Modern Slavery, a Global Crisis occurring in your Community
What comes to your mind when you think of prostitution, strip clubs or pornography? Is the image that forms that of a young adult woman who willingly enters that lifestyle for money? Shockingly research shows that globally the average age a girl enters prostitution is 11 years old (and only 12-14 in the U.S.) Some are forced into the global sex industry at ages as young as 4-5? I do not believe it is reasonable to assume that children at this age willingly choose this lifestyle without being manipulated or forced in some way. In any culture would it be every little girls dream to someday grow up and give herself sexually to 20-30 men she doesn’t know every night?
The Mechanics of Making a Prostitute
Research shows that these modern day slavers have their “techniques” of creating sexual slaves down to such a degree that they can take virtually any girl and break her will and bond her to themselves mentally, emotionally and spiritually in as little as 24 hours; and after the process is complete she will obey them and give herself sexually to those 20-30 men a night and generally without trying to escape. (It is not unusual for girls who are rescued to return to those enslaving them voluntarily). Would it be surprising to discover that their “proven” techniques would work even on our own daughters, the honor student next door, or members of your church’s youth group? Sometimes they are so sure of their control; the children are enrolled in school! How is it done? The girls are often lured by deception, less frequently kidnapped, they are drugged, repeatedly raped, urinated on, beaten, forced to perform sexual acts on multiple men all while being filmed. She might then be forced to watch the video repeatedly, while being told that if you don’t obey us the video will be sent to your parents, your friends, or posted on the internet. Threats against family members being kidnapped, killed, or tortured are not uncommon. (One victim was told after asking their pimp to just kill them because they wouldn’t perform anymore, that her 8 year old sister would be kidnapped and tortured in front of her).
Imagine yourself as that young child or teenager, maybe you were kidnapped, perhaps lured by a promise of love from a young man, or a sophisticated and stylish adult convinced you that you had what it takes to be a famous model. Maybe if you are from a poor country you were lured with a promise of legitimate work as a maid, housekeeper, domestic, or Au Pair. Perhaps you or your parents were offered an escape from poverty disguised as an educational opportunity. Or in some instances, your own parents might have groom and sell you for sex so they don’t have to work; or they valued you so little they sold you to traffickers in exchange for money, a cell phone or a color TV to impress neighbors. In some cultures you as that young child might accept it as right, being raised to believe that it is your “duty” to your parents because they gave you life, (you might even convince yourself you are doing a good thing while being swallowed up by this evil).
The Business of Sex
There is a slogan in the anti-trafficking abolition movement that says “real men don’t buy girls.” The sex tourist industry in places like Costa Rica and Thailand has become big business, but virtually every city of any size in the U.S. has its websites and underground contacts for “renting” a girl for any amount of time you are willing to pay for her. (Street level maybe out of the back or a van or a seedy Motel, the charge may be as low as $20-30 dollars, higher class at a luxury Hotel $400.00 an hour or more).
If you are the “John” who is buying someone else’s daughter, what is passing through your mind about what you are doing? If you are in a seedy area of a great American City or in the red light district in Thailand, have you convinced yourself you are actually this young girls “knight in white armor”? That she really loves and enjoys being with you? That you are really helping her by providing her with income so she doesn’t starve? Don’t let her smile and seductive act fool you that is required of her to avoid being beaten, or to receive food or the drugs they have addicted her to. In reality she probably won’t receive any of the income she generates and may have only a pallet on the floor in her “pimps” apartment or “stable” of other exploited young girls. In reality you are likely supporting organized crime syndicates and risking years behind bars. You have made yourself a willing participant in the destruction of a child’s soul.
Without repentance those who participate in this sin place themselves in the unenviable position Jesus described in Luke 17:2 about those who offend a child- a place of being better off to have a millstone hung around his neck and be cast into the sea than to have caused one of his little ones to sin…
What is the Reality? 1.2 million children are estimated to have been sold for sex globally EVERY YEAR, some as young as 5. (UNICEF). Exploited children usually have a quota of at least 10-15 buyers per night; at periods of peak demand (sporting events, conventions etc.) sometime up to 45 per night. (Shared Hope International: National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. America’s Prostituted Children, Pg. 154). An estimated 100,000 young girls between 9-18 years old are being prostituted today in America (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children). What is the average age of these prostitutes? 13. (U.S. Department of Justice). This is a 9.5 BILLION dollar industry, second only to drugs as an illegal income generating crime syndicate. (Stop the Traffic). 98% of those enslaved in this way are female although males are not exempt.
What is the possible penalty for U.S. citizen traveling to another country to participate in sexual tourism? 30 years in prison. (U.S. State Department). Statistically what happens to those brought into the sex industry? 99% are never rescued; their life expectancy is 7 years (Traffic 911). In a recent US study of almost 2,000 prostitutes followed over a 30-year period, the most common causes of death were homicide, suicide, drug and alcohol related problems, HIV infection and accidents – in that order. Prostitutes are murdered at rates 17 times higher than those of the same age in the general population (Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2004, July 24).
These numbers reflect an estimation from what is known about the sex slave industry which understandably operates in the dark and grows yearly as crime syndicates and individuals realize that you can only sell a kilo of Heroin or a dime bag of marijuana once but a girl you can sell 20 to 30 times a night for years with very little overhead. If you include in the statistics individuals victimized from all types of modern slavery, sexual, forced domestic workers, or labor jobs, the estimated number of slaves worldwide skyrockets to 27 million.
