If you need help or if you suspect someone else, of any age or gender, is being trafficked, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline: 1-888-373-7888.
I’m asking you, today, to take action and change to world for someone.
What if someone sold your daughter? What if someone raped her and gave her to others for their pleasure as well? What if someone purposely addicted her to drugs or physically tortured her? In this beautiful modern day of civil rights and education and enlightenment thousands of people, primarily women and children, are being trafficked right here in the United States.
This is not a crime that only exists in “exotic” and far-away places. I live right down the street from Toledo, OH; a city consistently ranked among the top cities for youth sex-trafficking. By some estimates as many as 1,000 American-born children are forced into the sex trade in Ohio every year. The average age of these kids is 13.
This all seemed vague and outside of my world until I met “Amy.”
“Amy” was new in the area. She was a young mom with a daughter about the same age as ours and she was a beautiful woman, inside and out. She was one of the most charismatic people I’d ever met: able to make conversation with anyone. She was funny and charming and quick-witted. Her kind and generous heart was easy to see. All she wanted in the world was to have a good relationship with her daughter and she was working very hard to make up for some past mistakes.
But some mistakes are hard to outrun in the age of information and it wasn’t long before someone we knew pulled out a cell phone and said, “OMG! Look at these pictures of “Amy” I found on the internet!”
Once the word was out in our tiny town, where was there to run to next? She had been scraping along financially as a waitress but her employer fired her. He didn’t want the stigma of having “someone like that” attached to his business. Jobs aren’t so easy to come by here in rural America these days, especially when you have no real references.
Court fees for her ongoing custody issues and child support were starting to pile up.
“Amy” went back to the only life she’d ever known, from the time she was a child. She contacted some people she knew in the Toledo area and she sold them her body in order to pay the bills. Once she was in debt to them she was immediately back into the cycle she had tried so hard to get out of.
“Why should I be ashamed?” She asked. “Women have been doing what I do for thousands of years. I’m providing a service, just like any other. This is what I’m good at. I can’t make this kind of money doing anything else.” She said this with what were obviously tears of shame running down her cheeks.
For a while she tried to make arrangements one way or another for people to care for her daughter while she “went to work” in the evenings but, eventually she just gave up the battle to see her. “I don’t want this life for her,” she said.
She fell into a familiar pattern of heavy drinking and drug use.
The last time we saw her before she left our small town to “move closer to her work” she was painfully thin with deep purple circles under her eyes. She just looked so tired.
You see, human trafficking doesn’t necessarily refer to people being kidnapped from their yards, tied up and sold at slave auctions. There are many ways to “force” a person into submission. For many, they think it will be adventurous or fun or a way to earn quick money and they find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle. For “Amy” it was a matter of physical and emotional abuse that had started when she was a child in foster care nearly 20 years ago. People in authority over her had forced her into a life of sexual exploitation and she became so accustomed to it that she began to believe it was normal.
By the time she was old enough to possess the resources to run she didn’t know how or where to go. Her attempts to get out resulted in her being terribly isolated and in poverty. In desperation she would return to her “captors” again and again when the outside world had rejected her as a whore and an addict.
I can’t even type that without crying. It’s such an unspeakably horrible, ugly word yet it’s one that I heard her use to describe herself more than once. My heart breaks for her.
She was… she is… so much more than a whore and an addict. She is strong and funny and smart and kind and pretty and I pray that she can find her way to real, meaningful help.
Help does exist!
One organization that I recently became familiar with is, “The Daughter Project.” The Daughter Project is a non-profit organization based in northwest Ohio with a mission to build recovery homes – trafficking shelters for sex trafficking survivors. They provide a place of shelter and healing for girls ages 10-17 who have been victims of sex-trafficking.
My youngest daughter will be 10 in exactly one year. My precious older girl already falls in that range.
I can’t even bring myself to begin to imagine…
The founder of The Daughter Project has likened the experiences of the young women they shelter to those of prisoners of war. “They’d been prisoners in an apartment or a hotel or a house, and not just prisoners but then being physically and sexually abused on a daily basis by multiple people,” he says. “It’s just incredible to think that these girls even survived this for any length of time at all.”
What if someone had been there to help “Amy” when she was 10 years old? What if there had been a safe place to run where she could have received counseling and medical care and legal advice and education and seen what real love looks like?
You can help these girls!
First, you need to start talking about this! Become educated and share that knowledge far and wide.
Yes, it’s painful and ugly and difficult to stomach. That’s why people need to know that it is happening, right here in rural America and in EVERY single nation in the world.
Blog about it.
Share this post and every other you can find on this topic on your social media pages.
Bring it up at prayer meetings.
People can’t stop what they don’t know about!
Second, support the organizations that help the victims of these crimes.
The Daughter Project has an amazing “Adopt a Daughter” program where you, as an individual, or a group of people can make a pledge to provide financial assistance as well as prayer and encouragement over a 2 year period.
Yes… they are just children.
These precious creations of God need someone to stand in the gap and advocate for them! They don’t need your tears or your pity. They need you to take action, in whatever way you can, right now. Tomorrow is not soon enough!
Please prayerfully consider giving of your time, talents and resources to help protect these girls. Please help them to know that there is an alternative, there is a safe place to go, there are people that will help, without judgement and without expecting a single thing from them in return. Please give them the chance to grow up knowing they are so very very much more than a body to be sold!
Again, if you need help or if you suspect someone of any age or gender is being trafficked, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline: 1-888-373-7888.
Resources and Links:
The Catholic Chronicle – Aug. 2, 2013 – Christian Organization Offers Housing, Healing for Trafficking Victims
Children’s Lantern – statistics
Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking – education and resources to help end domestic and international human trafficking.
CBS News – Study: Ohio at Center of Child Sex Trade
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