Sometimes a parent finds that their teenager disappeared and they never find out what happened to them. This is a parent’s worst nightmare. There may be some evidence found later but sometimes there is no trail for the police or FBI to follow. Months and years of searching may result in absolutely no information. The only way to protect our children is to be proactive. We cannot think that our teens are safe unless we help them to be safe. It is time for churches to sit down with teenagers and parents and open the doors to communicate information about predictors and then provide the methods to keep teens safe.
Teenagers and some preteens can sulk and shut down communication. They may demand that their parent get out of their lives. They may replace their parents with friends or shut themselves in their rooms for hours to avoid interacting with others. Whatever condition your teen is in, this issue must be addressed with them. Christians cannot ignore the dangerous people of this world that can potentially seize our children. The reality is that Satan no longer even needs to knock on our doors to lure our children into a life-threatening situation – he can walk through walls by way of the internet and capture our children.
For hundreds of years a practice called shanghaiing took place in which men would be kidnapped and placed on vessels that went to sea. These were often young strong men but husbands and fathers were also kidnapped. In major port cities like London, England; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, California; New York, New York; Boston, Massachusetts; and Tokyo, Japan men were hit over the head, drugged or gotten drunk and kidnapped and placed on vessels often for months and sometimes to never again see their families. They would disappear without a trace and families were devastated by their loss.
The world Shanghaiing comes from the Chinese city of Shanghai which was often a destination for these sailing ships. The term became equivalent to kidnapping or forced to something through deceit. The men who did this kidnapping were called Crimps and they would sometimes carry the men through tunnels, keep them bound and gagged in dark rooms or dump them onto the brigs or jails on ships until the ship was far out to sea and the men were then forced to do the physical labor required to run a large ship. In the United States alone this practice lasted until the early 20th century but it still goes on in other countries.
Don’t let this information or a story about being shanghaied sound romantic. It was not. There is nothing romantic about being kidnapped and forced into slave labor when you can’t contact your family.
We have a much more insidious kidnapping that goes on now and crimps don’t even have to wander the streets looking for people alone. They just use the internet. They skulk into our homes and place their symbolic filthy hands on our children and draw them out into the streets where they are drugged, stripped naked, tortured, sexually battered many times a day and are unable to escape. They are often teenage girls but may be teen boys and may be preteens or young adults.
This process is now called Human Trafficking because it is not about slave labor but about prostitution – about forced sex. It is easier than you can even imagine for a man or group of people to kidnap your child. They lure them in with special talk through text messages. Your child joins a site that seems wonderful with games and prizes and other people with whom to play the games. They start playing something and get an on-line “relationship” with someone. They start to tell them about themselves because the person sounds interested. They spend time with them while they are in their rooms for hours, while they are bored on the school bus, while they are upstairs when you think they are sleeping. These crimps, these pedophiles, the kidnappers invest a lot of time into our children because they have a lot to win. Often children are posted on their websites for sale. Many people in this business get an especially high price for virgins so are particularly interested in preteens and early teens. The may make 10, 20, or 30,000 dollars just selling our children to someone who keeps them locked up, torturing them for years. They may put them in a camper or truck and take them to a truck-stop and sell them 40 or 50 times a day for sex. They may put them in a shipping container with many other young women and ship them to another city or out of the country. The ultimate result is that they are generally never again seen.
Young people don’t have the experience and confidence of mature people. It is easy for these crimps to play on their naiveté. Being naïve is a wonderful trait of being young but Satan knows that it’s easy to play on this inexperience and lack of knowledge.
It is time for parents to talk with their children about the dangers that are involved. The graphic details of what may happen to these youngsters should not be withheld from them because it is necessary for them to have knowledge of the road ahead. When Jesus sent his followers out into the world he did not want them to suffer. He warned them. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 NIV). We also know that Satan is the prince of trickery. He trains his minions to be equally sly.
Remember in the Garden of Eden he presented as a snake and deceived Eve with smooth words (Genesis 3:4). He didn’t have to hit her on the head or drug her. Crimps now days might do that when they meet up with your child at the library, or the gas station or the park in order to get them in their vehicle. They may have others with them to overpower our children. They may just use sweet words to convince your teen to get in their vehicle.
Now we face another problem – the confidence of youth. When we tell our children these stories they never think these things will happen to them. They never think they will get in a car accident, or fall of the edge of that ledge they are standing near, or get a sexually transmitted disease from their partner or suffer the shame of a person cheating on them. They don’t believe it will happen to them. What we can do about this issue is start with this information. Start by telling them that this is a normal developmental stage. This confidence keeps them from being too scared to reach out and do new things. Parent bones break easier than kid bones and so God built into them a desire to try new things – to reach past the comfort level of their parents. This is why you often see young people coming up with new inventions and trying different types of art and music – because they are basically cocky and unafraid. There is nothing wrong with that except that these crimps, these vultures, know how to use that confidence to sneak into their lives and get information from them and lure the young people to meet with them in public places or even solitary places. Satan reaches his long tentacles into our homes and transfixes our children to pull them out of the safety and comfort of our homes and inflict his evil on them. We cannot afford to let our children be naïve.
Let’s go over some of the methods that these men use.
1) They start out just basically seeming interested – asking questions, telling them a story they have made-up about themselves to seem like a typical teen. They may talk about coming from a divorced home, having an abusive or alcoholic parent, wishing they could just have someone who cares about them or loves them, the stories are detailed and may be based on their own lives or the lives of other kids they are texting.
