatically at a higher risk for becoming a victim of sexual abuse and trafficking. Further, when a child experiences life as an ongoing series of stressful or traumatic events, the risk of victimization has just increased again. This is an inevitable cycle of life initiated by an abuser.
Children who grow up hungry, poor, abused, oppressed, exploited will in turn reflect that in their adult life. It can manifest in a number of ways, at different times and at various intensities but make no mistake, a child who undergoes a severe and complex adverse childhood experience faces increased obstacles, literally ruining their life and robbing them of the peace, security and freedom we all deserve.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)
have been studied for years and at varying degrees. A questionnaire given to suspected victims will lead experts to a comparative analysis of that child’s past to others’.
ACE does not always stem from the home where a child is raised. Any number of adults will play a crucial role in the life of a child as they grow up. This will include parents and family, close friends along with teachers, coaches, youth group leaders, neighbors and so forth. A child could have a wonderful stable home life, filled with love and positive interactions, yet still be attending a school, church or youth program that leaves them to the care of others.
It is critical to know who is in your child’s life. 90% of sexual abuse is said to happen at the hands of someone the child and/or family knows and trusts. Children are more vulnerable when they are with others. There have been uncountable and unspeakable numbers of cases where a child experiences abuse by a family friend, at church, school, sporting clubs, in youth programs. Don’t be hesitant in asking questions, researching, requesting background information. And always, trust your gut.
What Can You Do?
What can you do to impact the freedom of a child? Is there a child in your life? or church? in your neighborhood? Are you a coach? teacher? program leader? Be their first line of defense; the one who they can trust; the one they can talk to. When you talk to them, listen to them and when you listen, make sure you actually hear them. Respect them as people and empower them, educate them. Show them what true trust is. Give them the opportunity to become who they were meant to be. When they need help, help them. When they need a friend, be there. By doing so you help negate any adversity they are facing. You are alleviating their pain, supporting them, helping to reduce their vulnerability, and giving them inner strength. All of which will help decrease their risk of victimization.
If they are already a victim, they will see you as the difference between a caring adult and a predator adult offering false love. You are giving them the courage to tell. Be a force for freedom. You are offering them hope. Hope always leads to Freedom.
Some states have mandated reporting
TRUST YOUR GUT. Always report. Better to be wrong and make the call than be right and lose a child.
(To report abuse or any suspicious behavior, call 911 in an emergency.
In Florida: Florida Abuse hotline 1-800-96 –ABUSE
Nationwide: Childhelp National Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD
Online tips that are non-emergency can be reported to the Cyber Tipline at www.cybertipline.org)