Trafficking; a super hot topic right now. Being in college, I hear lots of people talking about it, especially girls. Some are away from home for the first time, some not for the first time but still very far. Talking about how they need to stay extra aware of traffickers. Vulnerable. Aren’t we all? The truth is, trafficking happens everywhere. EVERYWHERE; and can ultimately happen to anyone. As the daughter of a survivor, I have heard it all forwards and backwards, up and down. I have heard her share her story of fear and survival, and have heard her testimony about how we need to educate our girls how to recognize danger and teach our boys about demand to truly reach the roots and make a change going forward. I think that the most important thing that I have learned from her is the fact that anyone can be trafficked.

Sure, traffickers look for the most vulnerable out of the bunch simply because it is easiest. However, that is not always the case. Unfortunately, as young women in a hypersexualized society where we are constantly being objectified and being seen as sexual objects simply because we are women, and we are instantly that much more likely to be preyed upon. Any female can attest when I say that you cannot do ANY little thing without the unwarranted attention, cat calling, or disrespect from a man. It is also true that women are also not the sole prey of traffickers, just often more likely to their seeming “inferiority” and purpose of “pleasing men”. In high school and more specifically college, I find it especially important that young women growing up independently and moving into the new adult world with a sense of confidence and knowing their true worth. Loving yourself will do you a copious amount of good in regards to your safety and overall mental health.

Since trafficking has been and continues to grow as a huge topic of discussion across the world, it is extremely crucial that younger demographics begin educating themselves on the truths of trafficking and spread knowledgeable and relevant information to protect themselves and others at risk. Too often I hear individuals talking about trafficking saying that people just get kidnapped in bad areas and sent to other countries and sold and beat up. I’m not saying that has not happened, and sadly I would not doubt it. But,  is vital to get rid of stigmas that “_______ has the highest trafficking rate” or “that’s why young girls shouldn’t go to the mall alone or with friends without parental supervision”. Instead, we should be teaching our girls not to stay sheltered in fear of these threats but rather to have a safety shield around themselves and educate them on what to look for and what types of behaviors predators search for in victims, as well as how to care for themselves and their mental health; as my mom says, “predators can smell vulnerability from a mile away”. As for our boys, we need to promote healthy masculinity, gender equality, as well as the harm of objectification and what it entails about them.

Even though I have a huge stake in this movement because of my mother, it is something that is easy to get involved with and should be actively fought by more people. Something to keep in mind though is to avoid movements and organizations that exploit or sensationalize things that people have continue to endure as a way to promote an agenda. This violation of human right is happening right under our noses and something as simple as an educated conversation can change the whole discussion around it and start a real change. It only takes one. One person. One statistic. One conversation. Being the voice of knowledge and representing the movement as a young, educated, and invested leader is what is going to truly make waves for the coming generations. Be authentic in your conversations and know what you are saying is compassionate and factual. The conversation starts now.

Shaolin Sanders