When you hear the words “human trafficking” what comes to mind? Do you understand how terrible it is yet think “that’s not really impacting me personally”? Instagram…
Maybe it is and you don’t know it because we are not talking about it enough.
What I am about to tell you is very personal and dear to my heart, many tears have been shed and countless months of detective work to come to the story I am about to tell you.
A year ago, Michigan was #2 in the nation for human trafficking based on phone calls received by the human trafficking hotline. Today it’s still in the top 10, however falling lower to states like California and Nevada due to the volume of vacationers that visit those states.
It all started about 5 years ago with a 15-year-old boy named Bruce on Instagram. Bruce was a young attractive Hispanic boy, seemingly normal in every way. Little did he know he was the first step in an elaborate human trafficking ring. Like many of our children today they really do not understand how the social media outlets spread the entire world and with that come serious threats if not monitored.
Human Trafficking Instagram Accounts
Bruce was a “friend” to quite a few of the girls in my daughter’s circle of friends and they would chat daily. Bruce also had many friends that were being introduced to the circle and they all began to chat through Instagram and Kik. Shortly after their introduction, I began to see a change in my daughter, she was becoming secretive and sneaky, and being that I fully understand how far the internet reaches and quickly things can get out of control on the internet I checked up on my daughter on a regular basis. I would say bi-weekly I would grab her tablet after she went to sleep and begin to dig into her messages, her pictures, and to see if things looked appropriate.
I noticed an unusual time gap in some messages and images and truly didn’t think anything of it until about 2 weeks later. I had a funny feeling one night and grabbed her tablet to do what I thought would be just another normal check… What I found to this day haunts my mind and makes my heart sink.
It began with a picture, a questionably inappropriate one for a girl her age, and the sexy pose set my red flag on fire. So my digging turned into a manhunt checking EVERYTHING in all her accounts.
You see Bruce was a real boy, totally naïve to the “friends” he had in his circle. As I finished my digging into her accounts all I was left with were tears in my eyes and a burning fire in my heart to destroy every boy on her Instagram account and it was just the beginning.
I began to use the power of Google to do some searching and looking up secondary accounts of some of the friends in this circle (not something children are willing to do) once I saw that 4 of the “friends” in the circle were clearly adult men, my heartbreak turned to anger and rage. After about 2 days of almost endless scouring the internet for info on these MEN, I came to the conclusion that I needed to take action with the Police. We were quickly met by the detective of the Cyber Task Force of Portage Police department and all our technology was requested. After 7 months they called us in to report the most terrifying words I have ever heard, “Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins, can you and your family please come to the Police station as soon as possible.” NOT something you ever want to hear.