Human Trafficking

Picture this —> There’s this girl, she is unpopular, and dying to fit in. We will call her Amber. She goes to a party with some friends and gets pretty toasted. The next day, ‘Mr. Popularity’ from the party stops her. He shows her a video clip. In this clip, poor Amber is naked, drunk, and supposed to be at home in bed. He threatens to mass message it to the entire school and her parents unless she does what she is told. For the next two years of high school, she is not plagued with issues of prom, gossip, or final exams. Instead, she is tormented with anticipation of being summoned to his basement in the middle of the night for sex. She never knew who would be in that basement. Amber lived in a normal neighborhood in a normal city and woke up in her own bed each morning. What do you call what is happening to her? Most people would label this situation as blackmail and fault her for putting herself in such a bad situation. Ambers’ situation is only one example of Human Sex Slavery. Our best weapon in the war to end human sex trafficking is knowledge and awareness.

Sex trafficking is a term that most Americans relate to what is happening “Over there”, in foreign countries. Sex slavery is not only happening overseas, but it is a billion dollar industry, thriving right here in America. Our countries self-induced Ignorance has crippled our ability to prevent, rescue and restore in the area of sex trafficking. According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, sex trafficking is defined as recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for commercial sex acts by way of force, fraud, or coercion (Shared Hope International, n.d.). Human trafficking for sexual exploitation is considered to be illicit activity under international law (Batsyukova, 2007).

Although this is not a new issue, the demand in our country for commercial sex is on the rise (Shared Hope International, n.d.). Why would there be such a dramatic increase? According to a multi-country study by Shared Hope International (n.d.), they found “As the culture continues to normalize sexual images and activities, the markets grow” (p. 2). We see this every day in America,

The sexualized popular culture glamorizes pimping and prostitution and reduces the moral barriers to accessing commercial sex without regard to the origin or conditions of the trafficked women and children. Las Vegas’ now famous slogan “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” provides visitors with an excuse to act in ways outside the norm of their community (Shared Hope International, n.d., p. 2).

Unfortunately, we are a walking contradiction. We are fighting against the very thing we are promoting in our own media. We are indirectly equipping our children to succeed on both ends of the commercial sex continuum, as predator and prey. On one hand, government officials and certain people groups condemn the very nature of the commercial sex trade, but it’s everywhere in our culture (Shared Hope International, n.d.). Religious and educational organizations “advocate abstinence and fidelity” (Shared Hope International, n.d. p.85), while businesses aggressively advertise using sexual innuendo in all of their sales campaigns (Shared Hope International, n.d.).

The alarming thing is, is that “throughout the U.S., girls are being bought and sold by adults to adults. Girls are sold on the streets, in strip-clubs, brothels, truck-stops and with increasing frequency on internet sites like Craigslist and Backpage” (Rachel Llyod, The Polaris Project, 2010). Majority of sex trafficked victims tend to be runaways or throwaway children from poverty stricken communities all across America. There are also young children who are recruited or forced into prostitution via kidnapping, parental pressures, or deception (U.S. Department of Justice: Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, n.d.). Usually in these situations, these children are forced to move away from their homes, families and familiar surroundings. Because of this isolation, it is often more difficult for these children to develop meaningful relationships throughout their lives. There are an estimated 293,000 children and teens that are at risk at becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation in America (U.S. Department of Justice, n.d.). According to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, some myths that our society buy into is that prostitution is a natural expression and is a good thing in sexual relationships, prostitution is a victimless crime and a choice, prostitution is exciting and a glamorous lifestyle, the sex industry offers unlimited wealth, prostitutes have power in the commercial sex industry, prostitution is an alternative to sex crimes, and that there are laws that control prostitution and the commercial sex trade. It is obvious that the American society is uneducated and naïve to this problem.

While on vacation in Hawaii, I spent some time talking with people from various areas in the community. Last year, my husband and I founded Uncaged International Ministries, a ministry dedicated to outreach in various capacities. One area of our mission is dedicated to raising awareness of sex trafficking and sex crimes in America. Because of our ministry, we were able to speak openly to many people about future projects that were on the horizon. Eight out of ten people that I spoke to had barely any idea what sex trafficking was. In fact, they said that they thought it was an international problem that was huge in India and Africa.

