Most people are surprised that 60% of exploited children are recruited by someone they know and that suburban teenage girls are the fastest-growing demographic for sex trafficking. It’s Not About the Sex, a new book by critically acclaimed and internationally read author John DiGirolamo features true stories of human trafficking. They accurately describe the horrors of human trafficking without being salacious or graphic. The creative nonfiction book is told through four unique perspectives: an advocate, a law enforcement officer, a survivor, and a brothel madam’s tale of redemption. The last chapter focuses on what ordinary citizens can do, and especially important for parents, warning signs which indicate someone may be trafficked, and tips on internet safety for teens.
“Parents need to be aware of the red flags,” explained DiGirolamo. “If a teen has an older or secret boyfriend that isn’t in high school, has a second cellphone and other unexplained gifts, these can be signs of being groomed.”
Several plotlines in DiGirolamo’s book detail high school victims and how they were groomed. He points out that modern technology is making it more dangerous for teens, “Predators are everywhere online, on social media, games and chat rooms. Human trafficking is just one of several ways teens can be exploited. They can trick teens into sending nude pictures, meet them for a sexual encounter or try to blackmail them. Pictures are typically traded with other child pornographers.” Dawn Hawkins, CEO of, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation recently said, “Child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and pornography have merged online into one industry.”
In DiGirolamo’s first book, It’s Not About the Badge, he featured a true story where a girl sent nude pictures to someone whom she never met. She also provided her social media password to her fake boyfriend, who blackmailed her and sent her picture to hundreds of people. She became the victim of cyberbullying, and the boyfriend lived in a foreign country.
While it may seem obvious to an adult that sexting is a bad idea, the teen brain works differently. “Teens tend to value themselves in society by the amount of “likes” or how popular you are on social media. They see having 1,000s of “likes” as a goal rather than a problem.
“Predators are hunting kids and teens for a variety of nefarious reasons. Your child may not be looking for trouble, but trouble is looking for them,” DiGirolamo explained. There are several actions that a parent can take. DiGirolamo made ten suggestions:
- Know what your child is doing online and what applications they are using. Check their activity at least weekly.
- Review any chat room they participate in.
- The parent should control all passwords.
- Ensure that your child has memorized at least five phone numbers of a trusted adult. This is useful if they lost their phone or the battery is dead but remembering a phone number will be invaluable if they are in real danger.
- Don’t post trouble on social media such as, “I hate my parents” or “I just ran away.” Comments like that will attract predators.
- Don’t use your full name or provide your home address.
- Accept “friends” from only those known personally and remove friends that the child or parent doesn’t know.
- Keep application settings to “private” (not public).
- Use a parental control application such as Net Nanny, Canopy or Bark.
- Watch for spoofer programs. There are programs that look like a calculator, but also have hidden folders for pictures or a GPS override program that makes it looks like the teen’s phone is somewhere that it isn’t.
Many people are surprised to learn that 85% of those trafficked are born in the U.S and only 5% of those trafficked are kidnapped. DiGirolamo said that through unique storytelling, the plotline reveals how predators target teens, how someone gets trapped, and why they can’t leave their situation. He concluded, “You don’t usually see multiple perspectives in one book and the personal accounts are based on actual events and haven’t been over-sensationalized. It provided an authentic glimpse into the evil hiding in plain sight within our neighborhoods.”
“It’s Not About the Sex” by John DiGirolamo is available in print, audio, or Kindle on Amazon.com. A signed print copy can be purchased from the author’s website: Itisnotabout