Human trafficking is real whether we believe it or not.
3Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
4Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
The first time I heard about human trafficking was at a women’s conference at church about seven years ago. While I watched the short documentary, which was a conglomeration of scenes from the movie Taken as well as facts about places in Europe and Asia and the young average age of victims, I was in disbelief. This couldn’t be real. How could we live in a world where children were being sold for sex to adults? That is where I stayed for years: In denial. Anytime I would start to think back on these victims, I would shut down. It was too much for me to process, so I ignored the pull on my heart strings for years.
Fast forward to late 2014 when God started doing that thing He does where we can no longer continue to do nothing. It was time that I contact a few organizations to see how I could get involved. I did a simple search on human trafficking. Woah. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it wasn’t just an “over there” problem, but that it was here in my country…in my state…in my county. In the last year, human trafficking has started to receive some media attention, so you may not be as oblivious to this problem as I was.
But, maybe you are. Maybe this is the first time you’ve ever heard about human trafficking. I can’t possibly fully educate you in one post, but here are a few of the big statistics:
- 20.9 million are estimated to be victims of human trafficking globally (that includes labor and sex trafficking).
- Not hitting close enough to home? How about 100,000 (some estimates as high as 300,000) of those are children in the United States.
- 12-14 years is the AVERAGE age of girls that are trafficked in the US. Average. Average. Let that sink in. That means there are children younger than 12 being sold for sex here.
Can we truly know the full scope of this business? No. Like drug trafficking, there is only so much information we can obtain with assumptions built in based on what is reported through help lines, arrests, and rescues. Unlike drug trafficking, though, human trafficking is a re-usable commodity. Drugs are used once and gone. Humans, though? They can be used over and over and over. Can you distance yourself a little when I use words like human and commodity?
Let’s talk about Arkansas. Here are just a few of the recent arrests/stories that are hitting our state this year.
- Three arrested, Arkansas teen rescued in human trafficking operation
- NWA human trafficking ring
- Two Arkansas teens rescued from alleged sex trafficker in Maryland
- Sex trafficking sting leads to 42 Arkansas arrests
- Former Razorback arrested on human trafficking
Let me be clear: This is modern day slavery. These children are owned by their pimps. They dictate what they do and sell them to people at a price for sex or sexual acts. Sadly, all pimps aren’t the cliché description you’ve joked about or even celebrated in popular culture. Some pimps are relatives. They’re mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, “friends,” of these kids. How does that not have everyone crying for justice? Not only do we allow it to happen, but we celebrate a culture of pornography and perversion that encourages men and women to seek it out. You don’t think so? What about that person a dad buys his son for his 18th birthday to “welcome him to manhood?” What about that person a group of guys buys to entertain the groom-to-be before his wedding? What about an “escort” at a political convention or the Super Bowl? You don’t think that’s human trafficking? You think those girls want to be in those situations? They enjoy it! They make great money! (The money that they get a percentage of from their pimps, you mean?)
If those situations aren’t enough to invoke injustice within you, it looks like I’m going to have to dig a bit deeper. You assumed every person I mentioned in the above scenario was 18 or older, didn’t you? Oh, but I never said that. Imagine that she’s 12. Yep. 12. Now how does that sit with you? One of the problems we’re fighting against is a culture that thinks the first scenario is acceptable when it’s really the same as the second scenario. Both instances are human trafficking.
So if I’ve known about it for this long, how in the world could I remain silent? That’s easy: FEAR. What would it mean for my life if I actually got involved to help? Would my family be safe? Would I be safe? What would people think? During a P.A.T.H. (Partners Against Trafficking Humans) training course that I attended in 2015, Louise Allison said, “There’s no safer place to be than in God’s will for your life.” God is no stranger to fear. I’ve started to circle the word or a synonym of it every time I come across it in the Bible. This morning (although I was not seeking out scripture on fear) it was in Jeremiah 42:11: “Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands.” Over and over again, God gives us this message throughout the Bible. Do not fear. Do not be discouraged. He is with us. If we struggle with fear in our safe homes and safe lives, how much more fear is being experienced by these children that are being exploited? Can you even begin to imagine their pain, their suffering, and their fear?
Maybe by now I’ve convinced you that there is a problem. What can you do?
- Pray. Yes, pray. Pray for these girls that are trafficked. Pray for the people that sell them. Pray for the people that buy them. Pray for the one to be rescued.
- Educate your children. Trafficked situations aren’t always as dramatic as the Taken movie. They are usually started by someone the victim trusts. Do you let your children online (phones/tablets included) and have no idea what they do on there for hours? Have you warned your kids about friending people that they don’t know through social media, meeting up with people to play Pokémon Go!, or sharing information about themselves online without even realizing it? Do you know what all of their apps on their phones do? Are you sure?
- Give. There are so many organizations that are in this fight. New Hope Youth Ministries is the one that touches my heart the most.
- Pray. Did you think I was kidding? I mean it. Praying for the victims is easy. But I also mean it when I say pray for the people that sell and buy these children. Pray for their hearts to be changed. Transform them. Because as long as there is a demand for sex with children, someone will be willing to sell it.
- Be informed. This is ever evolving for me. A few resources that made an impact on my life are: In Plain Sight Documentary, the book In Our Backyard by Nita Belles, and following organizations that have made it their mission to eradicate trafficking.
- Get involved. Know that getting involved doesn’t necessarily mean interacting with the victims. There are so many aspects to human trafficking (education, prevention, rescue, restoration) that getting involved can seem overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be, though. What are your gifts that God has given you? Find a way to incorporate those into your involvement. Still not ready for that yet? That’s okay. Go back to step one then and repeat until you’re ready to reach this step.
New Hope Youth Ministries is where I choose to get involved and their mission is:
We envision a world in which survivors of human trafficking are restored to freedom and equipped to make choices that continue their freedom throughout life. In pursuit of our vision, we offer a safe haven within a Christian community of supporters who promote hope and healing through spiritual intervention and therapeutic services.
These girls need hope. These girls need healing. #GiveHerHope
If you are being trafficked, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
 Polaris project: https://polarisproject.org/
 Polaris project: https://polarisproject.org/
 Nita Belles, In Our Backyard (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2015), 25.
 Upcoming trainings: http://pathsaves.org/opportunities/training-2/