And Here's Why
As I write this, nearly 300 children are on our church campus, playing games, climbing rock walls and learning that God loves them. It's what any child should be doing this summer. But it's not the reality for too many children - in our world, and right here at home.
I'm talking about human trafficking.
In the state of Indiana (my home state) last year the youngest reported victim of human sex trafficking was 7 years old. 7 years old. My eyes involuntarily close when I type that. My heart breaks. I want to turn away from my own writing like I've done too many times when the image of a starving child appears on my TV screen. But I can't look away.
27 million people are estimated to be trafficked worldwide, producing $150 billion (U.S. Department of State). And it turns out the Midwest - the Crossroads of America - is a hotbed for this ghastly crime and victimization. I can't look away.
Last week I attended a community information meeting presented by Jeremy Greenlee, who serves with the Indiana Trafficking Victims Assistance Program through the Indiana Youth Services Association. My heart ached throughout the presentation where I learned...
- 36% of victims are trafficked by their immediate family members. Dad, step-dad, mom, brother, sister. 36%
- 27% of victims are trafficked by an intimate partner.
- If you're doing the math, that's 63% of these boys and girls, young men and women are betrayed and victimized by someone extremely close to them. People whose love was supposed to protect, not exploit them.
- Another 14% are forced into the unspeakable by a friend of their family.
I can't look away.
By the way, human trafficking is defined this way:
- Sex Trafficking: when a person used in commercial sex is under the age of 18; or, a person is used in commercial sex through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.
- Labor Trafficking: when a person is recruited to work or provide services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.
And it's happening. Here.
Traffickers (pimps) and abusers (john) are likely "normal" people. Here.
The victims. Here.
I can't look away.
Posting a brief article on my blog seems too little, but it's a starting point. And I must start somewhere. Here's a second step: being intentionally aware as I'm living in my own community. Here's some help from the Indianapolis Protection of Abused and Trafficked Humans:
If you come in contact with anyone exhibiting one or more of the following indicators, they may be a victim of human trafficking.
A potential victim typically has someone with them at all times. This person seems very controlling and tries to speak for the victim.
Victims may exhibit signs of physical abuse such as: bruises, broken bones, cuts, burns, scars and/or malnourishment.
Victims may have signs of psychological trauma such as: severe anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, Stockholm’s Syndrome, panic attacks, submissiveness, and/or no emotion at all (flat affect).
Victims may work and live in the same location.
Victims may believe that they must work for their employer because of a debt they owe.
Victims typically do not have control over personal identification documents. These documents may be in the control of the trafficker.
Victims may appear afraid/nervous and may not make eye contact.
Conversations with victims may seem very scripted, inconsistent, or vague.
Victims have signs of “branding” by their traffickers such as: tattoos of the trafficker’s name and/or jewelry.
Victims may have a lack of knowledge about where they are or why.
Victims may not admit that they are victims and may not ask for help.
Here are a few links to help you learn more.
But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Luke 18:16
Will you join me in praying for the victims of human trafficking - both here and around the world? Will you raise your awareness - and not look away? Will you encourage others to educate themselves?
Maybe you're already involved. Leave a comment to help the rest of us understand steps we can take and sources for educating ourselves.
We can't look away.
Note: Human trafficking situations are often very dangerous and unpredictable. If you suspect human trafficking in your community, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-3737-888, or call 911.