Houston group uses videos to expose exploiters preying on children
GALVESTON – While many focus on protecting children “from” COVID, in this Positively Houston, a local group has launched a new campaign to protect children “during” the pandemic.
Some children continue to learn virtually, all are still expected to respect social distancing. But limiting in-person contact means more time spent online where kids can fall prey, but not if a group in Houston can help.
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âThat doesn’t mean you put on your Batman costume and go fight the traffickers,â smiles Christa Mayfield, director of educational programs at Unbound Houston.
The region’s nonprofit, Unbound Houston, fights human trafficking by educating one of the largest groups at risk of being trafficked, the students.
“The University of Texas estimates that there are 79,000 young people and minors who are exploited for sexual purposes in Texas alone,” says Mayfield.
Unbound Houston has created five videos that middle and high school teachers in Texas can access for free and show off in the classroom. It is about teaching young people the tricks used by traffickers to befriend and then isolate themselves, so that children can recognize red flags when they are recruited.
âIt’s empowering. It teaches them what to look for, how to find a safe adult, how to know if a friend is really in danger,â said Kerri Taylor, executive director of Unbound Houston.
“It’s a process of preparation that happens. The people who traffick our young people are people our children trust,” Mayfield adds.
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âThey talk to people their parents don’t know all the time and they talk to people they think they know,â Taylor says.
âThese predators are on social media, looking to build what feels like a secure, loving, cool friendship or relationship. They’ll start asking you for pictures. They’re going to ask you to meet, then start doing things. that you’re not comfortable with and then those kids feel trapped, âsays Mayfield.
The complete video program with workbooks is called the Sentinels program.
âWe chose the word Sentinels because the Sentinels are watchmen who watch and we wanted young people to realize that they have such an important role to play in the fight against trafficking,â says Mayfield.
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The group is hosting a Light Up the Dark 5K fundraiser and afternoon of family events, including a ninja obstacle course at Moody Gardens on Saturday, October 16, 2021.
âThe race starts right at sunset so it’s just twilight and the light and then by the time you finish it gets dark and the party of light begins,â Taylor smiles.
Interested in running or walking in the race or watching the sex trafficking videos? Click here for more information unboundhouston.org/sentinels.