National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

In the United States, January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and I cannot help but find it auspicious that this is my first full day in Greece, beginning a year with HD.

Greece is a transit, destination, and a very limited source country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, and men subjected to forced labor. (US Department of State)

Officially, Greece was designated a Tier 2 country, one where a government is not fully compliant with the minimum protection of victims and in which the number of victims of severe abuse is significantly increasing. (Greek Reporter)

Although few Greeks are trafficked (however, the number of Greek women who resorted to prostitution grew significantly when the economy collapsed), but women (sex trafficking) and men (human trafficking) frequently find themselves sold into slavery here.  They are from Eastern Europe and Africa, and their traffickers use a variety of threats to coerce them into work.   Continue reading

WHO is Trafficked, and WHO are the Traffickers?

The glossary information in the back of Abby Sher’s Breaking Free was so good, I cannot summarize it.  Here in full is her description of the 3 most common types of girls who are trafficked and the 4 most common types of traffickers.

One of the most important things to understand about sex-trafficking survivors is that none of them wanted to go through this.  Sometimes it happened to them because someone promised them food or shelter.  Sometimes it’s because they were born into a society where they’re expected to be sexually used and abused.  Sometimes it’s as simple or familiar as trusting the wrong boyfriend.

Here are just some of the people who are at high risk for sex trafficking.

As many as 2.8 million children run away each year in the United States.  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that in those first two days of being solo, one out of every three of thsoe children are lured into the sex trade.

One out of every three.

Remember:  When someone runs away from home, it’s definitely a cry for help.  Something at home feels unbearable, and whoever is the first person to promise a better alternative holds all the power, even if what he or she is offering sounds sketchy.

Intergenerational Prostitution
In a lot of places in the world, “tradition” is the excuse used to keep girls and women down.  In India, 90% of the girls born to sex workers are expected to be sold into the sex trade, too.  It’s their “duty.”  In societies like this, the boys are brought up to be pimps and the girls are expected to be their prostitutes.  The girls can be as young as nine when they’re first sold, and their moms can be the ones bringing them to greet their first customers.

Undocumented Immigrants
Immigrants to the United States are super-easy targets for traffickers.  When they’re new to America, they often don’t speak English.  Or maybe they don’t have a job, they owe money to whoever helped them get here, and they have no legal protection because they’re not officially a citizen (yet).  The most tragic part of this setup is that immigrants are often trafficked by people from their home country who steer them the wrong way or promise them an easy ride, and then make them work off their debt by forcing them into the sex trade.

We also have to look carefully at who is doing the trafficking.  According to the United Nations, 46% of victims know their recruiters.  Here are some of the faces they wear.

The Romeo Pimp is cunning and slick.  Once he homes in on his target, he acts like her boyfriend and promises her the world.  Romeo tells her she’s beautiful and sexy.  A lot of times, he buys her expensive presents like cell phones and lingerie that makes her feel really special.  Then he tells her she’s beautiful some more, especially when she puts on lingerie and does a little shimmy.  He thinks she’s so hot that he wonders if she’ll do a little shimmy for his friend.  It’s just a joke, he says.  Or a special occasion.  But this is only the beginning.  Romeo has big ideas for her and how beautiful and sexy she can be.

Dutch Loverboy
The loverboy of Holland is a special breed.  Since prostitution is legal in the Netherlands if you’re eighteen or older, the loverboy preys on underage girls.  He pretends to be an adoring boyfriend, doting on his girl with gifts and promises.  Soon enough, he starts taking her down to a red lights district and telling her this is just something fun they can try, or how it might help to make some money.  Sometimes the girls he lures are even forced to work in the windows like sex dolls for sale.

Sex Tourist
Instead of going to see the pyramids in Egypt or surf the waves of Costa Rica, some people travel to another country to buy sex.  They might go somewhere where they know the government ignores sexual abuse, where prostitution is legal, or where there is extreme poverty and police corruption.  Brazil, Thailand, and the Caribbean islands are hotspot destinations for this kind of customer.  Some sex tourists even blog about how many sex workers they have slept with during their travels, and they acquire a reputation as a sort of travel agent and pimp at the same time.