Where and how is This Happening?
Awareness is crucial in this fight; traffickers have recruiters in Malls, local schools (even students recruiting other students) places where young people congregate, even in your city. They monitor social media sites looking for prey, vulnerable kids, foster kids, those emotionally estranged from their parents, the confused, rebellious and easily manipulated kids. They look for runaways to befriend and offer a place to stay. (An estimated 2.8 million kids live on the street in the U.S. 55% become involved in prostitution). Many of those were sexually abused in their own homes. 70% of trafficking victims in the U.S. have been sexually abused prior to becoming enslaved. (National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children). Do you think pornography is a victimless pursuit? Many of the images are of trafficked individuals, and America produces a large percentage of the world’s pornography.
What can I Do?
What response does our knowledge of the problem require of us as individual Christians or Church’s in general? Even for those who don’t consider themselves Christian, does it require anything of us as individuals based only on our humanity? Like the often repeated but no less true adage by Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” If we take no action on behalf of these children and young people, they have virtually no hope of escape, and we will have diminished ourselves and our witness as God’s representatives. That this is occurring in our own local communities, in this land where so many died so all could live free is unconscionable. If you say that it is Law Enforcement’s job, speaking with 32 years of Law Enforcement experience I am telling you, it won’t get done, there are not enough of them, our help is needed. If we all do our part the job can get done.
How can you help? You can financially support frontline workers and organizations that are already engaged in the battle. There are many ways to become personally involved: By doing whatever you do best and applying it to the needs of the organizations involved. Protection of the victims through involvement in rescuing, setting up or volunteering in safe houses, become a victim advocate, or a voice in prevention efforts, training children not to be victims; Training Hotel and Hospitality workers, social workers, teachers, in some areas even Law Enforcement personnel and the general public how to recognize signs of trafficking and what to do; (Remember it is happening around you even in upscale communities). Provide food, clothing, legal assistance, emotional and moral support, medical and dental care, mental health, trauma recovery services, alcohol and substance abuse counseling, education, job training and employment (life skills training). Or maybe you can only volunteer to be transportation for the victims to those providing those services. If the victims are internationals brought against their will they may need assistance in reunification with their families (if feasible), and repatriation to their homeland. Partner with organizations already active in the fight against trafficking. A critical need we can all get involved in is prayer and intercession for the victims and all frontline workers ministering to them.
The Effects of victimization
What are the effects of being trafficked on its victims? The abuse, mental or physical, and forced abortions, generally results in extreme emotional stress, overwhelming shame, grief, fear, distrust of others, suicidal thoughts, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Women in the sex industry experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at rates equivalent to veterans of war. (Melissa Farley, from “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder”). They experience acute anxiety, depression, insomnia, and drug and alcohol abuse. Recovery requires the assistance of those willing to care for and love these victims back to life. Who is more qualified to do this than Christians who have been loved back to life by God himself?
The Scriptural Basis for Involving Yourself in the Fight
God is looking for individuals to stand in the gap (Ez. 22:30) for these children and young adults being led away to slavery and death (Prov. 24-11-12). We have an opportunity like William Wilberforce had in his 46 year fight to end slavery in England, or like the American abolitionist before the civil war; once more the Lord is calling Christians to stand in the fight to end slavery. Pure religion before the Father is to visit and defend the fatherless (the majority of victims are functionally if not actually “Fatherless” through abuse, neglect or rejection). The Greek word for “fatherless in this verse is”orphanos” which means “bereaved, parentless, comfortless, fatherless” (James 1:27, Psalm 82:3) which is a very apt description of these children.
Righteousness and Justice is the foundation of God’s throne and Kingdom, we must take a stand on that same foundation wherever the Lord leads. Realizing that everyone has their own calling and not all can be directly involved in this issue, yet all can make a difference by praying for the victims and supporting those who are. Ask the Lord to allow you to experience what he feels about these children. As Christians If we can’t get passionate about the enslaved and exploited living in our own community, we should at least pray. An anonymous writer wrote: “If you really want to do something you will find a way, if you don’t you’ll find an excuse”. As Diana Scimone said in her book “Audacious”…”Children who are being raped for profit 30 times a night can’t wait for your idea to be perfect. They need you now”.
What is God’s view? He desires us to get angry, cry to him for Justice for these children, and stand in the gap for them. “Rescue those being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “behold we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12, ESV). ”You see and recognize what is right but refuse to act on it…but his own people have been robbed and plundered, enslaved, imprisoned and trapped. They are fair game for anyone and have no-one to protect them, to take them back home”. (Isaiah 42:20-23, NLT). “…give justice… Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors…woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages”. (Jeremiah 21:12, 22:13 NLT). If you think these scriptures are out of context and apply only to the situations where they are cited, it may be true that child sex slavery was not specifically the issue they were addressing at that time, but it is also true is that the principles the words embody apply in all situations of injustice and unrighteousness. Will you argue that God is alright with children being enslaved?
Each of us has to decide if we are being called to this battle, for myself I have concluded that I must do something and it is not yet completely clear all the places that decision will lead me, but knowing what is happening and doing nothing is no longer an option.
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.’ GK Chesterton