The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is urging you to drop an F-bomb. No, not the swear word. In this case, F stands for Friend. The unusual social media push targets teens to speak up for friends who may be victims of sex trafficking. They’re using memes with a very serious message.
It's something we don't like to think is happening in our community: kids forced to be sex slaves. But Florida is one of the top three states for human trafficking. While memes like “SnapTrap” or “Trickers” may make you laugh, the hope is they'll help save a young life.
“They sometimes try to influence them to send nudes and stuff,” said seventh-grade student Briana Rittle.
Middle schoolers Rittle and Tess McGann say they already have friends sending naked pictures to guys and have to worry about older men preying on them online.
“It's catfishing people. They're like 35. They're taking pictures of 13-year-olds and pretending to be a 13-year-old, and telling you to meet at places,” said McGann. “There are like 20-year-old guys commenting on their photos on there. It's scary.”
“Grooming, that’s how it starts,” said Ken Gibson from the Crisis Center. Gibson says there are men looking to quickly turn a conversation into a girl turning tricks.
“It's little kids at that point who are being targeted by pimps. They're dating somebody. They’re buying gifts for their friend. The person is showing up in a nice car, buying jewelry, really grooming them. If they see these things happening, they start to take steps to talk to their friend,” said Gibson.
That's where the "Drop An F-Bomb" campaign comes in.
“We encourage kids to drop an F-bomb, and in that case it's being a good friend. Providing them with the knowledge, so they can tap their friend on the shoulder and say 'This guy is weird, this girl is weird.' his is not a normal relationship,” said Gibson.
Where else will kids see the message but social media?
“We incorporate Scumbag Steve into this particular meme for the F-bomb campaign,” said Gibson.
“It’s kind of messed up,” says 13-year-old Devin Flock after reading the Scumbag Steve meme. “It convinces you you're worth $1 million, (but) sells you for $100.”
The Crisis Center hopes students will tell an adult if they suspect human trafficking or call 211 to save a friend.
“(Young girls) send nudes because they don't have enough confidence in themselves to call themselves beautiful. They feel like the guys actually mean it when they're actually using them,” explained McGann.
“If they need help or anything, we can help them,” said Rittle.
Tuesday, Attorney General Pam Bondi honored the Crisis Center as the "Community Advocate of the Year" for its “Drop An F-Bomb” campaign and its work with human trafficking survivors.