To leave the trafficked sex industry is to encounter many barriers. Among those is the need for employment opportunities and the opportunity to learn a trade while gaining skills to earn an independent income.
Consider this: A woman leaves a trafficker, through his arrest or her own personal escape. This trafficker created total dependence — someone who, amidst abuse and exploitation, provided for her. She usually had no control of this money, and gave over anything she made for his earnings. Her needs are met — but she is completely dependent on him for survival.
Then she is separated from her trafficker, and she has nothing: No income, usually a limited education, and at times minimal job skills to report on a resume. Her survival reflects her strengths and resources — but how does she capture resilience for prospective employers? What does she do when she carries a criminal record history?
One survivor described this experience to me, saying, “I look horrible on paper.”
Our initial vision included a basic goal of raising awareness and seeking to coordinate efforts for a unified response that would comprehensively address this form of modern-day slavery through prevention, awareness, action, and aftercare. But as our awareness efforts soon led many trafficking survivors to us, statistics and stories were replaced with personal, local faces that would need our help and in turn, would change our lives.
Interacting with trafficking survivors is a cross-cultural experience. Many of their stories are riddled with addiction, abuse, neglect, out-of-home placement, loss, rejection, and suffering. (And this does not even begin to address the culture of the commercial sex industry.) The language of “the life,” the rules of “the game”, and the many nuances of a relationship with a trafficker — whether known as daddy, boyfriend, boss, abuser, or lover — are only a few of the cultural differences for a woman coming out of the commercial sex industry.
As I sit with a woman who has secrets, stories, and experiences that are much different than my own, what can I offer? The world views her as dirty and as choosing this lifestyle. Others view her as to be pitied and a cause to be rescued. What does she need? What do we need to understand about women who have a history of prostitution or sex trafficking?
Recently I asked another woman this question. Separated from her trafficker for only two months, she had a fresh understanding.
When a San Antonio couple was caught trafficking a 16-year-old online, their excuse was that they had no prior knowledge of her age and “were trying to help her.” Meanwhile, Jeffrey Charwick Wright, a now ex- Navy sailor, trafficked an HIV-positive 17-year old in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina for his own good. But hey, at least he could admit it.
These horrible anecdotes are popping up all over the U.S., with underage children—both Americans and immigrants—trafficked for labor, and more often, for sexual exploitation. The most surprising issue, however, is the conversation on whether those who are trafficked are criminals themselves. Sadly, in 19 states and all of the American territories, that is the case.
The good news is that a majority of states have some form of "safe harbor laws," laws that prevent underage victims of trafficking from facing criminal charges and from being treated as culpable and willing participants.
As Brazil counts down to the opening of the World Cup on June 12, churches in cities hosting the international soccer tournament are not content to sit on the sidelines and cheer.
They’ve launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the hundreds of vulnerable children at risk of sexual exploitation during the month-long competition.
With an estimated 600,000 soccer fans expected to arrive in Brazil within a matter of days, the South American nation is under pressure to combat its international reputation as a destination for child sex tourism.
Church leaders fear the heavy flow of tourists during the games could fuel an explosion of sexual trafficking of children and teens at fan fest locations around the World Cup arenas.
The first ominous sign that the Relisha Rudd case was slipping from the local Washington, D.C. imagination was when the police alert signs posted on the roads into the city had their messages changed, or were removed entirely.
For weeks after the news that the little eight-year-old girl was missing broke on March 19, the digital display boards had broadcast the Amber alert in their amber lettering, its grim message truncated in a style all too appropriate for the digital age: “BLK Female, 8 YRS, 4’0”, 70-80 LBS,” along with a contact number to report sightings. Radio stations had urged citizens repeatedly to be on the lookout.
Because I tend to leave WTOP news radio on a little too often when the children are around, my ten-year-old son grew preoccupied with the case, and because he cannot admit to himself that tragedy is ever actually happening, came to me and said, earnest with his watery blue eyes, “Mom, you know they found that girl.”
WASHINGTON — A White House advisory council of religious leaders called for a global fund to address human trafficking and urged a new labeling system to help identify consumer goods that were not created with slave labor.
With a 36-page report released Wednesday, the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships hopes to build awareness of the estimated 21 million people worldwide who are subjected to sexual exploitation or forced labor.
“Abraham Lincoln said if slavery is not wrong then nothing is wrong, and we know that sadly 150 years later slavery still exists,” said Susan K. Stern, chair of the council and an adviser to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. “Today with this report we say, ‘Enough.’”
The 15-member council made 10 recommendations to the White House, saying what they’ve learned about the scope of trafficking has driven them to galvanize national action.
One recommendation calls for a “Global Fund to Eradicate Modern-day Slavery,” modeled on a fund that combated AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
For the sake of the world, we should all be feminists. And given what we know about the role of independent, empowered women in the community of disciples, for the sake world, we might be “Christians.”
Raymond Brown, the late, great scholar of John, writes: “In this Gospel, where light and darkness play such a role, darkness lasts until someone believes in the risen Jesus.”
Therefore no darkness, no heartbreak, no grief, no injustice can long stand where the Risen Christ is proclaimed. Jesus Christ is the light of the world. The light shines in the darknessa and the darkness does not — cannot — will not overcome the light.
Freedom is hummus. Perhaps not to you. But to me, hummus is what freedom tastes like. The relationships I have built with survivors of human trafficking have propelled me to redefine freedom, as it exists from their perspectives.
Watching a survivor taste hummus for the first time brought so much joy to me. In a room of 25 survivors, no one had ever tasted it; many were hesitant to even dip a chip in it, let alone a carrot stick or pita bread. But the wide smile on the face of the first survivor who ‘dove in,' was all they needed to form a new love for this strange chickpea blend. And that one smile led the rest of the women into a new world of ‘healthful’ eating. It was a bold move early on by one of our volunteers — but she knows that part of her volunteer work is to continue to introduce the survivors to freedom and choices that have been unknown and unavailable to them.
Editor's note: This essay has been adapted from Gender Balancing our World.You can read the full article HERE.
We had barely gobbled down our last bite of turkey and pumpkin pie before the familiar lines of carols began to ring in our ears and warm our souls. Joy to the world! Peace on earth! Good will to all! Let heaven and nature sing! I don't know about you, but as I string up lights, pull out the advent wreath and boxes and boxes of ornaments and tangled lights, the lofty words of our beloved carols have a way of triggering a paradoxical mix of joy, generosity, and enlarged spiritual vision, yet also a fairly predictable malcontendedness about the state of things.
How strange it is that Christmas carols can make me want both to buy an iPhone 5 and a Mac Airbook and in the same moment want to save the world? I admit that I keep Santa’s Amazon elves very busy this time of year, yet in quiet moments the contradictions between the high ideals of the season and the harshness of our egregiously unjust world nag at my soul.
The fact that the February 2012 issue contained three articles about human trafficking (“Humankind’s Most Savage Cruelty,” by Stewart Burns; “Here?” by Abayea Pelt; “Works of Mercy” by Sylvia Yu) is encouraging. However, none of them mentioned the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. Nothing will completely stop the evil of trafficking, since it is so profitable, but the Convention has potential for reducing it more than any other device or activity. The Convention was developed in 1989, and 194 U.N. countries have ratified it.