NASHVILLE – News outlets across the nation reported the rescue of more than 100 teenage victims of sex trafficking. From a statement from Ronald Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, NBC reported that the sting resulted in the arrest of 159 “pimps” from San Francisco to Miami; the youngest victim was 13 years old. For many, this may be the first news of such atrocities occurring in these United States, the land of the free.
Sex trafficking is not only happening, the numbers are staggering. The FBI estimates that nearly 293,000 American youths currently are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Victims are often young, from broken families or orphans. They are taken and sold for forced sex or prostitution. Most are girls, but boys are exploited as well.
Sex trafficking is a global issue. The FBI reports that it is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. Money and lust motivate men and women to abuse and exploit children in ways unimaginable, so much so that I have resisted linking to the plethora of graphic and disturbing images and articles describing the torture these children endure day in and day out. I’ve seen only a small portion of what this might look like.
As a young and naïve college student I had no idea what I was about to stumble upon during my visit to Amsterdam. I knew that marijuana was legal and that I might encounter it (oddly, I never did). But I did find myself in the middle of the Red Light District. The images I saw have haunted me since that trip. Women posing in windows for anyone to gawk at as voyeurs walked by. It is legal. It is blatant. And I now know it was a small taste of the devastating sex industry. What I saw was tame compared to the many reports of secret housing holding women hostage to be raped repeatedly.
As we learn about these tragedies the question that haunts us is, what can be done? How can the church help? The Psalmist wrote, “For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight,” (Psalm 72:12-14).
Because of its criminal nature we are slightly limited in what we can do; but limitations aren’t impossibilities. And we know nothing is impossible for God. Here are three ways you might get involved.
The poor, needy, oppressed and orphan are special to the Lord. We can bow before God and ask Him to rescue “the needy when he calls.”
- Pray for government officials to continue to crack down on these crimes and for the criminals to be found.
- Pray for families to be healed and children to be protected before a sex-trafficking criminal can reach them.
- Pray for the salvation of all those involved, that the gospel would penetrate hearts and break the sinful bondage that entangles them and pour out forgiveness and grace.
- Pray for healing for the girls and boys who have been rescued, that they would be able to return to society and live healthy, normal, productive lives.
This is not an exhaustive list, the prayer needs are many.
2. Be informed.
You can’t share what you don’t know. This article is only an introduction. Various organizations have produced information to keep you informed and some are developing tools to help you remain active.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board shares Christ and serves those in spiritual and physical need through avenues such as OneLife’s One Woman and One Brothel projects.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s website has an entire page devoted to resources on human trafficking.
Other organizations, such as International Justice Mission, Salvation Army, Sower of Seeds, Project Red Light Rescue and Nefarious Documentary, provide numerous resources to help you get started.
3. Spread the word.
Because of the horrific nature of sex trafficking, many of us do not want to face the truth that this could happen right under our noses. One way to assist is to inform your churches and neighbors. Many articles are graphic in nature and therefore require discernment regarding which to share. There is, however, information available.
Through prayer, sharing and education we can be active citizens in helping the fight against sex trafficking. We won’t be able to solve the problem in one day, one year, or even five; but by the grace of God we can be the feet of Jesus to a world that is dying and for these young girls and boys who are enslaved in the most inhumane way.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trillia Newbell writes for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Learn more about how you can become involved in fighting sex trafficking at erlc.com/humantrafficking.)