A dear friend of mine in Honolulu, Hawaii asked, “How does this problem affect me?” I thought about it for a minute and although I had a vast amount of information to offer her, I couldn’t answer the question. It was an extremely valid question. As I was searching for some kind of answer, I realized that my passion of sex trafficking couldn’t offer a solution. This problem didn’t directly affect her, so why should she care? I explained to her that many people do not care because they do not know. We spoke comparatively about Breast Cancer Awareness and Mothers against Drunk Driving. She was very familiar about those causes and how it impacted her life. She shared with me that although those two national causes do not affect her directly, she was very much aware of their presence and their cause.

The light bulb in my brain began to flicker. I knew that this friend of mind was not insensitive or indifferent to the issue of commercial sex trafficking, but she asked me this question to trigger a deeper thought process. She was speaking on behalf of the general public –an unspoken, but deafening question that echoed throughout society, ‘How does this affect me?’ It was a tiny question that answered the million dollar question: ‘Why is sex trafficking in America such a growing issue and how do we prevent it?’ We live in an out of sight, out of mind culture, and because this particular issue is like a rat that makes his home in your walls, many people grow to tolerate it as if it is not an actual issue that directly affects their lives. This is true until the rats eat into the electrical wires causing you to eventually have to do a complete overhaul on your electrical system. You see, this problem will eventually have to be dealt with out in the open. It would, however, be beneficial for society if the ‘rats’ were removed as soon as they were heard in the walls, instead of after they had disabled the lights.

There are many individuals and small organizations that are doing what they can to deal with the issue of commercial sex slavery in America. They are doing amazing things in their communities that deal with rescue and rehabilitation, but they have been going in over their heads because more and more victims need services. The problem is a lack of prevention, and there is a lack of prevention because there is a lack of awareness and knowledge of the actual issue. What would this issue look like if more people were aware of its impact? What would society do if commercial sex trafficking was no longer hidden in the walls of our culture? Would our country still be silent or indifferent if they came face to face with a visual of our daughters and sisters living lives driven by fear and rejection? More people need to rise up and come together as one voice, one single harmony that will echo throughout our country on this issue. I believe that when more people are aware of the problem and realize that in many ways it does affect them, prevention will occur. Awareness is the key to a turnaround. We need a national movement in our country; we need the people in America to recognize the warning signs and report them to the authorities. We need to educate our children so that they are equipped in the event that they find themselves in a situation that could lead to their exploitation.

References:

Batsyukova, S. (2007). Prostitution and Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation. Gend. Issues. doi:10.1007/s12147-007-9001-0

Macy, R. J., & Johns, N. (2011). Aftercare Services for International Sex Trafficking Survivors: Informing U.S. Service and Program Development in an Emerging Practice Area. TRAUMA, VIOLENCE, & ABUSE, 12(2), 87-98.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (2002). Female Juvenile Prostitution: Problem and Response (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Preventing the Sexual Exploitation of Children. (2003, Spring). The Front Line. Retrieved from http://www.ojjdp.gov

Raymond, J. G., & Hughes, D. M. (2001). Sex Trafficking of Women in the United States. Retrieved from http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/sex_traff_us.pdf

Shared Hope International (n.d.). DEMAND.. Vancouver, WA: Author.

The Polaris Project. (2010). Web Based. Retrieved from http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/sex-trafficking-in-the-us/internet-based

The Polaris Project. (2010). Sex Trafficking at Truck Stops. Retrieved from http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/sex-trafficking-in-the-us/truck-stops

The Polaris Project. (2010). Sex Trafficking in the US. Retrieved from http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/sex-trafficking-in-the-us

The Polaris Project. (2010). Street Prostitution. Retrieved from http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/sex-trafficking-in-the-us/street-prostitution

U.S. Department of Justice. (n.d.). Trafficking and Sex Tourism. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/criminal/ceos/trafficking.html

U.S. Department of Justice: Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. (n.d.). Child Prostitution. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/criminal/ceos/prostitution.html

U.S. Department of Justice: Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. (n.d.). Child Sex Tourism. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/criminal/ceos/sextour.html

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