NCFY Reads: ‘Sex Trafficking Prevention: A Trauma-Informed Approach for Parents and Professionals’
"Sex Trafficking Prevention: A Trauma-Informed Approach for Parents and Professionals"
By Savannah J. Sanders
A trafficking survivor shares personal and professional insights in a book written for those who care about young people’s safety and well-being.
Savannah Sanders experienced years of sexual abuse before running away from home as a teenager. Once on the streets, she used drugs and attempted suicide before meeting a man who coerced her into performing sex acts for money. But it wasn’t until age 25, while reading an article online, that Sanders first realized she had been trafficked.
“Sitting in front of my computer that day, I finally had something to call it—a name for the belittling and traumatizing experiences that caused me so much pain and inner turmoil even then, when it was all over,” she writes in her book “Sex Trafficking Prevention: A Trauma-Informed Approach for Parents and Individuals.” “In one mindless moment of scrolling through social media, my life changed and I saw myself as a victim of sex trafficking.”
That revelation propelled Sanders into volunteer work with a local anti-trafficking organization and then a career working to prevent child sex trafficking. Currently a social worker for the Safeguarding Adolescents From Exploitation (SAFE) Action Project, Sanders set out to put her story of survival and recovery into writing, along with years of insight gained from her professional experience. The result is a compelling, conversational book that gets to the root causes of trafficking and shares what does (and doesn’t) help youth feel comfortable enough to seek help.
Getting the Right Information at the Right Time
“Sex Trafficking Prevention” comes at an important time for family- and youth-serving professionals. Only recently have communities come to understand human trafficking as a problem happening down the street, not just in foreign countries. And vulnerable populations have a higher risk for becoming involved in sex trafficking, especially homeless youth with limited resources and support.
Lack of knowledge about the issue only worsens the problem. As Sanders writes, “There were so many people in my life who had the best of intentions, people who could have and would have helped me if only they had known what to look for.”
To build awareness, Sanders walks readers through the basic of trafficking and the role of trauma before, during, and after a young person is sexually exploited. She also shares trafficking “red flags” and the importance of trauma-informed care for different types of professionals that work with young people, including:
- Look for signs of or simply ask about past trauma, Sanders writes. Of the many mental health professionals she interacted with growing up, no one ever asked about past traumatic events, she shares.
- Use the Adverse Childhood Experiences questionnaire to help victims recognize the impact past trauma has on their current situation.
- Don’t only focus on your role reporting instances of abuse disclosed by students. Work to make them feel comfortable, Sanders writes, whether they disclose to you or not.
- Be aware of how happenings at home impact students' time at school. Students might throw themselves into classes and activities to avoid being at home, for example, or they might display behavioral issues or physical symptoms that stem from their experiences outside the classroom.
Even while sharing common signs for concern, Sanders points out that not all stories of trafficking are the same. “No snapshot image of trafficking exists, but what is common are the themes,” she writes. “Themes of vulnerability, the tactics of traffickers and the mindset of buyers.”
Written to inform readers and spur them to action, “Sex Trafficking Prevention” offers a wealth of information for practitioners, families, and communities—directly from a survivor.
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