Can you use your love language to prevent human trafficking?
More often than not, “human trafficking” is a terrifying headline read on the news, on Facebook, and on Twitter. For most people, every time they see a headline with “human trafficking,” terror strikes because they know what the phrase represents: the horror of human beings being treated like products for sale.
When faced with news about human trafficking, it is understandable to feel helpless or afraid. You might have even asked yourself before, “This problem is so much bigger than me…What could I possibly do to help? How can one person make a difference?”
Human trafficking is an enormous problem; it is a cruel crime that ruthlessly exploits millions of vulnerable women, children, and men worldwide. However, there is something everyone can do: love on others.
The Power of False Love vs. Authentic Love
Commonly, victims of human trafficking have been lured by traffickers’ false promises, such as love. These victims are often runaway youth who escaped unsupportive, uncaring situations only to be trapped in yet another horrific situation. Perhaps if these men or women had initially received genuine love instead of criticism and abuse, they might not have been as susceptible to traffickers who prey on the emotional vulnerability of their victims by feigning love.
By being intentional with your actions and regularly showing love to others, you can help prevent someone from being exploited. One of the first most effective steps to doing this is identifying which love language you best communicate with and expressing that love to others. That way, when a predator attempts to feign love, the people around you will hopefully be more likely to recognize its dishonesty because they have experienced genuine love.
Before reading on, take a quiz to identify your love language!
If you prefer communicating love to others through gifts, sentimental trinkets without special occasion can be so impactful. Being surprised by a thoughtful gift from a safe, trustworthy person is usually never forgotten. For example, if you notice someone often wears colorful headbands and you gift a bright pink headband to this person, you are not only showing them that you care, but that you noticed an important detail about themselves. Additionally, you could even pick out gifts that help human trafficking survivors. For example, you could buy something from Beautiful Dream Society’s website, such as our plush elephant, a hand sewn animal created by women in BDS’ program in Lesotho, Africa, or one of our cozy Dream Beautiful hoodies.
Note: A common recruitment tactic of traffickers is to lavish extravagent gifts upon their target, such as expensive cell phones, luxury clothes and shoes, jewelry, and even cars or large amounts of cash. The victim doesn’t realize that strings are attached to these gifts. To differentiate manipulative gift giving from a real, restorative love language, opt to give small, meaningful gifts when appropriate for the situation.
If your love language is physical touch, you’re probably always giving high fives! Hugs, pats on the back, and hand holding probably mean the world to you – and, by expressing physical touch to others that you are close with, you can show genuine love to others as well. Something as simple as a quick pat on the shoulder to someone who is feeling down can remind them that someone cares and that they are not alone.
Note: With this love language, it is extremely important to keep in mind consent to touch, appropriateness of the touch and situation in which it is given, age differences, and appropriate physical boundaries.
If you express love through quality time, creating specific lunch dates and plans in advance are important to you. If you want to show people restorative love through quality time, conduct uninterrupted and focused conversations with the people you care about. One-on-one time is critical. To do this, create specific times to spend time with someone engaging in positive activities. Mentoring is a great outlet for demonstrating this love language, as well as a way to build a healthy, supportive relationship that emphasizes goal setting and a positive future. Creating this kind of relationship with someone – especially a younger person – can be helpful in reducing their vunlerability to a trafficker who would sell them a dream life. If a person already believes he or she can achieve a great life, they may be less likely to fall for a trafficker’s tactics.
Note: With this love language, make sure to focus on positive activities that are appropriate to the person’s age and situation. Activities that take place in public may be most appropriate.
Words of affirmation
If words of affirmation is your love language, encouragement means the world to you. If this is the love language you communicate with, embolden others and truly empathize with whatever people share with you. Try to send an unexpected note, text, or card to those you care about, and offer genuine encouragements. Also, avoid non-constructive criticism, which can break someone down as opposed to building someone up. For those who are susceptible to being trafficked by exploiters, hearing affirming words every day can be a way to demonstrate a sincere love, which is different from the false love traffickers can use to recruit and establish control with victims.
Note: In recruiting new victims, traffickers will often repeat manipulative, but affirming words over and over again to groom victims. Such expressions are often empty repetitions of “You are so beautiful,” “You are so hot,” “I love you so much,” and/or “I understand you better than anyone.” When expressing words of affirmation, keep in mind the importance of genuine and appropriate encouragements.
Acts of service
If performing acts of service is your love language, action phrases such as “I will” and “I will help” show love to those around you. By helping with chores and doing small deeds for those around you, you make people feel loved and valued. By going out of your way to help alleviate someone’s stress, you make a big difference. Lowering a person’s stress can go a long way to making them less vulnerable to help offered by someone with ulterior motives (who might offer help, but then reveal strings are attached).
Note: Traffickers may recruit new victims by offering acts of service in time of need. For example, if a teen has runaway from hom and is living on the street, a trafficker may kindly offer a ride, a warm place to sleep, a meal. Then the trafficker tells the teen that he or she “owes” the trafficker for that act of service. If this is your love language, always bear in mind appropriateness of the act of service itself, as well as personal boundaries surrounding the act of service. The act of service should have zero strings attached.
Mentoring – An Outlet for All Love Languages
When it comes to preventing exploitation of young people, mentoring can be extremely effective. A mentor often becomes a trusted adviser after spending lots of time together. As a mentor, you can utilize your love language as a way to be a safe person for a someone to go.
Mentoring can plant a seed which shows what real restorative love is. Then, if a trafficker or abuser tries to exploit a young person, hopefully he or she won’t fall for manipulation so quickly. After experiencing real, safe, restorative love, it is easier to differentiate it from false love. Mentees have the empowering experience of having someone invest in them, boost their self-esteem, and help them see a better future for themselves if they’re going through a difficult time. Such a positive relationship can help prevent vulnerabilities that traffickers tend to target when recruiting new victims.
Looking for a way to engage your love language to mentor young people and, in doing so, help reduce vulnerability to trafficking? Check out these great organizations:
Stand in the Gap Ministries (local Oklahoma organization)
Courtney Brady, Intern for Beautiful Dream Society