When I lived in South Carolina, I would drive home to Maryland regularly. I would pack up my little ones into my minivan, and we’d hit the highway. Most times, I left in the very early morning and drove into the afternoon. On this one particular trip, I left Maryland in the late afternoon for our eight-hour trip. My children were toddlers at the time, about four and two, and on the way back to South Carolina, I stopped at a Popeyes to use the bathroom in Virginia at about 11 PM. The restaurant was empty except for a group of young girls with a man who appeared to be in his late 20s. The girls looked like they were 15 or 16. They had on pajama pants and t-shirts. Some had their hair wrapped up. I glanced at the table as I walked into the restaurant and headed straight to the bathroom with my little ones. I thought it was strange for a group of teenagers to be at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere without an adult, but I was in a rush to get in and get out with my babies so I kept it moving. I’m a paranoid mom, so when my children were toddlers I would always bring them into the bathroom stall with me regardless of the stall’s size. So as I was using the restroom, I had my four and two year olds standing in front of me with their backs to the locked bathroom stall. Shortly after we entered the bathroom, two of the teenage girls entered the bathroom. They stood outside of the stall just talking and giggling to themselves. I had a very awkward feeling. Initially, I thought they were going to rob me. I prepared to fight my way out of the bathroom with my babies. I finished using the bathroom, let my kids use the bathroom, and got ready for whatever these girls were going to bring. Thankfully, they didn’t do anything except watch us. We washed our hands with the two girls standing there, and I quickly left the restaurant and locked ourselves in the van while I strapped my children back into their car seats. It was a very eerie encounter, and in hindsight, I believe that the man those girls were with sent them in the bathroom to possibly snatch my children.
I am sharing this story with you because I am seeing a lot of human trafficking stories circulating on social media. The Bible admonishes us to watch and pray and to be wise as serpents. Be vigilant. Watch your children. Monitor their social media accounts and screen time. Vet their friends. Parenting in the 21st Century has become such that some parents feel like they are violating their children’s rights or privacy if they ask questions or vet their friends. I feel differently. God has given us stewardship over these precious human beings. In many cases, we only get one chance to protect them and steer them in the right direction. Teach young girls what real love really looks like and tell them that any older man who’s interested in a teenager has problems. Teach them the red flags so they won’t become easy prey to these sex traffickers.
What are some of your experiences, thoughts or tips?