Resources for Discussing Human Trafficking with Teens

The idea for this post came from watching the documentary Playground: The Child Sex Trade in America published in 2009 through Netflix. I was disturbed to say the least and then just a few short weeks later, I read E.R. Frank’s Dime (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults) about a girl lured into the sex industry. Frank’s gripping portrayal of pimping and prostituting is vivid, unforgiving, and gut-wrenching. But how much do students know about sexual slavery and sex trafficking?


Tenth grade students at the high school where I work do a unit on social justice. Their choices for a topic frequently center around sex trafficking because Patricia McCormick’s Sold is a part of their class reading. So what kinds of resources are available to help students learn about these topics, from the shocking statistics about its frequency in the United States, when so many shows, documentaries, and books focus on Asian countries?

I’d recommend starting with another video, created by Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, and published online. Tricked: Inside the World of Teen Sex Trafficking “will help students understand and spot the scouting and manipulating techniques that are commonly used by traffickers. Using testimony from survivors of sex trafficking, as well as insider information from a former trafficker, we talk about how to avoid susceptible behaviors. We also provide insights on how to get help if students or their friends get trapped in this terrible situation.”

The Polaris Project is another great resource because it not only focuses on sex trafficking but labor trafficking and in addition to information and facts, there is a hotline and information on how to help. For many students, projects where they can begin to advocate on behalf of others is the next logical step after reading about the issues. Contributing to issues of global importance empower our students.

If reading is where you want to start to introduce the topic, suggested titles include The Queen of Water by Laura Resau and María Virginia Farinango, Tricks and Traffick by Ellen Hopkins, Sold by Patricia McCormick, On The Edge by Allison van Diepen, and a new book published this month called Fifteen Lanes by S.J. Laidlaw, which is set in India and features two girls on different sides of culture and class intersect.

And as with the above referenced video from Fairfax, if videos and documentaries are a way to pique interest, watch Tricked: Inside the World of Teen Sex Trafficking, Chosen, In Plain Sight, Half the Sky, or Girl Rising.

Either way, a conversation needs to happen with students in the United States to make them aware of the dangers that lurk within their community, within their country, and around the world regarding sexual slavery. The more light that is shed on this $150 billion dollar global industry, the easier it will be to identify and combat it.

— Alicia Abdul, currently between books