Human Trafficking In The United States

“Here she is… Promising she’s going to protect me. Promising me I can belong to her family. My family had always told me I wasn’t good enough to belong to them. Here’s this person telling me she’s going to protect me and teach me. I went with her gladly. Gladly. Relieved. I thought I was saved. I thought I was rescued. Little did I know I was going to be in the worst hell I’d ever been in before.”

What is human trafficking/sex trafficking?

Human trafficking and sex trafficking are often used synonymously. Human trafficking can include sex trafficking and labor trafficking. In this case, we’re talking about sex trafficking.

“Sex Trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where such an act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age”

Sex trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years. In other words, sex for pay by force, fraud or coercion, or any sex for pay involving minors.

Contrary to how the news often reports it, there is no such thing as “child prostitution” or “teen prostitution”. You cannot be a “prostitute” under the age of 18. All cases as such are considered “human trafficking”. I think when people hear the term prostitution they immediately have thoughts of willing participants putting themselves out on the street.

You can read more on Shared Hope International’s site, which also links to information about the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

But it happens ‘over there’, right?

Yes, but… Globally, human trafficking is a $32billion industry – right behind the sale of drugs. Chances are, you’ve probably heard about “human trafficking” in the news recently. The media seems to be reporting more of it – which is great for exposing light on the dark issue. You may immediately think: Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines, Russia, etc. While sex trafficking is rampant in those places it’s, sadly, also very prevalent in the United States. Additionally, it’s NOT just foreigners coming across our borders and being sold in America. It’s our OWN American children being sold within OUR borders. There are approximately 300,000 children at risk to be trafficked (FBI) in the United States with an average age of entry of 13 years old (FBI).

If you live in Baltimore, you’re probably a little more aware thanks to the local news reporting several stings and raids on businesses and individuals who have been involved in selling girls for sex. Click here to view a list of calls coming into the National Human Trafficking Resource Center for the state of Maryland so far this year.

Why don’t the girls just leave?

That’s a simple question with a complex answer. It’s a question that I personally asked International Justice Mission last year at Urbana – after going to a session on human trafficking. Their answer was one that has been consistently reiterated at every event I’ve been to and every video or documentary I’ve watched. The girls, who often come from lives that lack love, support, and direction, are further broken – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Physical violence and threats of violence are common as well as introducing drugs to the girls that make the girls dependent on their trafficker to support the addiction. Trauma bonding is a serious factor. The traffickers have figured out how to mentally break them down and control them. The are told they are worthless – that no one is looking for them. As backwards as all of this sounds, and as awful as their situation is, at least it’s familiar, it seems ‘consistent’, and they have someone that wants them – albeit so they can use their bodies for money – they finally think they have some value.

Is this just another ‘social issue’ fad

That’s a question I seriously asked myself before I knew much about the issue or started promoting any organization or started throwing out quotes on Facebook. I couldn’t help but think back to the Kony 2012 project and how bad that seemingly well-intention-ed ‘campaign’ boiled over in the media. I wasn’t sure if this issue was similar. My generation seems to be a generation that wants to actually tackle humanitarian-type issues – many of us don’t want to just accept that things are the way they are and go on with our lives.

I’m just now posting this because I wanted to get to the point, personally, where I talked to enough people and did enough research where I could clearly explain the issue of human trafficking to anyone who asked. I wanted my mind and my heart in it. So now I know, this is not a fad.

Over the past year I have become sure of three things:

Sex trafficking is real.

Sex trafficking is abhorrent.

Sex trafficking must be stopped.

There’s no demand without man

Pimps traffic girls and women because there are men who will buy them in a society, as a whole, that isn’t paying attention. The root of the issue is inherent evil. However, a man doesn’t just wake up one day and decide he wants to buy a person for sex – let alone a child. While there is a whole avenue of physcology to discuss, I believe there was probably a progression of potentially seemingly innocent decisions that stirred the fire for more explicit excitement. It all goes back to a sex-crazed culture with our horribly distorted view of sex. It’s a sign of a broken world that has no respect for the dignity of life. Pornography, strip clubs, sexually explicit (and violent) music, TV, movies are all factors.

In the volunteer training I went through for a local anti-trafficking organization, 95% of the volunteers were women in their 20’s. That’s an amazingly beautiful thing to see strong woman take a stand against this dark issue, but we desperately need men to stand up and say:

  • It is NOT OK to buy another human being for anything – sex or labor

  • It is NOT OK to buy or use the services of a human in a strip club

  • It is NOT OK to consume pornography (whether free or paid)

  • It is NOT OK to consume overly sexualized media (music, TV, movies)

  • It is NOT OK to boast about the sexual exploits of yourself or the females you know

We all need to “cease all active and passive participation in the many forms of the exploitative sex industry.” (Araminta)

If there is any hope at all for turning this culture around we need to show boys and men a healthy view of manhood that respects and protects women and treats them with the appropriate value and dignity that they deserve – which is not tied to their bodies or what they can do, sexually, for men.

What can I do?

Simply being aware won’t solve the problem. But nothing is going to happen if we aren’t aware.

I’ve heard something like that said before. It’s so true. This business of trafficking humans is thriving because we’re letting it happen under our noses. The traffickers know this. It’s time that we get everyone aware so that we can make trafficking unprofitable in our communities and around the world.

