FASD and Human Trafficking

by Aubrey Page, Collaborator/CEO (originally published July 30, 2020 on aubreypage.org)

In honor of World Trafficking Against Persons Day, July 30, I want to discuss the intersectionality of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and Human Trafficking. I have been a passionate advocate for human trafficking for years, but one of the reasons that it was easy for me to be passionate about FASD was that I saw this link.

Human trafficking is a complex series of people grooming children and adults in order to exploit them. Let's look at what steps these take. Many professionals reference the AMP Model which stands for Action Means Purpose.

The AMP Model is widely accepted as how to identify the existence of trafficking, but it is important to note that children cannot consent and do not require means.

So then if we look at how FASD can be impacted, we will see that individuals with FASD struggle with cause and effect. That can mean that individuals can be more easily convinced that a dangerous activity is not a big deal. For example, if you struggle with cause and affect, it may seem ok to meet a stranger from online in person. The "if you meet strangers at the mall, you might get kidnapped" thought process may even be known, but using that information is different because of the executive functioning struggles. So often individuals on the spectrum are so excited for new friends and that is exactly what a trafficker can capitalize on.

Individuals on the spectrum can sometimes more easily be made to feel guilty for things they are not responsible. Due to memory impairments and a desire to be helpful, they may admit to things they did not do. This would be a problem if a trafficker wants to blackmail a person. It also could mean that a person would feel like their trafficking is their fault and not fight their way out even if an option became available.

These types of challenges are ideal for traffickers and we need to be preparing our children for how to reach out for help when approached like this. We need to help them to recognize the language and the dangers. This is so important and can actually work!

I actually had a child who reported suspicious behavior. It felt wrong to them because of all the conversations we had had at home. They had seen it on someone else's phone. Of course a report had to be made and the child was mad at them that the police got involved. We assured them that they literally saved that child's life. They said "I'm basically a superhero." Yea, you are kiddo. My superhero.


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