A Texas mother's harrowing run-in with suspected child sex traffickers who attempted to abduct her 2-year-old girl recently shared what she believes every parent needs to know so they can protect their children.
During an appearance on pro-life advocate Abby Johnson’s hit podcast, "Politely Rude," Amanda Florczykowski, a Christian mother of four from Longview, Texas, shared how in 2016, she and her 2-year-old daughter and infant son were shopping in Walmart when a strange man commented on how cute her children were.
Thinking nothing of it, Florczykowski proceeded to the check-out line but noticed the man was still observing her family. While in line, another strange woman struck up a conversation with her.
“Her first words are, ‘How old is your daughter? She's so cute. How old is your daughter?’ And she wants to talk about my daughter,” Florczykowski recalled. “She asked me again, like 10 seconds later, ‘OK, she's so cute. How old is your daughter?’”
At that point, the woman turned over her shoulder to talk to a second man behind her in a different language, Florczykowski said.
“He is like a stone statue, facing the opposite direction, never looks at my kiddos,” she said. “She is communicating with him in a different language over her shoulder about my kids. And she asked me a third time, ‘How old is your daughter?’”
At this point, Florczykowski said caution “started to rise up” in her: “I'm thinking to myself, this is really bizarre that she's asked me for a third time,” she said. “It finally dawns on me that she's interpreting what I'm saying. It still gives me goosebumps. I'm having an unwanted conversation with this man about my young daughter through this woman.”
Disconcerted, Florczykowski picked up her daughter — and the woman began inching closer, even placing her hand on her grocery cart.
“Even a security camera wouldn't have picked up that this was like a scary, creepy couple. I mean, they were really savvy, really smooth,” she said. “And I thought, ‘This is bizarre she's got her hand on my cart. She's asking about my kiddo.”
The woman asked Florczykowski to hold her little girl — and after she refused, the woman suddenly grabbed the toddler’s wrists and began to walk away. "Say bye to mommy,” the woman told her.
“She's not even making eye contact with me at this point, she's just looking at my daughter and she takes her little wrists,” Florczykowski said. “I lunged forward, grabbing my child; it's like slow motion. At that same time, [the couple is] exiting the store and leaving. I finally have my daughter back. I'm like slumped over the register; my knees are shaking.”
The cashier asked Florczykowski if she was OK — and she replied, “No. I’m not. I do not know what just happened, but I think ... my child was just potentially abducted by a sex trafficking ring.”
The second she said “sex trafficking,” Florczykowski noticed a third, suspicious-looking tattooed man glaring at her.
“He looked like pure evil. He's terrifying. And when I said the word ‘child sex trafficking,’ he caught my eye ... he did not want me to say anything else. His look was, ‘If you don’t shut up, I’ll make you shut up.’”
That evening, Florczykowski got home and began researching sex trafficking and shared her experience on Facebook, where it shortly went viral.
“I go, OK, nobody else is going to be a victim,” she said.
Shortly after sharing her story, a woman reached out to Florczykowski and identified the strange man in Walmart as a notorious drug and sex trafficker and serial rapist who had been released from prison just a few weeks prior to their encounter.
Though the police department wasn’t initially helpful, Florczykowski said she continued to demand answers. After some investigating, it was confirmed that the first man she encountered at Walmart had left the store with the third man she encountered — a known trafficker and serial rapist.
“That moment it was a lightbulb moment ... like this is the reality of what's happening,” she said.
Determined to raise awareness about sex trafficking and prevent others from having the same experience, Florczykowski wrote a book, Unraveled: Mothering Fiercely in a World Full of Fears, and launched a website.
She encouraged other parents to be aware of their surroundings at all times and trust their gut instincts about those around them.
“We've been so conditioned as a culture that we want to be nice. We want to be friendly,” she said. “But let me tell you something, that right there needs to be thrown out; that conditioning culture of being politically correct and wanting to appease everybody has got to be thrown out ... trust the Holy Spirit [who] lives inside you. It’s pretty basic.”
Florczykowski also stressed the importance of maintaining a strong family unit, pointing out that sex traffickers can seek out and identify vulnerable children in a matter of seconds.
“It's not like they're dragging children and the children are kicking and screaming and they have their hands over their mouths. That's not what child trafficking looks like,” she said, adding that traffickers know how to “groom” children and make them feel comfortable.
She encouraged parents to educate themselves, prioritize their families, and advocate for those vulnerable.
“I think it speaks to this shift in our culture where we just don't value our kids. People are not valuing their children. So you know what? We as parents have to because nobody else will value them,” Florczykowski said.
According to Human Trafficking Hotline, the United States, along with Mexico and the Philippines, was ranked as one of the world's worst places for human trafficking in 2018. It's estimated that between 18,000 and 20,000 victims are trafficked into the U.S. every year.
Ashleigh S. Chapman, a human rights lawyer and the founder of Engage Together, an organization that helps individuals and churches combat human trafficking, recently told The Christian Post that the Church is “uniquely positioned” to combat the crisis.
“Churches are already serving in every community and often know the needs of their community better than anyone. They are regularly interacting with people who might be vulnerable to human trafficking. They also are in a position to equip their leadership and mobilize church members to respond to the needs of their community. Each individual member of a congregation has an important role to play in preventing and ending human trafficking, as does the church as a whole,” she said.
“And the truth is, there are not 10 things to do to end human trafficking in your city. There are a thousand things that need to be done. Instead of being overwhelmed by that, see it as an opportunity. And know that there is absolutely something (or many things) your church and members can do to make a substantial impact.”