Saturday, July 21, 2007

40 Day Fast: Day 30--A Voice for the Voiceless

I will never forget the first time I heard about child prostitution. I was attending a missions conference, and a girl who had been to Sri Lanka stood in front of us tearfully, talking about some of the child prostitutes she had seen. "They'd been so brutalized, they couldn't even sit down," she said.

That so pierced me, that the memory of the horror I felt is with me to this day.

I have learned more about those who are forced into the sex slave trade over the years. Not because I enjoy it. Not because I think it's a particularly cheery subject, but rather because I feel compelled to. I must know. I am a woman. I am a woman living in a society that objectifies women. Though the sexual misconduct towards myself has been minimal (and at times from surprising sources), it has been enough for me to know a tiny hint of the shame, the embarrassment, and the loss of power and dignity one feels when choice is stripped away from them. Each incident has been burned into my memory. I cannot begin to fathom what it would be like to be raped up to 15 times a day, day after day with absolutely no hope of end in sight. I cannot imagine.

But it is reality for women and children (both boys and girls) all over the world. Yes ALL OVER THE WORLD. It is estimated that up to 14,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year. 1200 into Canada. These are supposed to be the promised lands of our times.

I have chosen to fast today to bring attention and be a voice for the millions of victims of the sex slave trade.

The problem is growing. Following drug dealing, "trafficking of humans as the second largest criminal industry in the world, and is the fastest growing." (US Dept of State) It is estimated that in 2005 alone, 1.2 million children were transported for the purpose of exploitation. Most often, these children are used for prostitution, sex tourism, and pornography. They are as young as the age of five. They are exposed to disease, abuse, pregnancy, AIDS, and forced drug addiction. They have barely begun life, before it is stripped from them. At times, they are forced to service up to 30 customers a day.

For the criminals behind human trafficking, the reasons are simple. A human can be sold multiple times, bringing in more money unlike drugs or arms which can be sold once. And demand is growing.

Recruitment of victims takes place in many different ways. Often, women and young girls (primarily in Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa) are promised a good job and the chance at a better life. When they reach their destination, they discover it's a brothel and they are now in more debt than they will ever be able to pay off. For example, if they earn ten dollars a day, they must pay 9 to their captors for room and board, make-up, etc. With interest, the debt increases with no chance of ever being paid off. In the meantime, they are raped multiple times in a day. They are conditioned to behave. Their families are threatened if they leave or escape. They are starved. They are gang raped. They are confined and they are beaten.

Other children are sold into slavery by their parents, and women by their husbands. Their parents may have too many children or no work and the extra money will help them get by. Those who should be protecting them are instead signing their death warrants.

Some children are lured away from their homes or kidnapped.

Those with money are willing to pay to travel to other countries solely to have sex with these children. It's not just pedophiles, either. Many believe that sex with younger girls will decrease their chances of getting HIV/AIDS.

This is the form modern slavery takes. Torture. Abuse. The breaking of a human life. The shattering of a spirit.

The US Department of State is fighting human trafficking. But it's going to take much more than that. It's going to take each of us working together to rescue and restore the victims. It's going to take each of us working together to prevent more women and children from being harmed in this way. The governments of this world can make the laws, but we must be the ones to live with compassion and integrity and bring healing.

What You Can Do:

Get Informed: This post is only a small step to being informed of the issue of human trafficking. Please consider reading the US Department of State Trafficking in Persons report. Read the blog at Captive Daughters. Visit Human Trafficking

Inform Others: Lack of information and an unwillingness to speak about this issue are among the biggest problems these victimized children face. Tell others. Consider hosting an informational night. There are a few movies or documentaries you could show, I personally recommend the Emmy nominated Human Trafficking. It's a drama that shows many of the different ways women and children find themselves enslaved. Because it's a story, it may be more engaging for people. Write to your legislators.

Pray for the victims of the sex slave trade and those who are working to free and restore them.

Have sexual integrity: I am completely serious about this issue. Don't even open the door to sexual sin through pornography in your life. Slam it shut if it comes knocking. Demand for pornography fuels the exploitation of women and children. One out of five pornographic images on the web are of a child. Men can visit Defenders to take a stand against the commerical child sex industry.

Guard Your Children from Child Predators: 100,000 children a year in the US are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Visit Missingkids.org to find out how to talk to your kids about this issue.

