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Child trafficking is often described as exploitation of vulnerability. And while it is true that traffickers don’t discriminate, anyone can become a victim, there are certain factors that could increase the risk of a child being groomed or trafficked.

Probably the most prominent risk factor is prior sexual abuse. Various reputable sources indicate that in more than 90% of cases, children know their abuser. It could be an older sibling or playmate, family member, a teacher, a coach or instructor, a caretaker, or the parent of another child. [1]

Other factors such as witnessing or being subjected to domestic violence or suffering physical or emotional neglect can all increase the child’s vulnerability and make them prime targets for traffickers.

Traffickers are quick to pick up on these vulnerabilities and will make promises of friendship, acceptance, love, food, clothes and a safe place to stay. Their goal is to build a trust relationship with the child so that they can isolate them from friends and family before starting the exploitation.

A quick Google search on neuroscientific research indicates that a person’s brain is not even fully developed until their mid 20’s, so most children are not able to make the right decision when confronted with the clever schemes and smooth talk of a trafficker, telling them exactly what they want to hear.

Of course, children that have been mentally prepared through open discussions with a trusted adult, or educated with age-appropriate prevention materials, are far more equipped to handle the situation.

So what can we do?