January 13, 2015
Some Suggestions Regarding Child Sex Trafficking
by Brittany Tedesco
I’m not going to lie. I didn’t want to write this post. I didn’t want to read the disheartening stories and review the chilling statistics. I’d much prefer to pretend like the problem of child sex trafficking doesn’t exist.
But it does exist and it’s not going away. The practice has actually increased in recent years. At the end of 2012, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that the percentage of children trafficked between 2007 and 2010 was 7 percent higher than in the previous three-year period.
Why has it grown? It’s not for lack of awareness campaigns. The U.S. government has designated January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. I was reminded of this fact by a tweet I received from a man who sent a link to his story. Starting at the age of five, he was trafficked for seven years along the amateur stock car racing circuit.
He explains in his story how no one noticed his symptoms of ongoing abuse—that is, until his attempted suicide.
I have difficulty comprehending that level of evil…that so many men were involved in that boy’s abuse for so many years, and not one of them seemed to have a conscience.
But this same type of situation is happening every, single day in the U.S. and on every continent in the world. It’s a scourge upon the earth—reminding us that this ball of soil on which we live is infected by the disease of sin. And far from the infection being cured, it continues to ooze—a testament to what the book of Romans tells us about a people who refuse to fear the Lord: “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them” (Romans 1:24 NASB).
The world’s population is larger than it’s ever been. Humans are cheap. According to End Slavery Now, the average cost of a slave today is $90, compared to $40,000 in 1809.
Statistics are hard to come by because the practice of trading humans as commodities is, by necessity, extremely surreptitious. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security claims that “As many as 100,000 to 300,000 American children are at risk of being trafficked for commercial sex in the United States.” If this statistic is true, sadly less than 1 percent of victims have been rescued.
Technology has only facilitated the spread of this depravity. The internet has furthered the trading of child pornography, and social media sites are trolled by traffickers who anonymously look for young children whose posts indicate poor homes lives or poor self-images.
As bad as the practice has gotten in the U.S., it’s way worse in other countries. India, for instance, is home to half of the world’s slaves – some 14 million. Nepal, its border country, helps fuel this societal blight, as 7,000 to 10,000 Nepalese girls are trafficked across the border every year and sold into prostitution. Nepalese girls’ lighter skin color keeps them in high demand in India.
In Nepal, a poverty-stricken country with very few economic opportunities, obtaining humans for trade isn’t hard for traffickers. Girls are seen as burdens by their families—burdens that pimps are glad to alleviate the parents of. These predators promise parents that their daughters will be educated, obtain jobs, and be able to send money home on a regular basis. In reality, the girls will soon be servicing clients in a brothel.
The traffickers are clever. After taking a girl, they send money home to her family for a few months to maintain the allusion of her wellbeing. Suddenly, the family is able to afford things. When they replace their thatched roof with a tin roof, the status symbol attracts the attention of others in the village who want to know how they afforded it…and the cycle perpetuates itself.
It’s not unlike what happens in the U.S. Traffickers actually use their victims to recruit others into the business. They’ll provide nice clothes and a nice car to the “recruiter,” who is seen and approached by others wanting to know how they too can obtain these things.
I think we can all agree that this is a problem, here, there and everywhere. So the question is what now? How is a Christian supposed to think about and respond to this problem? I offer three suggestions.
1. Remember that justice will be served. It’s easy to despair when reading horrific stories of abused children and the creeps who seemingly escape punishment. But hear this: God “will render to every man according to his deeds” (Romans 2:6). The child traffickers who think they’re getting away with this? Those “anonymous” internet trolls? Consider this: “Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, ‘Who sees us? Who will know?’” (Isaiah 29:15 NIV). Ecclesiastes ends with this sobering verse: “For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” Proverbs 1:18-19 tells us that the one who gains through violence “ambushes” his own life.
God’s not asleep at the wheel. He sees and will punish evil in His own good timing. One day, all things will be made right. But He waits because there are still people on this earth who need to know Him. Yesterday I watched a video of the Kimyal tribe of West Papau, Indonesia receiving the Scripture in their language for the first time. Their celebration and tears caused me to rejoice that God called out a people for His name from among yet another tribe.
2. Pay attention. Watch for children who display signs of abuse. I have a tendency to get so lost in my thoughts sometimes that I easily lose track of my surroundings. We need to pay attention to those around us who might be in trouble. Here is a list of indicators that a child is enslaved in the trafficking industry. Mentally tuck that away, pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and pray that God would use you to help someone in need.
3. Give to rescue and aftercare programs that are biblically based. Why do I stress ‘biblically based”? Consider this statement from Jodie Gummow’s article, “10 Surprising and Counterintuitive Facts About Child Sex Trafficking”: “While the United States has spent almost $1.2 billion fighting sex trafficking globally, much of those funds have been misallocated on advertising and anti-trafficking campaigns rather than spent on actual evidence-based research and rescue operations.” According to Freedom Youth Project Foundation, there are only 300 beds in U.S. facilities equipped to treat victims of trafficking, and “without treatment to address the complex issues and prepare them to return home, often they will run away or escape and return back to the world of trafficking.”
Tom Davis, in his article about rescuing girls from sex trafficking, states that girls rescued from trafficking in India who end up in government homes receive no proper care and protection. “We have cases where Government officers have tried to sexually harass the rescued girls,” he writes.
Even in the best case scenario, where victims are put in a safe place and receive counseling, we need to be concerned about what kind of counseling they are receiving. Does it provide the victim with a truthful (aka: biblical) frame of reference to accurately view themselves and the world in which they live? I read this statement from the Office for Victims of Crime: “Among the most devastating mental health consequences for victims of any crime can be the destruction of basic life assumptions; that one is safe from harm, one is a good and decent person, and the world is meaningful and just.”
Can I unpack that statement? The world isn’t (yet) a “just” place to live and no one, apart from Christ, is “good.” If these are the types of assurances made to victims in secular counseling, victims are being misled. Life in this world, apart from Christ, can very well seem meaningless, as well it should. Jesus is the answer to everything. Any counseling that excludes Jesus offers victims a shaky foundation, at best, on which to rebuild their lives.
Christian Aid Mission supports several ministries throughout the world that rescue victims from trafficking. One such ministry in Nepal has taken in 22 girls, formerly enslaved in the sex trade. Seven of these have AIDS. The leaders know that inner healing comes through God’s Word. In a peaceful and quiet environment, they bathe the girls in Scripture. “At first, these girls didn’t even know who Jesus was,” one of the leaders told Christian Aid. But through the ministry’s daily discipleship, every one of them has accepted Jesus as Savior. They’ve discovered their worth in God’s eyes, that He has engraved them on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16).
The girls find a home and a place in the body of Christ. Many sing in the church choir and help with ministry activities. One of the girls completed beauty school and cuts the hair of the children staying with the ministry. They are given responsibilities, such as caring for the widows the ministry has taken in. In turn, the widows have begun to view themselves as mothers to these girls—they’ve found meaning and purpose as well. What a beautiful picture of the Church.
This is what a biblically based model of rescue and aftercare looks like. Find programs like this to support.
To close, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9 NASB).