Human Trafficking. It is one of the most horrific things that a person can think of. It makes your stomach sick and there is a real piece of you that wishes you could pretend it does not exist, but the problem is that it does exist and no amount of wishing or pretending it is not real will make it go away as we have all seen over the past several weeks.
Last week on Instagram I shared the first time I came into contact with human trafficking and it had a face for me. For those who have not seen that post, seven years ago I was on a missions trip to the Philippines and this little girl crawled into my lap and fell asleep in my arms as I was holding her. As she was sleeping, I was told her story which broke my heart and made me wish with everything inside of me that I could hold her safely in my arms forever. Her mom was a victim of human trafficking, a prostitute, and her father was her mom’s pimp. At six years old, this sweet little girl was the oldest of five children and without intervention would be expected to join her mom in a few years, if she wasn’t already being abused. After that night, human trafficking had a face for me. I had heard about it before and even done some research, but that was not enough anymore. I had to do something.
Because of that encounter all those years ago, I have gathered some resources over the past seven years on ways to actively be involved in fighting human trafficking as well as excellent ways to educate yourself. Because the thing is, human trafficking is not just a problem overseas, it is a huge industry inside the United States too, and the chances that you have seen a victim and just didn’t know it are scarily high. These resources will help you know what signs to look for and what are the action steps to take when you think you may have witnessed an act of human trafficking. One of the most important things to remember is if you think someone might be a victim, don’t hesitate to get help. You don’t have to be 100% positive, let the experts come and get involved, it is better to be safe than sorry, your action might be what saves a child’s life. (Everything is linked in the all caps headers at the beginning of each section.)
This website is hands down my number one place to go for beginners. Kimberly was actively involved overseas for many years as a missionary in the red light districts and is now actively involved in the abolishionist movement here in the U.S. On her website you will find resources for raising awareness, current statistics, the right questions to ask if you think you have seen a potential victim, and so much more! She also has authored several books series to help raise awareness that can also be used to open up conversations with teens as well as young children in age appropriate ways. I will actually discuss them next.
This series of books by Kimberly Rae are actually written for teenagers and young adults, but honestly should be ready by adults too. They follow a young woman as she learns about human trafficking while on a missions trip to India. They are an excellent resource to begin opening up conversations with your teenage children or to use a book club with your friends as you learn about the horrors of human trafficking together.
This series is also by Kimberly Rae and approaches human trafficking from a more local view point. I have not read this series yet, but plan on reading it immediately. This would be another excellent resource for opening up conversations with teenagers and young adults about the dangers of human trafficking.
I warned you guys that I get a lot of resources from Kimberly Rae! This book is a collection of stories about women who have been rescued from Human Trafficking and the various ministries behind their rescues. It is a wonderful resource to know not only what to look for but also helpful ministries that are on the front lines fighting this evil. Also, it is so inspiring and hopeful to hear of success stories!
Okay, this one is for all of my parents of young children. The thought that human trafficking is something we need to be talking with our young children about is awful, but sadly a reality. Rather than trying to describe it, here is the description from the author: “When I first had kids, if someone told me I should talk with my children at an early age about good touch/bad touch, and rules about what to do if an adult crossed the boundaries into inappropriate behavior, I’d have probably shrunk away and thought that was over-the-top paranoid. Besides, how would I bring up the topic without telling them way more than they needed to hear? Now that I know that 90% of childhood sexual abuse cases occur with someone the child already knows, I don’t assume that strangers are the only danger to my children, and if I keep them from suspicious people, they will be safe. Predators are good at getting adults and children to trust them, and they often target places where they gain access to lots of kids in authority-based environments (such as churches, summer camps, schools, etc.). I write and train on human trafficking and over the years my research has brought me to what I believe is one of the most important and most overlooked aspects of trafficking – childhood sexual abuse. There is a huge, huge overlap between victims of childhood abuse and victims of childhood and adult exploitation. We might be able to shield the children we love from being targeted on the internet or in the mall, but the fact that child abuse frequently happens by someone the child knows (and often someone the entire family trusts) is terrifying. Because of this, kids need to be taught when behavior crosses from appropriate and loving to inappropriate and abusive. However, like me, many adults are wary of broaching the topic, unsure of how to present helpful information without over-educating or scaring children. Others just don’t know what to say. I partly created this resource for myself. I have two children and would much rather talk comfortably over a coloring page than sit them down at the table and have a training session that will make us all nervous. I wanted something conservative parents would feel comfortable sharing with their children. I wanted something I could offer parents, teachers or advocates that would help victims talk about it and overcome, taking away vulnerability to further exploitation in the future. I can’t express how much I want childhood sexual abuse to stop. How important it is that children are empowered to know that when something is wrong, they have options and what those options are. To understand that sexual abuse is a crime and should be treated as such. Right now statistics say 1 in every 4 women and 1 in every 6 men experienced some form of childhood sexual abuse. I meet them often when I speak. Many have still never told. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, through resources like I AM SAFE, we could change that statistic for the next generation?”
HUMAN TRAFFICKING HOTLINE
The human trafficking hotline for the United States is 1-888-373-7888. I personally keep it programmed in my phone at all times because when I need it I do not want to have to go hunting for it, and I have used it. Don’t be afraid to call, they will know what to do and it can save a child.
Because this blog post is already getting so long, I think I am going to stop here for today and leave this post as a more informative, educational post. Next week I will do a second post filled with organizations that are actively on the front lines rescuing girls and how you can be involved and support them. I want to end this post with the reminder that ultimately, the reason why we fight human trafficking is not just because it is abhorrent, but because as followers of Jesus, we believe that each person has infinite value and is made in the image of God. Jesus came to set the captives free, and as his followers, we cannot stand by and do nothing as children of God are still locked in chains. I know that this is a lot and can be overwhelming, but just choose one place to start and start researching. These are all wonderful places to begin, and then when I share ways to be involved next week it won’t seem as scary and overwhelming. As always, if you have any questions, please click the contact tab and send me an email!