Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sex Trafficking in America

A few weeks ago I attended a women's conference. One of the classes was about starting a new ministry, which I assumed would be about church planting or leading a women's ministry. But the woman who spoke, Jeanie Turner, had started a ministry in Florida called One Way Out. She goes into brothels, strip clubs, and jails to give gifts to the women and just to love on them. She herself was the woman at the well who met Jesus, having been married 5 or so times. God saved her and changed her radically, and she went to tell the most desperate about her Jesus. I cried throughout her story, profoundly grateful that God can save and redeem like this.

The next class was about using the arts to minister to girls just out of sex-trafficking. The speaker, Rebecca Grant, had grown up as a missionary's daughter in India. When she was 16, the family was driven to the red light district and she saw girls younger than herself out on the streets, selling their bodies to men. She saw with painful clarity the hopelessness in their eyes. Then Rebecca's family was taken to a house where rescued girls and women were living, just a few months out of that lifestyle. They were so joyful and kept repeating, "Isn't our God good? Look where I am now! I have a future." The contrast between the girls in the home and the girls on the street was striking. When she was older, Rebecca started Rescue Arts, visiting the many homes of rescued girls, using drama, art, dance, writing, and music as creative therapy. Again, I cried throughout her class as she described these girls and how she used the healing arts to minister to them.

The next night, I was browsing through the section of old books at Half Price Books. I started talking to a woman who worked there about how much I loved old books, a kindred spirit. She went to the back to get some that had never been shelved for me to look at. We ooed and awwed at some antiques until she showed me one that was pretty beat up. It had a lovely illustration of a girl behind bars, which caught my attention because I frequently have that image in my head symbolically. Then I read the title- "Fighting the Traffic in Young Girls Or War on the White Slave Trade." I nearly jumped with excitement! I explained to her that I was part of a group called Alert Ministries, who help sexually exploited women in the Dallas area, some of whom have been trafficked here. So I bought the book for $5 and tucked my treasure in my arms.
I'm only halfway through reading it, but it has been an amazing read already. The book was written in 1910(!), a collection of published articles on sex trafficking in America. I still can't believe I found it. The writers were lawyers, pastors, and social service workers who discovered this crime operating under their noses. They write, "For the protection of the innocent, for the safeguarding of the weak, for the warning of the tempted and the alarm of the wicked, the truth must be told- the truth that makes us free."

The book gives a history of cultures that practiced forced prostitution, from Biblical times to the 1900's. It describes the process of how the girls were deceived and/or kidnapped and taken to be prisoners in the brothels. It lists tips for parents on safeguarding their girls, accounts of stories from women that have escaped, and laws that have come about because of the peoples' efforts to stop this crime. What surprises me most is how similar the circumstances were 100 years ago to today. People were shocked and refused to believe it could happen in their cities. But once people refused to ignore what was going on, they rallied to put an end to it.
The authors give advice for those who want to help: "Form organizations everywhere to fight this traffic. Through these organizations educate the... communities to be careful... demand proper legislation, write the senators and representatives about it... and help build homes for training the girls for better lives." It made me very happy to realize that there are many organizations currently doing this very work- raising awareness, educating the public, fighting for laws to protect the innocent and punish the abusers, and creating places where the women can be healed and trained for future careers. Love146 has all of these aspects, along with other organizations.

The book has so many shocking statistics, wonderful quotes, illustrations and photographs that will inspire and challenge. Even though it was written in 1910, it's still applicable to what's happening today in America and around the world. You can read the archived book online here. There's also an incredible documentary out now called Playground that discusses this problem, focusing on how many young American girls wind up in prostitution. There are so many great organizations out there helping put an end to this tragedy. I hope you'll check out some of the websites and the book to learn more about the problem and how to be part of the solution!

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