SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Two teenagers from the state of Texas were rescued from a hotel room in St. Louis County after a couple tried to sex traffick them.
Court records indicate the couple also stayed in Kansas City where the children were advertised on an escort website.
Russ Tuttle, the founder of the Stop Trafficking Project, which operates out of Kansas City, says parents can play a huge role in stopping an encounter by just talking with their child.
“What we are finding is that when kids are feeling lonely or isolated or depressed or increasingly dealing with suicide ideation and getting caught up in sexting, cyberbullying, and pornography… all of these things become easier ways for people who intend to harm kids to case them and harm them online, ” said Tuttle.
Predators will find different ways to talk with children online whether it’s in a game room chat or on social media, Tuttle says. Parents don’t have to be an expert in technology but rather be an expert in their children.
“Understand the role that technology can play, in the context of three words exploitation of vulnerability, ” said Tuttle.
Tuttle has gone to different schools across the area speaking to different age groups and helping them be aware of a potential threat.
According to the stop trafficking project, the average age of children who are sold by traffickers is 12 to 13 years old.
Maddie Millaway, a student at Missouri State who is from the St. Louis area said it’s heartbreaking to see and hear stories of people who have been trafficked and says it caused her to keep her guard up.
“You always have that mindset in your head, you know don’t talk to strangers, stick with a crowd, never be by yourself, especially at night down here, ” said Millaway.