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Monday, July 9, 2012

Sex Trafficking: It's Closer Than You Think

I think that many of us assume human trafficking is something that happens in other countries, and hardly (if at all) goes on in America, in our own neighborhoods and cities we call home. At the same time, many of us as Americans are morally relativistic in mindset, refusing to view any ways of living or working as unhealthy, damaging, and broken, yet most of us are quick to recognize and disagree with certain injustices. 

According to the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report, the United States is a source, destination, and transit country for victims of human trafficking. Slavery in the United States didn’t end with the Emancipation Proclamation, and it goes on in places we would hesitate to believe people are being exploited and sold against their wills, such as in strip clubs, pornographic industries, and even houses around us. The report states that sex traffickers use threats of deportation, violence, and sexual abuse to compel women into jobs in bars and nightclubs.  In addition, it explains how state human trafficking laws go unenforced due to inconsistencies in understanding the nature of the crime. The report also explains how we lack the knowledge to increase victim identification. To collaboratively combat sex trafficking in our country, we need to have our eyes opened and be ready to identify victims in places we would typically overlook, and anywhere around us.

There is a huge need to unify and become aware of where injustice occurs, and thus understand that the tragedy of human trafficking is happening all around us in the places we would deem unlikely. If we would be driven by compassion, rather than competition (which occurs unfortunately way too often in the nonprofit world) and open our eyes and confront our own beliefs, I think then we would see some major advancements against modern-day slavery.

Many of us don’t think twice when driving by strip clubs, nightclubs, and adult stores (and some of us look arrogantly upon on these places), although most of us are quick to advocate for victims of sex trafficking. We readily sympathize with victims and are quick to decry injustices, yet are reluctant to speak out against the actual sources of the injustices - the things that are creating the demand behind the crime, and the places in which the crimes are rampantly occurring. Since most victims of trafficking do not immediately self-identify as such, it is very important that we, as stewards and residents of the same places they live, know how to identify signs of victimization, hold steadfastly to the truths and realities of modern-day slavery, and act in truth and compassion. Like the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report recommends, we need to grow in knowledge so that we can identify victims of sex trafficking – but this is only made possible by opening our eyes, in truth and compassion, to where these victims exist.

Hebrews 10:23 – “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we possess ...”
James 1:6 – “… for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

The Trafficking in Persons Report makes it clear that our country needs more solid, steadfast, collaborative protocols to more effectively recognize and combat trafficking in persons. But this is possible only through dispelling our own myths and perceptions, and firmly embracing and holding resolutely to the reality of how human trafficking is fueled and where it takes place.

Kelly Bolton is a senior at the University of Florida (UF) majoring in Family, Youth and Community Sciences who is a summer intern with Beauty From Ashes™ Ministries. Kelly is involved in Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ) at UF and leads the International Justice Mission, UF student chapter.  Her talents and hobbies include playing the drums, creating art, writing, and horseback riding. As a believer for 13 years, her passion is to serve the Lord, and seek justice for the poor and oppressed, through ministry and her future career.

Beauty From Ashes™ Ministries conducts weekly outREACHes into an area of Fort Myers, Florida that is known for prostitution and drugs.  Additionally, they do monthly outREACHes inside strip clubs.  Both types of outREACHes serve home cooked meals and include the distribution of information on human trafficking and assistance resources.  They also, in an effort to reach individuals working by force or willingly in the sex for sale industry, have developed and implemented outREACH models via social media, phone calls, escort websites, porn expos, and through partnerships with governmental and nongovernmental agencies.  They are a grass roots, overcomer-led, community service agency reaching, rescuing, restoring and advocating for victims of sexual exploitation, abuse, and trafficking.  For more information on Beauty From Ashes™ Ministries, visit