Our church’s partnership with Saint Child has resulted in us taking a step into the world of human trafficking. We knew when we began volunteering at Saint Child one year ago that we would be serving at a safe house for young moms and their babies. We also knew that the time these moms and babies spent at Saint Child would help them to transform their lives of dysfunction into lives that would give their kids a better chance at health and success. What we didn’t know at the time was that 85-90% of the young women who live at Saint Child come out of a life of human trafficking. As a result of our service and ministry at Saint Child, we have come to realize that the crime and tragedy of human trafficking is a world that God has called us to reach into and one we know very little about.
Importantly, we don’t want to be ignorant to the world around us or the lives of those to whom God has asked us to serve. In October, when we helped for the first time at Medical Teams International, it was a prerequisite that each volunteer go through an experiential exhibit so that we could touch, feel, and hear the world that the people who receive help navigate each day. In a similar vein, we chose to invite Rebecca Bloomfield, the executive director of Saint Child, to join us on a Sunday morning to educate us about human trafficking. She shared a very “sanitized version” about human trafficking. One point, in particular, that stands out from her sermon on that Sunday is that most girls enter the sex trade between ages 12 and 14, some younger and some older (but not much older) – not by their own choice, but through manipulation, abuse, and exploitation.
Rebecca shared a startling fact that this problem literally happens in our own neighborhood. A 14-year-old girl was being sold out of the back door of Stars Cabaret, just blocks from where we meet on Sunday mornings, until the police shut it down. I was not prepared for what I heard on this Sunday morning.
Even the sanitized version was troubling to listen to, and, I think, the hardest part was to picture a 12-year-old little girl being sold as a commodity and realizing that some emerge and find a place like Saint Child to live and find a glint of hope and others are lost to society and hope forever. Having suffered some abuse myself as a teenager, I am usually pretty cautious about the movies I watch, the books I read, and the things I listen to because any one of these things, if it has anything to do with abuse and violence, can trigger my own memories and cause me to struggle emotionally as a result. So, unexpectedly, I was pretty shook up after hearing Rebecca share on the topic of human trafficking, not realizing it is the junction where child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual abuse come together.
However, avoidance of hard topics and subjects has never been something I have shied away from, especially when God has directed me to become involved. New Vision’s pastoral leadership had already planned to host a community education night so that Rebecca could go deeper in her teaching and share further on this topic. This education night took place on October 26th. This time, though, I was well prepared for the topic that was being discussed. It is amazing how much preparation and education helps me to process information and not to internalize it; I am enabled to see a cause and want to make a difference. I find that I am empowered through education and preparation, and believe this is something that is true for almost everyone.
Those who attended this evening of education were introduced to the terminology, the psychology, and the sociology of human trafficking. It also gave us facts that will empower and equip us, not only when we serve at Saint Child, but also in how we live our lives and the choices we make that impact and perpetuate this
Finally, if consumption of a product is stopped, then the need for the product goes away. In other words, if sexual exploitation, crime, abuse, and trafficking are going to be stopped, then we need to put an end to the consumerization of girls (and sometimes boys) as sex products.
Facts about human trafficking:
- Portland has more businesses that advocate the sex trade than any other city in the U.S.
- Kids enter the sex trade usually at 12 to 14 years of age.
- Runaways are approached by a pimp within 48 hours of running away.
Tangible ways to make a difference:
- Educate yourself and have knowledge to respond critically.
- Commit to not consuming any kind of pornography.
- Pornography of any kind, legal or illegal, is a conduit for child pornography.
- Pornography perpetuates the misogynistic view of women.
- Do not promote sexualization of children.
- Do not promote speech that normalizes the sex industry.
- Don’t use the word pimp as a descriptive word that means to make something flashy, i.e. “Did you see how he pimped out his car?”
- A pimp is a person who sells another human being for a sex act. Don’t normalize this by using the word inappropriately in your speaking.
- Redirect your own speech and thoughts and interrupt it when you hear it coming from others.