Holly Austin Smith remembers feeling very lost and lonely that summer after eighth grade when a stranger befriended her in a crowded shopping mall. She was so desperate for a connection with someone, that the man convinced her to run away from home and forced her into a life of prostitution at the age of fourteen.
Her experience may have been very different if she had had a mentor.
Child predators, specifically child sex traffickers, target those youth who are most vulnerable, those who lack the support and guidance needed to overcome and avoid the many challenges associated with adolescence. Children who leave home to escape physical or sexual abuse or neglect may end up on the streets and victimized again through pornography, sexual exploitation, and drugs.
Connecting with troubled or at-risk youth before they run away is a key factor in the prevention of child sexual exploitation. Mentors can help children build self-confidence and coping skills. By being there for them, as a volunteer or financial supporter of youth-based organizations, you will enable the children in your community to realize their full potential.
To find a youth mentoring program in your area visit www.Mentoring.org.
For troubled youth, having a relationship with a mentor could derail them from any detrimental decisions. A child or teen without any other options is vulnerable to believing a stranger who offers “a better way of life.”
Learn more at Holly Austin Smith’s Washington Times article: How YOU can help prevent child trafficking.