Recognize the signs: If you suspect trafficking here in the US, call the US Department of Justice. If you suspect it while traveling abroad, exercise extreme caution in contacting the authorities there. Many of them enable trafficking to continue. It is best to contact a non-governmental agency familiar with trafficking in the country.

Sponsor a Child: Poverty is a driving force for human trafficking and a major contributing factor in the sale of children. Give the family a monetary gift. Provide for their needs in a way that builds up their child, rather than destroying them.

Choosing which organization to highlight was a more difficult task, but I have chosen Shared Hope International, because they focus on those trafficked as sex slaves and use a long term, holistic approach to the restoration of the women and children they rescue. They are committed to each who come into their care and provide healing and hope for the future. Please visit their website for more information on how you can be involved financially in bringing hope to those who have been victimized.

As I researched for this post and for this day, I at times found myself filled with rage. (an emotion I rarely feel) I couldn't even do anything, such was my anger that there are precious children who are forced to live this way. It is a very small thing I can do today. But I am doing my best to give a voice to those who have been silenced and enslaved. Please join me in this effort.

(much of my data comes from the book Unspeakable by Raymond Bechard)

15 comments:

euphrony said...

Sobering. Horrifying. This is a topic so shameful and terrible that we often do not wish to face it. Thank you, Amy, for being so up front in presenting this. I'll be praying for you today, and for the voiceless.

Kat said...

Honestly, it's almost unfathomable to me that this really happens. That innocent children could be so mistreated and deceived.

Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough and honest post.

I am praying for you today.

Shaun Groves said...

Thank you for this.

Since you've researched this topic so well I'm wondering what you think of IJM's efforts to free slaves (International Justice Mission).

kddub said...

This is so sickening and sad. It's mind blowing, the numbers that are involved in this.

Good post, I'm glad you brought up this topic.

kat's mom said...

Thank you for your post today - it is an outrage that people would treat children like this. I am praying for you and the children of this travesty.

Thomas said...

Thank you, Amy, for sharing this with us. I just can not understand how society can let this happen. I guess that it is easier to turn a blind eye towards this horrific activity then to address this problem.

Praying for you today, Amy.

Thomas

euphrony said...

Actually, I'm like Shaun and was wondring what you think of IJM. I had thought about focusing on them for my fast, but decided there were other issues more passionate to me (and thus more appropriate).

Amy said...

Thanks for the prayers and the response everyone.

I think IJM is a great organization. The reasons I did not choose them are:

I was focusing exclusively on sex slaves and wanted an organization that did the same. I hope that doesn't come across the wrong way. IJM works to end all forms of slavery and that is very needed and they do great work. I like their four fold purpose a lot.

Jeanine had already brought attention to them on her day, so I thought I would choose another.

Nancy Tyler said...

I'm praying, Amy. And I'm so grateful for the years that I've been learning from you on the different message boards we've hung out on together. God built you for the kind of ministry that others can't or won't do. You're one amazing gift to the world.

Chaotic Hammer said...

This is a difficult one, Amy. Truly heartwrenching. Great job, and thanks for doing it.

Praying with you and for you today.

nancy said...

It makes me want to take a baseball bat to the abusers and pimps. Thank you for speaking out for the voiceless. May everyone act on what they now know. (But in a way more useful than a baseball bat.)

Tressa said...

I think I dont know what to say. Theres not much to say...I'm heartbroken.
I am so saddened that something so wonderful, a God given thing-sex has become so twisted.
You say its very small thing, but I think its HUGE what you wrote today. Thank you for using your voice for this mission.

erin said...

Amy, I read your post yesterday but neglected to leave a comment. I came back today to read it again because part of me just can't believe this happens, and the other part of me knows that it does and that there needs to be a greater awareness. Thanks for posting on such an important issue, and for doing it on the day of the Harry Potter release! :) (I finished the new book yesterday so I could focus on my fast today, so I'm sure it was hard for you.)

Susanne said...

I'm praying for these children. What a horrifying thing to think about, but it really happens every day. Thanks for bringing it into the light.

nancy said...

it has been a while since you posted this, but one of my former students read it yesterday because i had linked to it. he let me know that it had left him sick to his stomach, so i suggested he do something about it by himself, or with his church or school. then, i remembered he is class president...so i reminded him that he had some pull. he wants his class to help tackle this problem. i am so excited!

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