Just as every generation of children changes, so do the people who want to pick on them.
âThey are always trying new tricks and new ways to reach out to kids and try to contact kids. I guess the easiest way to say that is, ‘the world is in your hands when you have a cell phone. and that you have Wi-Fi, “” said, “said Maegan d’Autremont, the child trafficking coordinator for the Alexandria-based Children’s Advocacy Network (CAN).
She said that a kid with a phone, who could open a social media account while lying about their age because it’s not verified, doesn’t understand how to set up strict privacy settings and may not have no one to monitor their online activity.
âUnfortunately, the exploitation of children and the explicit images – this generation is so sexualized – it’s so easy to be exposed to it,â she said.
Kendra Gauthier, the new executive director of CAN, points out that there is human trafficking in central Louisiana.
âA lot of people think it won’t happen in my own backyard, but it does happen here,â she said. “And so we’re just trying to raise awareness that it’s a possibility and that we have high-risk children in our community.”
She said board members were stunned when she shared local stats with them.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and CAN works to prevent human trafficking by teaching local students and their parents or guardians how to identify and prevent it. .
âEvery child is vulnerable and at risk of trafficking,â d’Autremont said. “Human trafficking does not discriminate.”
2021:Baton Rouge traffic stop reveals teenager from Rapides parish missing in January
Teach children to understand the risks
With the approval of the Rapides Parish School Board, RCA educated students at Pineville Junior High School about the dangers of trafficking and how to protect themselves.
D’Autremont and her counterpart, Rachel Austin, used a child-focused program to talk to about 500 children for two days at Pineville Junior, teaching them about laws, blackmail, sextortion, giving them real-life scenarios and asking them how they handle this.
With the college kids there were giggles and other jokes, but she knows they made an impact. Students could ask questions or share information on index cards that d’Autremont and Austin would read at the end of each day.
âYou actually had a lot of questions, real-life questions, about sexuality, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional (abuse) and human trafficking,â d’Autremont said.
They responded to the students.
Further training will take place at Alexandria Middle Magnet School, as well as Bolton, Alexandria Senior and Pineville High Schools.
2020:Federal indictment alleges Pineville man trafficked girls and forced children to support him
Can you spot the signs?
Another effort in January is the training of caregivers which focuses specifically on human trafficking.
D’Autremont said the information is perfect for parents, grandparents, or others raising tweens or teens. Young people are the most vulnerable to trafficking, especially through social media, without even knowing it.
“It’s just about raising awareness of how to protect your kids in your own home, of knowing what to do, of knowing the signs.”
The 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. session on January 31 has in-person space for 30 people, but people can also attend virtually.
To register for caregiver training, go to https://tinyurl.com/4s3x6t6d.
Want to show your support for the victims?
CAN wants you to wear blue, the color to signify human trafficking awareness, on January 11. The goal is to share information about what trafficking is and how it can happen anywhere, with anyone.
Gauthier encourages everyone in the community and in schools to wear blue on this day “just to show their support for victims of human trafficking.”