It seems overwhelming and daunting and impossible to stop. The traffickers hope you keep thinking that so they can continue to reap millions from selling America’s youth.

So what can you do? Admit it’s an issue. Research. Get involved. Demand government impose new and stricter laws on people caught trafficking. Stop prosecuting the victims. Demand homes and resources be allocated for victims to recover. Locally, in Baltimore, check out Araminta Freedom Initiative, Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, Maryland Rescue & Restore Coalition. Nationally, check out Polaris Project and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Globally, check out International Justice Mission (IJM)

What is the role of the church?

No decent human wants to accept that human trafficking is happening in our community. This is an opportunity for those inside and outside the faith community to come together, united, for a cause that affects all of us.

‘The church’ is a melting pot of people from all walks of life and all different spheres of influence. In a practical sense, if you’re trying to reach a wide variety of people to spread awareness on the issue of human trafficking the church just makes the most sense. You can speak to a group of 100 people and have police officers, teachers, hotel staff, social workers, business people, truckers, doctors/nurses, students, and parents. But beyond the practicality, the church has something immensely powerful that the government and non-profit organizations do not: a God whose heart is for justice.

Tackling this dark issue starts with seeking God… Praying for strength.. And recognizing God calls us to:

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. (Isaiah 1:17)

This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 23:3)

For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. (Isaiah 61:8)

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40)

The church should be at the forefront of this issue because God demands it. It is also an opportunity to visibly show the rest of the hurting world what we stand for, who we serve, and what He has and can do. It’s an opportunity to be the compassionate hands and feet of Jesus. Practically, the church should connect and partner with local organizations in their community. The church should engage in deep prayer over the issue. The church should provide it’s members resources to get involved, individually, should their heart be spurred towards this issue. The church should hold justice-focused Bible Studies to see how God’s heart for justice calls His people to act.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

Quotes that will pierce your heart

The following quotes/notes are from a new documentary called ‘Rape For Profit’. You can view more about the movie on their website linked here. You can ‘Rent’ it and watch it online at this link. You can see some clips from the movie (including some of the below quotes) at this link.

  • Prostitution isn’t the oldest profession. Hunting, fishing, farming is the oldest profession. Prostitution is the oldest oppression of women. It has always been that way and it will always be that way.
  • Men are the issue that has to be addressed. It is the demand side that is the issue.
  • The average age of entry into prostitution (child sex trafficking) is 13.
  • “$600 and up was basically my minimum.” (Money per night required by the pimp)
  • Jennifer’s pimp got her addicted to meth so she would be dependent on him. Once she got “too old”, the pimp dumped her. Now 33, she prostitutes herself in order to pay for her habit.
  • “When I think of these pimps.. The best word to describe them, in my mind, is they’re psychopaths. They have no empathy for what these girls go through.”
  • “…From the time I was 14 to about the time I was 17 I pretty much bounced around from pimp to pimp and learned the ins and outs of the streets.”
  • A pimp provides a community – a dangerous community. In some sense, you create the problem and you provide the protection. In some sense, a pimp is really just a bright capitalist.
  • “He [pimp] has an infinite market to whom? To men. To plumbers, and physicians, and to judges, and pastors, and the whole gamut of people seeking the services of an abused women who has now been caught in the trial of being a prostituted woman.”
  • “Here she is… Promising she’s going to protect me. Promising me I can belong to her family. My family had always told me I wasn’t good enough to belong to them. Here’s this person telling me she’s going to protect me and teach me. I went with her gladly. Gladly. Relieved. I thought I was saved. I thought I was rescued. Little did I know I was going to be in the worst hell I’d ever been in before.”
  • “My first sexual encounter was a rape. And after that, it was kind of like anything goes… There was wasn’t anything precious to hold onto anymore.”
  • “I was so hungry for somebody to want me… And Connie (female pimp) wanted me. A terrible person.. but somebody wanted me.”
  • All this discussion is just to distract us away from the real problem; which is customers.
  • “Boys will be boys. Unfortunately, boys will be boys at the expense of girls.”

‘Sex & Money’ Documentary Trailer

Sex+Money: A National Search for Human Worth is a documentary about domestic minor sex trafficking and the modern-day abolitionist movement fighting to stop it. Since September 2009, the crew has traveled to over 30 states and conducted more than 75 interviews with federal agents, victims, politicians, activists, psychologists, porn-stars, among others.

(Original post last year: The more I learn about the serious issues of human trafficking in the United States (specifically domestic minor sex trafficking in Baltimore) the more aware I am of how broken our sex-crazed culture is and how we nonchalantly passively support this evil by being consumers of other legal “industries” and “activities”. It’s not about being religious or conservative.. It’s about being a decent human being. It’s about not exploiting humans for sexual gratification. The “oh, they are choosing to do it” is a weak excuse for being a mindless consumer and frankly it’s not as true as you may want to think. Have you looked into the past of the girl you’re watching in a video or who’s dancing on the table in front of you? No. It absolutely boggles my mind and breaks my heart to know that this view is so counter-cultural and those that hold it are the ones who are made out to be the bad guys: the weird ones… As if we have the problem. I’m fine with being criticized because I’m not fine with what’s going on.)

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