Have you ever gotten random texts from a stranger? This happened to me the other day, and not for the first time!

Even so, this was my first extended conversation with a person I didn’t know (I will let you read it below). I wasn’t sure it was a stranger at first. Then, once it was obvious it was someone I didn’t know, it was so interesting, fascinating, exciting! That is, until it got weird.

There are a few rules when it comes to conversations with with unknown people, after all. My parents did read me The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers when I was growing up. I realize this might surprise you as I LOVE talking to random people I’ve never met before.

But, because it might not be clear to me (or you), for review I decided to make some good rules when it comes to limiting interactions with people I don’t know:

Almost Obvious Ten-Step Guide for How Not to Sext (Or Worse) with Random Strangers:

  1. If you get a text from a random person, do not engage.
  2. If you do engage, do not become emotionally attached (i.e., don’t like them).
  3. Regardless of whether you like the person or not, if you don’t want to sext with random strangers, it is probably a good idea to not send pictures of any sort.
  4. If you do send pictures, don’t send sexy pictures.
  5. If you are having fun talking to the person, if they make you feel good, regardless of if you do or do not send pictures- do not meet them in person.
  6. If you do meet them in person, whatever you do, DO NOT MEET THEM without your family and friends watching everything you guys do.
  7. If you do meet without all your friends and family present, do not meet them with just a friend who wants you to be happy with a guy who likes you.
  8. Also, don’t meet them alone.
  9. If you do meet them with or without people, don’t keep meeting them.
  10. If you keep talking to them or meeting them, don’t believe for a second that you know them and therefore become their girlfriend.

I know for a fact that these rules can sometimes seem arbitrary. I’m an adult, right? But it is still a slippery slope.

Conditioning: How a Sex Trafficker Hooks Their Prey

It could lead to an affair, yes. But, what I really want to get across is that this isn’t an uncommon way for people to get-to-know each other. I know people whose whole relationships where not-in-person that are happily married now.  Some through safer dating websites, but others through random chat forums. Yes, maybe it is possible to truly fall-in-love and get to know someone you’ve never met before texting as well.

But, what it is also not uncommon for people, usually young teens, is to fall prey to a perpetrator. At some point in their story, they had a simple beginning introductory conversation with an unknown individual.  In the United States, during middle school is the most common age for girls to begin being sex trafficked. Usually, when they are trafficked they go through a preparation phase, being conditioned and manipulated by an older guy, their future trafficker. Sometimes girls eventually realize they are being controlled by a guy and need help to escape. But more often, the typical trafficking victim experiences extreme confusion, having been so coierced and manipulated that they don’t even realize that it is not normal or good to be used for sex. Instead of fully hating their trafficker, often they see him through the lens of him being their provider, their “family,” the one who loves her and will always be there for her.

And this all starts with a conversation.

Consider This:

It might be weird for you to think that this actually happens here, but I can assure you that it is happening in Northern Virginia as well, where we are considered a top hub of trafficking cases in our country. Yes, I know this because I am a sorta expert on human trafficking, true.

But if you don’t believe me because of the facts, believe me because of this . . .

The other day, totally out of the blue, a complete stranger began this conversation with me.

But while reading it, consider these questions:

  • Where do you think this could led?
  • Where did I break my “Ten-Step Guide?”


I know you are DYING to read it, so without further ado, here you go:

My Random Texting Conversation

(On one fine day a couple weeks ago)

