In a place that prides itself on freedom, and becomes outraged when those freedoms are compromised, there is a savage and rampantly growing form of slavery that is spreading across the United States like a disease. Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the US, and is the second most profitable illegal industry, only slightly behind the drug trade. It is the enslavement of individuals by use of coercion, force, or manipulation, forcing them into the commercial sex trade industry. There are more than 30 million slaves in the world, consisting of men, women and children.
I have so often thought about this as something tragic that happens millions of miles away in impoverished countries, and while it has been heart-breaking for me to think about, I am ashamed to say I didn’t think about it often. This year, I have noticed a new movement here in the US, and even in my home state of Arkansas, to bring attention to this dark, violent, and disturbing form of slavery in the 21st century. The Lord has brought these startling statistics to my attention repeatedly over the past few months, and I believe personal freedom is no more tangible than when speaking about this urgent issue. While many think, like I did, that human trafficking only happens in more under-developed countries, we are sadly very wrong. 40,000 to 50,000 people are trafficked in the United States each year. Over half of those trafficked are under the age of 18, with an estimated 100,000 children in the sex trade industry in the United States each year. As a matter of fact, Human Traffickers target twelve to seventeen year old children due to their decreased ability to get help and their increased “shelf-life.” 300,000 children in the United States are at risk, especially those in poverty stricken areas or in low income families. These children are often runaways, with a growing number those that simply vanish from their homes or neighborhoods. Women are also at high risk, often being manipulated or coerced using social media or financial debt to an individual preying on them for sexual slavery. Once enslaved, these women are raped, beaten, trapped, threatened, and drugged, and they often have no idea where or how to get to safety.
Under no circumstances should such a violent injustice occur in the United States or anywhere else in the world. We who know the Lord know there is a severe punishment for the individuals using these precious creations of God, whether it is selling their services or receiving them. Jesus says in Mark 9:42 “It will be terrible for people who cause even one of my little followers to sin. Those people would be better off thrown into the ocean with a heavy stone tied around their necks.” (CEV). In the end, God will be their redeemer, but in the meantime, these victims need rescue and restoration. There are many organizations around the US rising up in the fight against Human Trafficking. The Polaris Project has a 24 hour national human trafficking hotline available to victims and the community. It also offers social services to victims trying to escape the sex trade, and is pushing for legislation and policy change regarding Human Trafficking. Information on The Polaris Project can be found here, or at www.polarisproject.org. Not For Sale is a non-profit organization that uses businesses, government organizations, grassroots movements and technology to help marginalized and impoverished communities create jobs in order to reduce their risk of exploitation. They are working worldwide to reduce the occurrence of both work and sexual trade slaves. To find out more about Not for Sale you can click here, or go to www.notforsalecampaign.org. In Arkansas, the PATH Initiative was established in 2011 by a former human trafficking victim. The Partners Against Trafficking Humans initiative is working to provide a residential treatment facility for women and children seeking an escape from this brutal trade. Click here for more information on PATH or go to www.thepathinitiative.com.
As followers of Christ, we are to hate what he hates, and love others because He first loved us. These precious victims are valued by God, whether they know it yet or not. I urge each of us not to hide our eyes from this, but to reach out or pray earnestly for the safety of those who are enslaved. Weren’t we all once enslaved to some form of sin until Christ set us free? The word of God speaks to those who are physically and mentally broken by the violence of sexual slavery, “God has something stored up for you in heaven, where it will never decay or be ruined or disappear.” 1 Peter 1:4. I pray fervently for their rescue, redemption, and restoration. I pray for their freedom.