Two years ago, I received a call from a woman in China who described what happened to her 17-year-old daughter. Her daughter felt insecure and unattractive. To find validation, she joined several online chat rooms. At first, she just simply listened and watched. Then she began to join some of the discussions.
 
A young man began to initiate more conversation. He described himself as a 17-year-old boy from Kunming, her hometown. Like her daughter, he appeared shy and reserved at first.
 
Over time, they began to correspond more and their online relationship grew. Whenever she had free time, she would contact her secret friend. He repeatedly told her how beautiful she was. Within 2 weeks, he said he had fallen in love with her. 
 
She thought the boy was a teenager, but he was actually a middle-aged trafficker. He asked if they could meet for ice cream. When she arrived at the appointed place, the boy seen in the platform photos was there. He was part of the trafficking scheme.
 
In-person, he seemed less enthusiastic and much different from their chats. But she didn’t care. They were in love! He picked her up from the train station and drove to a small café in the countryside.
 
Without knowing what happened, she woke up in a hotel room. She had been given a strong sedative that completely knocked her out for hours. The boy revealed explicit photos of them in bed naked. In a menacing tone, he told her that if she didn’t follow his orders, he’d share the photos with her school and her family. He told her she would have to sleep with men now or else.  
 
This tragic scenario happens to many young girls in China and in fact, all over the world. While many of these victims are forced into prostitution to avoid losing face and hurting their families, in this case the girl straight away asked her parents for help and they went to the police.
 
They managed to identify the ‘boyfriend trafficker’ and the middle-aged man who was propping him up. This young woman was able to get out of this trafficking trap. 
 
What I described is called grooming for sexploitation. 


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Here are 3 steps that parents should take to protect their children from online grooming. 
 

1.     Teach your teenager to keep all personal information private. Do not share a full name, age, gender, phone number, home address, school name, and photographs with strangers. 
2.     Teenagers must be taught about having boundaries and to be guarded about what stories they share about themselves with strangers online. Remind them that even though people they’ve met online might feel like friends they may not be whom they say they are. Details offered can be used to further manipulate them.
3.     Share this post or similar stories, so they understand how predators act and behave. There are many resources available for parents to learn more about this issue.

 
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