I have made it a point to keep my posts relevant to the purpose of the JM blog. Speaking. Singing. Writing. And I try to write and welcome any and every post that fits those 3 categories. Recently a high school girl interviewed me about my involvement with Love146 for a school paper she was writing on abolishing sex-trafficking. I was highly impressed with her thorough and professional questions and interest on the topic.
Well, she wrote it and I read it and I cried. The passion in this girl's writing leaps from the paper directly into her reader's heart. I can feel the urgency and motivation in her frantic typing fingers. Her writing is eloquent and impact full and I want so badly to share it with you. I hope she inspires you as she inspired me. Her name is Sam and she's 16.
*It's a little long but it's worth it*
Robert Allan, an anti-exploitation activist, declared, “Slavery was abolished 150 years ago, right? While it is true that slavery is illegal almost everywhere on earth, the fact is there are more slaves today than there ever were...” Slavery is defined as being in bondage, severe toil, drudgery, having one’s inalienable civil rights completely dominated by another. Child sex trafficking is an egregious example of slavery. Sexual exploitation is a basic violation of a human being’s rights. Stripped from their towns, their homes, their families, these children are treated as a sex object, not as a person. Commercial sexual exploitation is a form of coercion and violence against innocent children. This is modern slavery. This is innocence for sale. This is not acceptable.
Worldwide, 27 million children are trapped in the human sex trafficking business with two new victims ensnared every sixty seconds. It is estimated that trafficking generates $32 billion annually, making it the second most rewarding crime in the world. Regions around the world, including Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean are suffering through this silent epidemic. Every year more than 100,000 children are forced into prostitution and pornography in the United States alone. Perhaps because of the large runaway population of these cities, 86% of those exploited in the U.S. come off the streets of Phoenix, Arizona and Anaheim, California. One of the most dire regions in the world is Asia with Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, India and Nepal all being significant contributors to the trade.
Regardless of what part of the world a victim is from, homelessness, minority status, poverty and lack of education cause children to become vulnerable to capture. Exploiters even use natural disasters to find young people to populate their brothels. These children, separated from their families, are tragically enticed by the promise of protection. They are lured with promises of security, safety, love, and money, but these false promises eventually crumble to the ground after repetitive beatings and starvation. Children as young as six years old are being forced to sexually perform for endless hours and countless “clients”. Forced to perform multiple times a night, they cannot say no for fear of consequences that range from cigarette burns to being electrocuted through an electric wire that has been inserted into their body. Fear, forced drugs and violence are often part of the slavery equation, creating an environment from which there is no escape. Captors use these methods to break the children until they learn to smile for every pedophile or sex tourist that solicits their establishment. Child slaves are told, “you cannot runaway”; they are told “you cannot escape”; they are told, “this is your life.”
Unfortunately, some local law enforcement agencies and the international community have often times reinforced this message of “no escape”. Though law enforcement officials are supposed to be a source of safety and refuge, they are often not for the enslaved people, trading free “sessions” to turn a blind eye and look the other way for the brothels. This is a haunting reality to families living in poor regions because if they cannot pay debts owed by the family, officials may take their sons and daughters into the city to “work” off the debt. In actuality they are selling human beings like commodities. One girl recounts how she escaped the brothel only to be hunted down by police and dragged by her hair back to endless days of despair.
Children trapped in these hopeless situations are broken, with seemingly no repair in sight. Rob Morris is the co-founder of Love146, an organization which helps in the rescue and healing of trafficked children. He remembers a visit to a safe house where he witnessed a girl who had been rescued from the streets, sitting in a corner by herself repeatedly pouring handfuls of dirt over her head. A caretaker explained that since being at the safe home, this shattered 8 year old girl had continually repeated this behavior, trying to make herself disappear. What would cause a child to feel so worthless, to be brought to a place of such self-loathing, brokenness and shame, that she would want to make herself vanish completely? For this girl and those like her, there is no hoping, there is no dreaming, there is no future apart from the torment they experience daily- unless we speak for them.
“What these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs,” stated Elie Wiesel. A Nobel Peace Prize recipient known for his work on behalf of the exploited, Elie Wiesel speaks out against indifference, intolerance and injustice worldwide. This man, along with organizations such as Love146 and the International Justice Mission are beginning to awaken the international community to the horrors of human trafficking. They offer safety for those rescued from the sex trade though their safe homes. They participate in undercover operations designed to expose the inner workings of the industry and help conduct raids of brothels involved.
The International Justice Mission also works through the justice system, attacking brothels through legal avenues and asking local governments to prevent and punish sex trafficking. Perhaps most importantly, these people and organizations are calling the rest of us to be a voice for those who cannot speak up for themselves. We are being called to shine a light on today’s slavery and to say that this is not acceptable in today’s world.
On a subsequent trip to the safe home, Rob was taught to dance by a girl so giggly and alive, that she quickly stole his heart. He later asked about the girl’s story and was told that this was the same little person who had tried to bury herself with dirt during his previous visit. Recovery and restoration are possible; there is hope. Love protects, love defends, love restores, love empowers. Love is not silent.