by Adrian Mojica, FOX 17 News
NASHVILLE, Tenn.--The state of Tennessee has experienced two AMBER Alerts in recent months, both involving 15-year-old girls in the company of older men.
FOX 17 This Morning spoke with Derri Smith, founder of End Slavery Tennessee, an organization focused on stopping human trafficking and helping it's victims.
In the wake of 15-year-old Trinity Quinn's disappearance, AMBER Alert, and ultimate arrest on criminal homicide charges, Smith says there are parallels in cases involving teen girls and older men.
Smith says "there really is a perfect formula for this. You take a girl who has been abused or traumatized and all she wants is to feel loved." Smith says the girls are flattered when an older man makes them feel special and they don't have enough life experience to see through the men's actions.
Smith cautions parents to keep tabs on their children. Children can show changes in language, be deceitful, make excuses, and start spending more time with older men. However, it's not just physical and verbal cues parents should be looking for. Smith says young people can be very tech savvy and it's up to parents to monitor the devices their children are using along with the apps and platforms being used to communicate.
Peers, teachers, school counselors, and others can also play a role in preventing potentially dangerous situations. Smith says peers sometimes know information that parents don't know. Friends should speak out if they see potential exploitation and communicate with the child's parents if they observe warning signs.
Norma Tillman, a private investigator and former sex crimes detective, echoed statements made by Smith. Tillman says "Fifty percent of all kids in the United States are being raised by single parents." When an older person shows interest, Tillman says the child could see them as representing a "father figure or someone they can look up to." Tillman adds the children "trust this person" and exploitation isn't something which occurs to the child.