Traffickers Can Tell

60% of child sex trafficking victims recovered through FBI raids across the U.S. in 2013, had been previously removed from broken homes.

Research shows that children living outside of a safe family are among the easiest targets for trafficking. Amy Andrews’ story sheds light on this issue.

In an article published by Reuters back in May of this year, the journalist, Ellen Wulfhorst, shared Amy’s story of being trafficked as a teen:

"She spun in and out of her abusive family home into the child welfare system, starting when she was 10 years old. By 14, she was selling sex on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard, working for traffickers who exploited her naïveté and need for attention.

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“Nobody wanted me. This set me up to be vulnerable and needy,” Amy told Reuters. “These predators know all the signs and look for them.

Traffickers can tell that you’re the kid who doesn’t have any family,” shared Andrews.


Their strategy is shamelessly simple.

Children need love. They are hard-wired to thrive within secure attachment to a primary caregiver. When this is missing, or when trust has been broken by violence or neglect, children will naturally seek out connection and intimacy from another source. 

Traffickers prey on this need for affection and belonging.

Children without secure attachment will look for love and belonging somewhere. They might run away from group care or foster placements making them easy targets. They can be more easily tricked by a Romeo Pimp, who lures through false love, or enticed through drug related activity. The pain of being unwanted can spiral an adolescent right into the wrong hands too quickly.

These same issues exist for children around the globe who spend their lives in orphanages. 80-90% of the 8 million children living in orphanages have at least one living parent and are often there because of poverty.

Considering the amount of energy required to form healthy attachment with children who are not our own, it is easy to understand how difficult it would be for even the best staff to meet the emotional needs of hundreds of children daily.

In turn, children grow up without attachment and research shows they are much more likely to enter prostitution, engage in criminal activity or even commit suicide within their lifetime.

This is why our aim is to keep children in families. A child’s birth family might not always be a safe option but the continuum of care describes the many options of family-based care that we can consider before an institution.

Family is God’s design so it’s our first priority.

For all of you who are loving the children in your home well, thank you for being part of the fight against child trafficking.

'The human heart does not need a big house or lots of things. The human heart, especially the hurting heart, needs love" 

The Archibald Project.

Original reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Claire Cozens

Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

Ashlee Heiligman