Missing teen case in WA may help parents detect human traffickin - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Missing teen case in WA may help parents detect human trafficking signs

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Tajuan McCarty. Source: WBRC video Tajuan McCarty. Source: WBRC video
Anji Dean. Source: KPTV Anji Dean. Source: KPTV
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

A Birmingham woman who works with victims of human trafficking said a recent missing persons case in Washington may help other parents spot the signs that their own children are in trouble.

When Tajuan McCarty heard about Anji Dean's disappearance and of the cryptic messages the teen left behind, she knew the teen wasn't new to human trafficking.

"This wasn't something that happened over night. They had been grooming her for awhile," said McCarty.

A victim herself, and now founder of the WellHouse, an organization that rescues human trafficking victims, McCarty said she's also not surprised Dean's parents didn't know. She recalled another woman's story.

"She blatantly talks about being trafficked from midnight to 4 a.m. three years out of her high school career and her parents never knew. And that's common," McCarty said.

So how can parents know their child is a victim?

McCarty said it's important to know the process usually begins when girls are young and have insecurities. A trafficker may try to woo a girl with something as simple as a compliment about her eyes or her smile.

"What girl doesn't enjoy a compliment?" McCarty said. "Thank you for that compliment. You have a nice smile too. One response is all it takes to start the conversation."

She said that's why it's important to have open conversations with your child about everything.

"Parents considering talking more opening with your children about your life, your experiences, their life," McCarty suggests.

McCarty urges parents to notice red flags like changes in behavior, friends, grades or clothing choices. She added that it's never too late to heal a relationship that may be damaged with a child. McCarty said it starts with one kind act a day.

"'I'm not trying to get into your business or overpower you as your mother. But true acts of consideration like, 'Why don't we go to the movies. What movie you want to go see?' That relationship is the key to all this stopping," she said.

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