A Mysterious Friend Request
Rekha was raised in a supportive family — one that empowered her to continue her schooling into college. Even with this support, Rekha was in danger of becoming a victim of human trafficking. The reason she was at-risk was not because of her family or education, but rather because of social media. Most young adults use several different social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, with the most popular site being Facebook. Social media is still a relatively new phenomenon, and individuals around the world may not realize the potential dangers associated with these platforms. Rekha’s story is a relevant example of these dangers and the potential implications.
While attending school, Rekha received a Facebook friend request from a young man who lived in the same town as her. Seeing that they were from the same area, Rekha accepted Sanjey’s request without a second thought. After a short while of talking online, Sanjey asked Rekha to be his girlfriend, and again, she said yes. The two, without ever meeting in person, began to send explicit messages and images to each other.
Sometime into the online relationship, Sanjey proposed that the two finally meet face-to-face. Rekha had a feeling that something was not quite right and decided against the meet-up. When she responded negatively to the idea, her boyfriend’s usually calm demeanor quickly changed. He threatened that if she did not meet him in Kathmandu, he would share their supposedly private conversations and her explicit photos with her family, friends, and colleagues. Rekha, petrified of this possibility, went against her gut and traveled to Kathmandu.
A Weekend Gone Wrong
After a terrible weekend, Rekha continued to ignore the numerous red flags and proceeded with the relationship. Over the next couple of weeks, Sanjey convinced Rekha that the couple must abandon their town and move to India for a better life. Rekha trusted her boyfriend and convinced herself that he must be right. When they arrived at the border, Free for Life’s partner organization stopped and questioned them individually on their motives. When Rekha explained their relationship, the staff listened and told her how she was putting herself at-risk for the potential of human trafficking. Rekha finally recognized — through all the signs — that Sanjey was up to no good and returned to her family. Meanwhile, Sanjey was taken into police custody for his threats of blackmail and potential attempt at trafficking Rekha.
Finally Safe from Danger
While no one factor is completely to blame for Rekha’s story, most of it could have been avoided if she knew about the dangers of social media. To avoid being deceived by those posing as good people, one should be wary of their privacy settings on sites such as Facebook and never accept friend requests from people they do not know. In the end, Rekha was lucky to escape such a dangerous situation and is now focusing on her schooling with the continued love and support of her family.