Human Trafficking 3

Sex Trafficking

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Human Trafficking: The Series

Statistics and Definitions
Labor Trafficking
Sex Trafficking
Selling Eve
Freedom for the Captives
The Church's Response
The Girls

Note: This series is on human trafficking, including sex trafficking. Terms are plain, although situations are not explicit. Still, reader discretion is advised.

This is the hardest part of this series, so I want you to stick with me. Hope is coming, but first we have to walk through the dark. Neither of us wants to go through this, but awareness is power.


A young Armenian woman meets a nice guy and gets engaged. He tells her they can go to Greece and work for his uncle for a few months to earn money for their new life. Delighted with this prospect, she lets him make all the travel plans. He takes her papers and passport and buys their tickets. When the plane lands, they're in Dubai. He tells her they have to make a quick stop for a couple of days, and takes them to a hotel. The next day, a man appears and explains the girl's fiancé has sold her. The man has her papers. She doesn't speak the language. The cops are bought off. And no one is going to rescue her.

iEmpathize, a ministry that makes videos for anti-trafficking organizations, went to Cambodia recently to meet an incredible man. After his niece was lost to trafficking, Yeng got on his moped and rode all over the countryside, explaining to the farmers that if people came offering jobs for their kids, they shouldn't take it. While iEmpathize was filming, a woman walked up with her daughter, offering her daughter to give the men oral sex for ten dollars. The child was six.

Two cousins are walking to a convenience store. A vehicle pulls over and a man and woman grab them. One girl escapes; the other, Shari, disappears. Several months later, a trucker is relaxing in his cab at a truck stop. A woman comes by with a girl, offering the girl's services. Something doesn't sit right with the driver. He calls the police. The man and woman had taken Shari and, after initiation, driven her around different truck stops, selling her to the truckers. This is the first trucker who has called them on it.

Initiation. This is the part that most makes me want to throw up. When traffickers pick up a girl who has some fight in her, she has to be broken. Often, she's shut in a room on a nasty mattress, her clothes are taken away, and a series of men — drunk, stoned, and otherwise — come in, one after the other, twenty-four hours a day for several days. She can't get out. She can't eat. She can't even sleep. One girl rescued from this situation had Chlamydia in her eyes.

Our instinct is to immediately start listing the reasons this couldn't happen to us or those we love. There must be some inherent issue with the victims that separates us.

Shari lives in Toledo.

And my former co-worker who took porn shots of his kids and sold them to his buddies was in Montana.


Sex trafficking is using force, coercion, or deception for the purpose of prostitution and/or other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. It is also using a minor for prostitution and/or commercial sexual exploitation whether force, coercion, or deception was used or not.

How are the trafficked persons trapped? Many different ways. It could be a relative who needs drug money. It could be a social outcast who is befriended by a seemingly caring adult. It could be a snatch-and-grab on the street. Many are promised legitimate jobs but, when they arrive, are told there is no work and they'll have to pay off expenses by working in a brothel.

Where they go varies. Some are used in pornography. Some are sold on internet listings. Many are carted around to different large-scale events like the Super Bowl or political conventions. Massage parlors, strip clubs, or the street — there's any number of ways to sell a person's body.

Part of the great and terrible lie that pulls men into indulging in pornography and other commercial sex acts is that this is a woman who wants it. This is a woman who wants them. Except for those with certain fantasies, this is one of the biggest draws and it's essential to the industry. Pouty, parted lips and bodies leaned forward and that "come-hither" stare are absolutely intentional tools. It's the woman who advertises on Craig's List, right? It's the woman who walks up to the car window in thigh-high boots and short skirts. They want it. Even if it's just for the money.

But it's a lie. The average age of a girl who is first trafficked is 12 to 14. That is not old enough to decide they want this for a lifestyle. Two-thirds of these girls had been sexually abused before they were trafficked. Psychologist Melissa Farley is quoted in a Times article as explaining 67% suffer from PTSD and 89% of all prostitutes want out. The average age of death for a prostitute is 34. And 89% of them want out.

This doesn't sound like a woman who "wants it."

So why doesn't she walk away?

Where would she go? Say it's an ideal world. Her trafficker doesn't know where her family lives. He hasn't threatened to steal a younger brother or sister or kill her parents. She's not handcuffed to the bed frame; she's not so weak she can't get up. Why can't she just walk away?

If she's a minor who can't go home due to an abusive family, and she's lucky, she'll be put into a foster care program that is not designed to help teenagers with PTSD. Just as likely, she'll go to juvie. But who would she talk to? She's been told that cops cannot be trusted, and she's seen that played out. The good ones will send her to jail for the night, take all her clothes as evidence, and release her to the streets in the morning with nothing but a prison uniform. Not because they're cruel, but because there are no other resources to help. The bad cops will threaten her with jail if she doesn't deliver. If she's no longer a minor, her options are even slimmer. She has no other marketable skills. She has no money, no place to live. What is she supposed to live on? She would go from a skanky apartment with food in the fridge and a life of abuse to the streets, where she'd still be vulnerable to abuse, but also to weather and starvation. And if her trafficker has carefully brought a drug addiction into the situation (because who would want this life without some kind of escape?) how would she get clean?

That is the bleak picture. Sex trafficking is not a victimless crime, and the victims need our help. Next up, a series on the way it's supposed to be. How did God design men and women to relate? How did God make Eve the pinnacle of His creation, and what has sin done to drag her down? Most of all, how does God want us to respond? After that, a series on what's being doing to fight human trafficking and how you can get involved. You can help. It isn't hopeless. It's hard and big and scary, but if it weren't we wouldn't need God.

Next: Eve fell…and then the world pushed her down farther.

Links to check out:
Polaris Project
Human Trafficking Task Force of Colorado

What to do if you suspect someone is being trafficked:

If the situation is urgent, call 911.
If there is no immediate threat, call the non-emergency number, often 311.
Call your local anti-human trafficking organization.
Call the national hotline—1-888-3737-888.
(Hotlines will not necessarily be able to provide emergency assistance, but they will track activity to better aid the FBI and other law enforcement in determining where and how to act.)

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Published 7-25-11