This is the one who most often makes it into the news.  The Guerilla is the guy who lurks in a van or who corners his prey in the public bathroom and uses force to kidnap his victims.  A Guerilla will threaten his victim with knives, guns, or the promise that he’s going to kill her whole family if she so much as thinks of calling the police.  Then he locks her up in his basement or keeps moving her to different locations so nobody can find her.  When the Guerilla is finally captured and his victim is freed, a lot of times there are eerie testimonials from neighbors who say something like I had no idea he had girls in his basement.  He was always such a nice, quiet guy.

I encourage anyone interested in learning more about sex trafficking to read Sher’s book Breaking Free, the story of three different girls who were trafficked and came out of the horror with a passion to help other girls escape their fate.

Sex Trafficking (3 of 3): Caregiver’s Perspective

The following information comes from information provided by Redeemed Ministries at their weekend conference on Aftercare Training.

Christians, if not careful, can let a healthy passion for ministry turn into a martyr’s complex.

In psychology a person who has a martyr complex, sometimes associated with the term victim complex, desires the feeling of being a martyr for his/her own sake, seeking out suffering or persecution because it either feeds a psychological need, or a desire to avoid responsibility. (Wikipedia)

In pursuit of pleasing God (as though he has not already given us his love), Christians can run themselves ragged, draining their own resources in service to the point that they are no longer useful.  It is only with careful self-awareness that ministers can serve whole-heartedly…because they have made sure to keep their heart whole.  The first step to healthy service is to examine the cost.  Continue reading

Sex Trafficking (2 of 3): Victim’s Perspective

The following information comes from information provided by Redeemed Ministries at their weekend conference on Aftercare Training.

Sex trafficking:  When an individual makes a profit by selling a human being in the Commerical Sex Industry by means of force, fraud, or coercion.

Before studying trafficking in more detail, I tended to think of the women and children forced into prostitution as victims of force and fraud.  Forced trafficking is the obvious nightmare:  someone is kidnapped, taken to an unknown location, and forced into sexual slavery.  Fraud is also fairly obviously horrible, and it occurs when a woman is offered a job that doesn’t exist in order to create a dependency and desperation that leads to sexual slavery.

Coercion, however, is trickier.  Women who are coerced into prostitution often believe that it was their choice.  From the outside, these are the women who are often scorned and looked down upon by “nice” men and women in the Church.  But the reality is not so simple.  Women who are coerced into sexual slavery are manipulated and abused, and they deserve our understanding and compassion.

There are five stages of entry into commercial sexual exploitation.  Although the way in which each stage plays out is different from woman to woman, all five are generally present if a woman is successfully coerced into sexual slavery.  Continue reading

Sex Trafficking (1 of 3): God’s Perspective

The following information comes from information provided by Redeemed Ministries at their weekend conference on Aftercare Training.

I am 100% convinced that God hates the sexual exploitation of women.  I am positive that he is grieved by the fact that 21-30 million people are trafficked, 80% of whom are women, and 50% of whom are children.  Why do I know God hates trafficking?  Because of how he has revealed himself in the Bible.  Continue reading

The Struggle to Go with a Servant’s Heart, When I Want to be a Hero

I’ve been thinking about working in HD.  My reflex is to think of myself as these girls’ savior, and I plan how I will help them and love them and show them Christ.

Today I got a glimpse of something else.  I stepped outside of myself for one moment, which is both a profound relief and an intense discomfort.  I thought about each individual woman I will meet.  I thought of a young girl who will be bold and brash and powerful.  I thought of another woman who will be timid, thoughtful, and scared.  I thought of another who will ignore me, lost in her own world, unwilling to be helped.    Continue reading

The Super Bowl and Trafficking

The Super Bowl is a time for friends to gather together in order to eat delicious junk food and scream loudly as their favored team either wins or loses.  It ought to be a good time for everyone as a sport competition unites people across the country.  Unfortunately, it is not a good time for all.

In 2011, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said, “The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly.  It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”  The article by Huffington Post, “Super Bowl is Single Largest Human Trafficking Incident in U.S.: Attorney General” covers this phenomenon in more detail, claiming “that the sheer number of men looking to pay for sex substantially increases demand and the massive crowds allow for pimps and victims to essentially go unnoticed.”  Continue reading

One Woman’s Story of Surviving the Sex Trade

I just read this new article about a 25-year-old English woman telling her story–a horrific one in which she fell in love at age 14 with a man who forced her into sex trafficking.  When you read the article, you might disagree with my choosing to use the word “forced.”  The anonymous woman referred to as Megan admits that she technically could have left, that she in fact helped someone else escape.  So why say “forced”?  Continue reading