Over the past two years, there has been a massive increase in online child enticement and exploitation, along with teen depression, self-harm, and suicide. Children are isolated, lonely, afraid, and looking for a connection with others – predators know this and are intentionally targeting children everywhere!
Consider these numbers: 10, 8, 98 and 21
• 10 is the average age of the child being groomed online
• 8 is the number of days a predator can groom and recruit a child into sending nudes or leaving home to meet a stranger
• 98 is the percent increase in child online exploitation between 2020 and 2021
• 21.7 million reports of child sexual exploitation made to the CyberTipline in 2020 included 65.4 million images, videos, and other files.
Now more than ever children are at risk for online child exploitation and they do not even have to leave home for it to happen. Any mobile app with a chat feature can put a child at risk. Nor is this isolated to children with lower incomes. Any child can be targeted!
There are many organizations that help recover children from forced slavery, there are fewer that are focused on the exploitation of children.
Paving the Way Foundation has taken on this mission—in a big way!
Headed by founder Jan Edwards, Paving the Way Foundation is committed to empowering communities to be a fierce disruption in the cycle of child trafficking and online exploitation through highly engaging and empowering educational programs. Starting with its Award-Winning Film, Trapped in the Trade, the organization takes the audience through one girl’s journey of being targeted, groomed, recruited, and trapped into being sold for sex. This short film does not have a happy ending, leaving the audience a little raw with hearts and eyes wide open to what they can do to prevent exploitation. The sequel is on the way to take the viewer inside how trafficking rings operate; along with an inside look at how law enforcement, victim advocates, and NGOs work together to safely recover victims who are ready to leave their life.
But more than this, Jan is spearheading a national information campaign with schools, parents, teens in middle and high schools, the media, and other critical organizations on how to spot, resist and report perpetrators—how NOT to get ensnared!
As part of Paving The Ways’ mission, Jan does monthly Parent Tech Talks to cover a variety of topics parents need to know - - and offers tools to start those difficult conversations with their kids on this topic. Because of the current environment, she’s designing an interactive book for parents to use with their teens to open up effective communication, so they feel taken care of, heard, and protected. Being a teenager is a challenge and most parents do not fully understand what their kids are dealing with both at school and online. Based on the films, this interactive book will have real stories, from survivors, from law enforcement about ways to stay safe and families who have lived experience, either as a victim or parent of a victim. Each section will give the family an opportunity to discuss what happened in that chapter with the characters, speculate on why they are doing what they are doing, and do the critical thinking on what actions they might take in those situations. Jan Edwards spent more than 25 years as an executive in sales and marketing working with organizations like Time Warner, Bright House, the United Nations, and other international groups, before being invited on a mission to Ethiopia to help orphaned and endangered children. It was seeing two young girls being shepherded by two older men, that she was introduced to modern-day slavery. She came home and began educating herself on the extent of what was transpiring in her own country. Jan was moved to action, knowing her professional skills could be applied as a leader, educator to protect children, and end child sex trafficking. Jan has been featured in Huffington Post, Marie Claire UK, NBC, and iHeart Radio as an expert in prevention. Jan was awarded Humanitarian of the Year and Community Impact Leader of the Year. Trapped in the Trade was also featured on CNN.
Paving the Way, which has directly reached more than 16,000 children and parents in the past four years, launched Lights on for Children, a one-day annual awareness campaign that asks families to install a blue light bulb on their porchlight to raise awareness and shine a light in the dark of this heinous crime.
For many years, Jan fought the myths that trafficking was an “over there’ issue. She is a force to be reckoned with regarding the urgency of this topic, however, with the recent headline revelations focused on Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, and R. Kelly there is a renewed eagerness to welcome Jan and Paving the Way to deliver this vital message to schools, churches, and youth-based organizations. To know more, go to www.pavingthewayfoundation.org and www.trappedfilm.com
If you would like your audience an opportunity to learn what they need to know as a parent, teen, educator, or someone who wants to help, interview Jan Edwards. Please send an email with the name of the show, your contact information, a proposed date and time, and the call-in details. She is an engaging, straightforward, and knowledgeable influencer on this topic. Audiences have praised the segments she’s been on as informative and helpful.
Jan Edwards is the founder and President of Paving the Way Foundation, an organization that is a fierce disruption in the cycle of child trafficking around the globe. This is accomplished through education and training programs that empower communities to break the cycle. Paving the Way has educated over 16,000 youth and adults over the past 4 years. Ms. Edwards has been featured on TV, podcasts and radio shows as an influencer on prevention education. Jan has been awarded Orlando Magazines Women of The Year, Woman on the Rise Community Impact Leader in 2019, and Non-Governmental Agency of the Year, 2021. She is also the Chairperson for the Seminole County Human Trafficking Task Force.
Jan is the writer, co-director, and producer of the award-winning film, Trapped in the Trade, which won Best Script in the London Indie Short Film Festival and was featured on CNN.