Today I was fortunate to attend a “Stop Child Sex Trafficking Advocacy and Awareness Workshop” put on by Exploit No More. Exploit No More exists to reflect Christ’s love by working to eradicate child sex trafficking in the Greater Milwaukee area. Our primary purpose is to empower—to empower children rising out of sex trafficking through aftercare, to empower everyday citizens to turn their passion for this issue into action, and to empower the voices of communities and victims to advocate for sound anti-trafficking laws and policies. (taken from their website)
The issue of human trafficking is such a ginormous issue – both worldwide AND in our own backyard. We are focusing here on the Milwaukee area, but wherever you’re reading this, I’m sure it wouldn’t take long for you to find that this atrocity is happening with alarming frequency right where you live as well.
There are so many things I’m processing from today’s workshop, so I figured I would just START here!
Girls get tricked into human trafficking and sex trafficking in a variety of ways and in a variety of places. They are “recruited” outside their middle and high schools, in malls (yes, in our own Bayshore, Mayfair and Southridge Malls!), outside group homes, on their own front doorsteps.
Men look for young girls who can be manipulated and groomed for this “industry”. Oftentimes these girls come from homes where they don’t have love, security, someone watching out for them. Their mom may work many hours, dad has never been in the picture. Mom may numb her pain with drugs or alcohol. These girls may not get 3 meals every day. They don’t get GOOD attention at home. They’re probably already been molested in their life. So a man comes along telling her how special and beautiful she is. He offers to take her out for a meal. He showers her with attention. He makes her feel some security. She feels “taken care of”.
His manipulation is in full swing. She wants to do whatever he asks because he’s taking care of her. She becomes fiercely loyal to him. No one at home notices her. No one notices how long she’s gone or who she’s with.
He can now take her away easily. He can get her hooked on drugs and/or alcohol because she trusts him when he says it will be fun. It will make her feel good. If she loves him she will do this with him. It’s something they can do TOGETHER.
He has her hooked. On him AND substances. He can now use force, beatings, torture because she NEEDS him. She needs him for her next fix.
He requires her to work for her fix. He sells her and while she is out getting beat, raped, traded on the street as a piece of property, he is sitting back getting high and searching out his next girl.
Meanwhile her soul is getting crushed, obliterated. Her self worth is being ripped away from her. Her mind is getting warped beyond recognition. Her body is full of bruises, cuts, sores, filled with disease and pain. He keeps her drugged up so her conscience doesn’t come to the surface. She has to be numbed out so she doesn’t fully grasp what is happening to her.
But where did all this start? Did a little 3, 5, 7 year old girl look forward to the day when she could be traded on the street?
Of course not!
It started with an innocent child not getting what she needed at home to fill her up. To remind her of her precious worth. She didn’t feel secure, loved, valued.
So, what can we do about that?
We get paralyzed by the enormity of the problem and think, “I’m only one person. What can I do? I live in the ‘burbs, I don’t know anyone like that.”
But maybe you do. Maybe YOU could help KEEP a girl from going there?
I got to thinking……
I can watch the children in my kids’ classes. I can see the friends in Adara’s class (when she goes to school). If one of those girls comes from a home where she is alone a lot, where she doesn’t get the attention she needs, I can provide some of that for her. Is she lonely a lot? I can invite her over for dinner. I can take her home from school and help her with her homework. When I take Adara out to a movie, I can bring her along. I can use words that specifically tell her the value I see in her. I can build her up. I can help her feel a self worth. I can show her where all that comes from – a God that is desperately in love with her and SEES her. I can never replace her mom, but I can help her mom.
I can also give Adara this vision. I can teach her to SEE her fellow class mates. I will always PROTECT Adara, but I shouldn’t SHELTER her. Sure, this friend is likely to use language we don’t use in our house. She will likely wear clothes I won’t allow Adara to wear. She will probably see movies and listen to music that won’t be approved of in this house. I have the choice to shelter Adara from “kids like that”….OR I can engage Adara in conversations about those precious PEOPLE and she can have God’s heart for them. We, as a family, can serve them and share God and ourselves with them.
As I write this I have a knot in my stomach. Adara is only 20 months old right now. What happens when God calls me on this? What happens when Adara IS in school and I’m required to make good on this “idea” right now? And Caleb – he’s in first grade. This could happen right now.
I pray that what God showed me today will be burned in my heart and I will gladly open my heart to these precious children and “make good” on what He has showed me today. That I will SEE them and pour His love and worth into them so they DON’T end up being easily manipulated by someone who only wants to use and abuse them.