Random#: Hey 3:27 PM
Random#: Came across this number on my phone and I’m trying to figure out who it could be 3:38 PM
Me: This is Elisa Johnston (VA, j10 church, mom,writing, nova human trafficking) and you are? 4:09 PM
Random#: Jayden high school graduate attending nova community college 4:12 PM
Random#: Um. Ya. Don’t know you. 4:16 PM
Random#: Maybe we can get to know each other build a friendship? 4:16 PM
Me: Um. I don’t know anything about you and most people don’t just make friends over texts unless they want something from the person. 4:19 PM
Me: Probably not the best start of a friendship. 4:20 PM
Me: But if you would really like to be friends I’ll meet you at j10 church this Sunday morning and you could come out to eat with us for lunch after 🙂 4:21 PM
Random#: That is true lol Maybe we can meet up for coffee or a drink? 4:21 PM
Random#: Where at? What’s your name btw? 4:26 PM
Random#: ? 4:57 PM
Me: Embassy Suites in Ashburn @10am on sunday’s. My name is Elisa. I’m married, too, if you didn’t catch that. 5:27 PM
Random#: Aww man was hoping you would be single for some fun haha 5:29 PM
Me: Ya, I kinda gathered that. Hence the whole, BTW, I’m a mom. I’m married. I worked for my church & an org to help girls that are sex trafficked. So prolly not up for some fun w/ you. 5:31 PM
Random#: Ouch lol 5:32 PM
Me: 🙂 you’re still welcome to come to my church and meet me thou 🙂 but not for that kinda fun. 5:34 PM
Random#: Not even a little?lol 5:35 PM
Me: Ya. No. 5:36 PM
Random#: Def wanna meet you though 5:36 PM
Random#: Can i see a picture of you? 5:36 PM
Me: Do you do this to other girls? 5:37 PM
Random#: Do what 5:37 PM
Me: Text random chicks and try to meet them, see them, etc… 5:39 PM
Random#: No I was trying to see who’s number this was and it ended being a chick so I decided to be friendly 5:40 PM
Me: Ah. 5:40 PM
Random#: Yup 5:40 PM
Random#: May I see a picture of you? 5:41 PM
Me: Did I mention no, already? If not, no. When you ask to see a pic of people it kinda makes them feel like their value is just in how they
look. 5:46 PM
Random#: But in this case that’s not true I just wanna see how you look lol 5:49 PM
Me: Ya. I have no clue what you would do with a pic of me. If you want to meet me and my friends and family, fine. You know where I am on Sunday mornings. Otherwise, pretty sure you’ll survive. 5:52 PM

In Retrospect

Obviously, I didn’t sext with the guy. And, for the record, he isn’t trafficking me either.

I was talking to a friend about this and she unbelieving stated that she didn’t think this method of hitting-on girls could ever work. How could he actually get a girl to respond, let alone “have fun with them” by randomly texting them?

And I told her, it did work! At least to an extent. Our conversation was friendly and interesting. I kept responding. Truth be told, I wanted to keep the conversation going, and would have if I didn’t know better. I would have sent him a picture (although probably not a scandalous one, but still, one where I looked cute). Then, let’s say he texted me on-and-off over a week or two. Told me I was funny. Told me I was pretty. Wanted to meet.

Really, now. It wouldn’t be that hard. I would totally meet him.

So honestly now- would your 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 year old girl know well enough to not reply at all? Not even to at least to figure out if she knew the person who was asking as if he legitimately might have known her? Are you sure she wouldn’t keep texting them? Are you positive her self-worth is so complete that she wouldn’t begin to like a guy who LOLed at her and told her she was pretty/funny/sweet/interesting/worth being friend-to or having “fun” with?

Yes it works! Traffickers and pimps consider girls somewhat expendable. Not that long ago in NoVA one trafficker admitted to having over eight-hundred girls he was priming as “friends” through Facebook, most of which probably don’t have a clue to this day (more info on NoVA here). There is an endless supply girls ready for the manipulation. Whether a trafficker meets them at the mall, through a friend, through social media, or through texting – it does happen.

Talk about it. Don’t be naive.

But seriously now. I know you really, really, really want to know- did he come to church that Sunday?

Nope. He didn’t. It was just so disappointing.


Ideas for Action:

Prevention education is one of the areas NoVA HTI has been trying to work within because we recognize how important it is. Whether it is showing the short film Chosen, which tells the story of a trafficked girl, or whether it is teaching about what healthy relationships look like and how to respect women- there is a need for young teens to be exposed to the truth so they will make good decisions when they are texted by complete strangers.

Let us know if you are interested in helping get the message out to empower the next generation to not be victims of an injustice perpetrated by lies and deceit.


10 Steps To Not Sext of be a sex trafficking victim