(WXYZ) — “Growing up, I was a straight A student,” said 27-year-old Lauren Sowell.
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Sowell says her grandparents raised her and four other siblings. She says she did well in school, grew up in a Christian household but wasn’t getting the attention that she craved.
At the age of 14, Sowell says she ran away from home. It was then that she was lured into the work of sex trafficking. She now helps others through her work in advocacy, and sees firsthand and how apps are used to lure in those who least expect it.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING: January is Human Trafficking Awareness month. I had the pleasure of meeting Lauren Sowell, a survivor of sex trafficking. I was impressed by her courage to share her story with me and others. @wxyzdetroit pic.twitter.com/kzYcxSXYrd— Ali Hoxie (@ali_hoxie) January 21, 2020
“Some are using back page, I know that some are actually using Facebook Messenger, and some are actually setting up Messenger kids, and pretending to be someone’s child,” said Sowell.
Some predators are using dating apps like Hot or Not or Skout. Others use messaging apps like Kik or Whatsapp, or apps meant for entertainment like Snapchat and Tiktok.
Law enforcement in Sarasota Florida said 25 men used these apps during a bust over the summer. They also said the following apps were used by the men in the bust:
First Lieutenant Mike Shaw with Michigan State Police says parents should be vigilant of all apps and suggests parents track their children’s phones and laptops.
“Let them know 'hey I’m putting this application on your phone,' it’s for your own safety, it is not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that I don’t trust people that are on the internet,” said First Lt. Shaw.
He says having these conversations is critical in keeping your child safe. Sowell suggest the same, having a conversation with your child.
“If you have a daughter, son, see them and love them,” says Sowell.
I spoke with @mspmetrodet about what apps parents should look out for. I was told all, parents should be monitoring phones/laptops. I found a few specific ones on my own. Have you heard of secret calculator apps? They store pics, notes, ext. @wxyzdetroit https://t.co/u7svwxi8q3 pic.twitter.com/8x3xTiCnnB— Ali Hoxie (@ali_hoxie) January 21, 2020
United to Fight, a campaign committed to fighting against human trafficking in Detroit, will host a human traffick awareness workshop on Saturday, Feb. 29 at the ArtBlock on 1411 Holden.
The event will include guest speakers, survivor testimonials and safety tips as well as resources. See more details below:
For more information, email the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org.