Every day we hear more about the crimes that fall under the umbrella of human trafficking. At a basic level, human trafficking refers to the recruitment, coercion, and transportation of individuals for illegal activities, with or without their knowledge. These crimes include kidnapping, extortion, rape, slavery, prostitution, and pornography, and the victims are mostly children and young women. These violations are not only criminal offenses but reflect the darkest snares of the enemy—violence, sexual immorality, and despair.
The pervasive problem of human trafficking grows all around us. What once seemed to be an exotic issue halfway around the world now thrives in our own backyard. As uncomfortable as it may be, we must expose human trafficking and face its impact in our neighborhoods, communities, schools, offices, and homes.
Watch “Buying the Lie,” a short video from the Trafficking Hope C.A.R.E.S. site under Resources.
Human trafficking can be defined in many ways, but one of the best comes from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. According to its official “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons” report, human trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation” (Article 3, par. a). While such coercion does not always include sexual exploitation, the majority of human trafficking relates to prostitution, pornography, and sexual abuse of some kind. In fact, human trafficking is a $150 billion-dollar industry, with roughly two-thirds ($100 billion) from commercial sexual exploitation (ILO. 2014. “Profits and Poverty, The Economics of Forced Labor,” p. 13, 15).
And it may be tempting to believe human trafficking only happens in far-away, under-developed countries, not the U.S. Particularly because so many sources in our sex-saturated culture encourage us to think prostitution and pornography are “victimless crimes” since they’re presumed to be offered and purchased by “consenting adults.” No one gets hurt, they say. It’s no big deal.
While it’s difficult to estimate the number of people trafficked in the U.S., the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports over 100,000 children in the U.S. are forced into sex trafficking every year. These are not children trafficked into our country from overseas. This is the number of American kids exploited—often by family members and people they know and trusted—in our neighborhoods. And this does not include the number of young adults over age 18.
Over a hundred years ago, the writer Victor Hugo (Les Miserables) observed, “We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies to women and its name is prostitution.” Only a couple generations ago, porn referred to men’s magazines with brown paper wrappers and adult bookstores in seedy locations. But now millions of people can click on a porn site on their computers in mere seconds. They can shop online or visit adult stores near their local supermarket or mall. And they don’t have to frequent back alleys and cheap motels to find a prostitute.
Upscale sites can arrange a hook-up partner and meeting location with a quick text or email exchange.
On average for the past few years, consumers spend over ten billion dollars on adult entertainment—porn, prostitutes, escorts, bookstores, theaters, massage parlors, and other related items and activities. According to a recent report by 60 Minutes, over 800 million adult videos were rented or downloaded in our country last year, based on estimates by Adult Video News, the industry’s trade publication.
Seven in ten men, and five in ten women, between the ages of 18 and 34 view porn online at least once a month according to various sources (safefamilies.org/comScore Media Metrix).
Plenty of data exists to reflect the severity of the problem of human trafficking in our country and around the world. However, this issue is not about numbers— it’s about children and young women enduring unspeakable crimes no one should ever have to experience. It’s about lives shattered by brutal violations and souls poisoned by crippling shame. It’s about homes destroyed and families torn apart. It’s about a war on the human heart.
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7, NIV).
“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” (Ps. 1:6, NIV).
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11 (NIV)
What has been your exposure to the issue of human trafficking? What drew you to explore the topic in this group?
How would you define human trafficking based on your awareness prior to this group session? Would your definition be any different now? How so?
What has been in the news recently that reflects a connection to human trafficking? What movies, TV shows, or news programs have you seen depicting some aspect of this growing epidemic?
How would you describe the attitude toward adult entertainment in the area where you live? Present but no one acknowledges it? How have you become aware of sexual exploitation of children and women in the area where you live?
WHO C.A.R.E.S.—YOU DO!
Each session you’re encouraged to think through your gifts, talents, time, and other resources and how you can apply them in the war against human trafficking. To help you focus your fight, think about what upsets you most about human trafficking. Many times the very things you loathe, you are called to correct. Which of the following appeal to you or sound like something you would be good at doing? Check all that apply.
_____Identifying agencies, programs and ministries in my area that offers assistance to victims of human trafficking.
_____Collaborating with other groups and agencies for stronger support in the battle against human trafficking.
_____Leading a committee, small group, fundraiser, or public awareness campaign.
_____Doing research on the issue of human trafficking and its impact on yourcity and state.
_____Engaging with other people who have a passion to stop human trafficking and brainstorming ways to work together.
_____Communicating with individuals, groups, and agencies to increase your own awareness as well as the awareness of others.
_____Report suspicious behavior, people, places, or events with possible ties to sexual exploitation and human trafficking to law enforcement.
_____Support and participate in local, state, national, and international enforcement agencies in the war against human trafficking.
_____Train to address specific areas of the problem as well as teach and train others on how to rescue individuals victimized by human trafficking.
_____Prevent the exploitation of children and young adults by educating them about the dangers and possible warning signs of human traffickers.
_____Develop different kinds of educational materials for specific opportunities to educate others about the problem of human trafficking.
_____Empower others to apply their unique gifts, skills, knowledge and opportunities to overcome this issue.
_____Restore the lives of individuals who have suffered the terrible impact of human trafficking on themselves and their families.
_____Transform facilities, classrooms, and transitional homes into welcoming places of healing and new beginnings.
_____Renew the lives of those in desperate need of physical, emotional, and spiritual healing because of the wounds suffered at the hands of traffickers.
Thank God for bringing you to this group so that you can learn how to combat the terrible snares of human trafficking. Ask Him to reveal what He wants you to do in order to help overcome and win this war against the sexual exploitation of the weak, innocent, and vulnerable. Claim his protection against the enemy for yourself and everyone in the group as you explore this heart-wrenching issue together. Finally, pray for all the many, many women, children, and men enslaved by prostitution and pornography.