1/23/2018 2 Comments
The culture of human trafficking and exploitation takes on the hue of its surroundings. In 2014 and 2015, GO:61 conducted phone interviews with several hundred women who were for sale through online venues. Each of these women in prostitution who completed the interview claimed this industry was not an industry they wanted for themselves. Nearly every person interviewed came from a background of juvenile sexual abuse, neglect, or a breakdown of a healthy family structure. Like many other abolitionists who perform similar studies, we discovered that "choice" was not as cut and dry as society likes to think it is. These women and even teens were following the natural path for their lives. Their lives had been deeply impacted by trauma, lack of choices, lack of a support system, and they bought a dream that sounded like the answer to their prayers. But the dream they bought into turned out to be their worst nightmare.
The scenario often goes like this: A man and sometimes even a woman working for a pimp, preys on the at-risk person's vulnerability. He identifies her weaknesses, and he exploits them, but only after he has courted her, temporarily provided for her, and made her promises that seemed to her like the answers to all her prayers. After a few days or a few weeks, once she is dependent on him and sure that he loves her, he shows her the reality - his intention is to sell her for his benefit.
He rents her out over and over again through prostitution. If she initially resists, he beats her, has her raped repeatedly and subdues her through terror management. He may brand her, withhold food and clothing, refuse to let her bathe, and cut her off from communications with all her friends and family. By this time, he has typically moved her to another city, and he has gotten her addicted, so she is more easily controlled through the promise of drugs once she is "obedient." She can be 12 years old, 15 years old, nine years old, 20 years old, or 35 years old. We've seen and interviewed girls who were victimized and sold as young as nine and as old as 48. While we have most frequently encountered females who are victims, males too are exploited through similar scenarios.
In other circumstances, teens and children will fall prey to predators who end up trafficking them because they met the predator online and believed he or she was someone close to their age who wanted to befriend them. Traffickers are tactical and strategic in grooming youth who are vulnerable, and these children come from all backgrounds and all walks of life.
These are but a few paths that lead to the entry points of a person becoming a trafficking victim. We have also repeatedly interviewed ladies who once were sold as children, later discarded, and have ended up prostituting themselves because it is the only life they have ever known. Instead of being identified as victims when they encounter law enforcement, they are more often arrested for solicitation and then after a quick book and release they are sent back to their same situation. Some girls who are under control of a pimp will be arrested for prostitution and then undergo a quick legal processing before they are discharged back to their trafficker. Time after time, missed opportunities abound because proper training is not in place for those on the front lines to identify a victim. The result is the victims being criminalized, and this reinforces their self-blame, their learned helplessness, and their mistrust of ever receiving help from the community.
Why do these victims not seek help and why do so many not identify themselves as victims when an opportunity presents itself? The abyssal effects of trauma, self-blame, fear and conditioned slavery mindsets frequently prevent victims from self-reporting. Many have also experienced abuse, indignity, and mockery from those who were in positions to help them. Because of these circumstances, and other dispositions associated with trauma and trafficking, the victims are silent. No one has told them there is help for them and no one has opened the door for help. The result is continued victimization and dehumanization until the fading ember of yet another life grows dim and finally extinguishes permanently. And all of this occurs under the watchfulness of a grieving Heavenly Father who greatly desires intercession, justice, and redemption for his commodified and suffering children.
The drug culture is hand-in-hand with the coloration of human trafficking. The unchecked lust of men who would buy girls, boys, and women for commercial sex and exploited labor drives the culture of human trafficking. We know if we want to end this unspeakable injustice we must address the demand and this must begin with addressing the consumers of sex. GO:61 is in agreement with the publication provided by the U.S. State Department on this issue: if a community does not address prostitution, it creates a safe haven for traffickers.
The culture and coloring of human trafficking is wide and deep and it is filled with many complexities, but there is a response. We come into agreement that we will not suppress this injustice so we do not have to address it. Instead, we lift our eyes to God and we say, "Show me my part in ending this injustice." We acknowledge that we'll let our lives be interrupted so that those bound by these crimes may be set free and restored. We humbly confess that our standard of living should not be more important than others living. And then we take action, even if it is one step at a time. Every action is significant and every journey has a starting point.
In February, GO:61 is beginning a 2018 volunteer training session. You can sign up today by filling out an application located on this website. Your business or church may request a training or professional presentation. You can support counter-trafficking measures by becoming a committed monthly donor of any amount, or you can also begin emailing your city council, state representatives, and state senators to let them know you support increased human trafficking measures and legislation. For more ideas on how to engage, email firstname.lastname@example.org to request information. We'd love to have a discourse with you and serve you as you embrace abolition and reclaim people from human trafficking and exploitation.