2) They send our kids photos. They pick some on-line photo and send a handsome or pretty person that looks interesting and perhaps looks a little rebellious – maybe with a piercing or a cool hair style.
3) They may keep sending photos but these are Photoshopped and our children aren’t quite aware of it. If they were to pay close attention they might see that the face isn’t exactly the same face or that they may just photoshop in the same face or the it is blurry.
4) They may ask for our child’s first name but later ask for the last name – as people are easy to find on the internet.
5) They may start out asking for the state our child lives in and then the city.
6) Remember that while all of this is going on they are providing our children with details about themselves (made-up details) but a story – a believable story about themselves that will illicit some sympathy about their condition. They have a problem in their lives and they are reaching out to others and it makes our children feel good because they are helping someone – they understand them – they want to be friends – to date them – they are sexually attracted to these photos they are sent.
7) If our teen dares to ask for something specific – like a photo of the person holding a drawing they made for them – there might be anger – definitely a refusal. But our teens may “understand” because they can’t see the clues when they are enamored with the on-line character – the one they have spent a lot of time with and the one they have grown to like or love.
8) They may send naked photos of themselves and ask for naked pictures to be sent back of our children. Now these photos are not of the 40 or 50 year old man that is really contacting our teens – but an internet photo. A lot of people post photos of themselves because they want to get into modeling or were paid to pose for a photographer – sometimes as part of pornography – but the head can always be cropped.
9) They begin to hone down the issue and ask about their day – where they are at different times of day – whether they are coming home from school or homeschooled, the time they leave in the morning, where they go after school, if there is a park nearby, if they meet friends in certain places. All of this is to “find” our children outside of our homes – helpless – easy prey. Sometimes it’s to show up at the house when a parent is gone.
10) They reinforce that the teens parents don’t understand them and aren’t treating them right. Every teenager thinks their parents aren’t treating them right so it play on a common feeling.
What to do if we think our teen is a victim
1) Contact the FBI if this is done on the internet. Gather as much detail as possible. File a report with them.
2) If contact by phone or in person has been made or your child is missing immediately call the local police.
3) The FBI may ask you, but even if they don’t, file a report with The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (missingkids.org). There is a 24 hour hotline – 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) and a red button to tick that says: Make a Cybertipline Report. It is important to do this with as much information as you have because all law enforcement branches use this to track down evidence and it can make the difference between finding these pedophiles who torture and murder children or allow them to go free. It can be embarrassing – because we can feel that we have to admit that we didn’t do a very good job of protecting our children – we thought we had their safety in hand – we can’t believe our teen would ever talk to a stranger or send out a naked picture of themselves…but we must get past our embarrassment because this secret is what is keeping these men in business. Also, don’t think for one minute that some of these aren’t women predictors (just look up the sex offender list) and don’t think they aren’t part of a team of people working together.
4) As angry as your teen will be, their access to the internet must stop or at least be limited to times when you can sit with them and monitor it. Teens are good at things like switching screens when we get near them and deleting history so we must be diligent about it. Making their friends turn over their electronic when they enter your home and speaking to teachers/schools to stop access will also be necessary. Also, your teens should only be going to homes where you have discussed internet safety with other parents and can be assured that they have the same values and standards. You may have to print out homework assignments, request written assignments from teachers or even sit and enter the information they want if they have on-line assignments. Schools have to be made aware that internet access is not the answer to education. There are devices where teens can play games and not be connected to the internet so they can maintain some entertainment. Programs like Minecraft are safe and fun. Frankly, the internet has made us lazy about planning ahead. Prior to the internet people set dates, places and times to meet and we can go back to this method of relationships – which is better in so many ways.
Now some people are going to be very upset by this message. Some are going to think that this isn’t appropriate for a church message. I’m here to tell you that 800,000 children are reported missing each year (about 2,000 a day) – while some of these are taken by relatives a good portion of them end up in human trafficking. Among runaway 1 of every 5 ends up in the hands of human trackers (that’s up from 1 in 6 two year ago).
We must educate our children in the dangers of on-line relationships. We must spread the word. We must ask our children and their friends to tell an adult if they think a teen is on-line with someone they don’t know or someone who seems questionable. We must teach our kids to reach out for feedback on people in their relationships. Now this is not an easy thing because teens don’t want you in their lives – but we as adults must reach out of them and give them this kind of information and keep those doors of communication open. I’ve known parents who struggled so much with their teens that they gave them money and encouraged them to go to the mall so the parent did not have to deal with them. As a parent of 4 teenagers, I can assure you that I’m sympathetic to the daily challenges of having a teenager. However, we cannot treat our teens like they are undesirable because someone else will find them desirable or at least someone they can use for their own nefarious plans.
When a teenager or young adult knows the Lord they often can relate to the biblical teachings even when they can’t relate to their parents so let us turn to the wise King Solomon for some help. Solomon asked God for wisdom and God gave him an abundance of wisdom and riches and power. Solomon wrote the wise sayings we find in Proverbs –
“A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes” (13:1)
In modern terms we may say – ‘A smart teenager will listen to their parent’s advice and not tease them and tell them they aren’t cool and don’t know the score.’
Solomon goes on to say:
“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice” (12:15).
Finally, he tells us:
“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (13:20).
We have to teach our children that they are not dumb or untrustworthy but just inexperienced and it is up to a parent to protect our children but more importantly, to teach them the ways of the world. These pedophiles are very wise about ways to trap our children. We cannot allow our children to be naïve about how this world functions.
Peter gives us the important alert that we need for living in this world, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8). Let us work diligently not to allow Satan to devour our children or any other children that we know.
Peace and joy –