“I wasn’t looking for a prince charming. I was looking for a parent to protect me,” (*Amy, human trafficking survivor).
I heard Amy speak at a conference last October. Like most, she was lured in by a boyfriend and before she knew it, she found herself a victim of human trafficking at a young age.
Often, I’m asked when it comes to dealing with human trafficking, “Why don’t they just leave? Why don’t their parents come to get them?” Before I can answer, some respond to their question, “I guess that they just like that lifestyle – it’s probably consensual.”
Nothing upsets me more.
What most don’t realize is this lifestyle can’t be switched off with a wave of a magic wand. To a human trafficking victim, the word “consensual” is something they can’t even process from the weight of all of the narcotics, alcohol, and manipulation forced upon them.
But so many people don’t look at these factors. Instead, they skip caring for the victim and plunge into judgment and condemnation.
Leaving the life of trafficking is bold. Many victims began as innocent girls and leave facing drug addiction, sexually transmitted diseases, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When making such a drastic change, many have needs that people aren’t able to comprehend, let alone facilitate!
Today, there are only 600 beds in the United States for victims of trafficking. That’s 600 beds to help 25 million victims trapped in this life. To put that in perspective, there are 13,500 animal shelters in the U.S to 6 million pets that enter the shelters yearly.
The U.S. Department of State lists the United States as one of the top nations for trafficking worldwide. This isn’t something happening just in India or Mexico; this is something happening in our backyard. Yet it seems that caring for the needs of animals is more of a priority in the U.S.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that caring for unwanted or abused animals is unimportant or trivial. But how can we as believers, sisters, and mothers overlook the tremendous suffering of those who have been trafficked?
When looking at victims, it’s easy to care about them from a distance. We know it’s a crime. We know what is happening to these girls is horrendous. But they aren’t our children, our sisters, our friends, or our significant others.
We are missing a major component as we look into the issue. We forget to take off of our rose-colored glasses and love the hurting.
I heard the story of a pastor.
He was driving down the road in a big city. As he passed a street corner, he saw a pimp and two girls on the side of the road. As he passed, he heard the Lord say, “Go witness to them.”
He obeyed, and the three of them accepted Christ as their savior.
But then he did something even more absurd. He invited them to church, and they came! Being new believers and new to church meant that they were unaware of what was expected of them concerning what to wear to church. So, naturally, they came into the church with the only clothes they had – their “work” attire.
The congregation was appalled, gave them terrible looks, and covered their eyes.
But the preacher invited them to the first pew and preached like he would any other Sunday.
This story is powerful. Because too often, we only see the outside of this issue and it seems far from reach. We see the girl infected, bruised, and beaten, but in the midst, we overlook her. Her cries, her needs, the worth she has in Christ – those aren’t seen.
Now look at your daughter; it could be her. If it was, you do anything in your power to protect her. You would get her the help she deserves. You would also want your neighbors and church family to welcome her.
Those who have been trafficked are someone’s daughters and they are trapped. Who’s going to fight for them?
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed, Psalms 82:3.
*Last name withheld for privacy and protection