Sex trafficking is a problem. And it's one we're all contributing to.
Last night on my way home from work I saw a woman climb into the cab of a semi truck. The truck was stopped at a stop light, it had its hazards on. The driver and the woman were different races and I couldn't tell how old she was. She looked young.
Maybe all of them look young to me. I don't know.
Anyway, long story short, I got the license plate and reported what I saw to the police. Due to the way events unfolded I saw the woman exit the truck (thank You Jesus that she did that!) and I asked her if she was OK. She said she was.
She seemed a little confused by the question, but that's another blog post.
So, I go home to my safe home, my loving husband, and my happy children. My wonderful sanctuary from the hurts and cares of the world. The place I have to clean and care for myself, store my things, and care for my family.
Something I really take for granted.
As I am sitting there I think, goodness, I need to do something. People need to know this is happening. They need to know about this victim and the glimpse I had into her story. Because surely if everyone knew they would do something about it.
That's actually how I got into the abortion issue to begin with, but that's also another blog post.
So I talked to my husband and he said he thought it would make sense to post it in a community group on Facebook. Then, people could keep an eye out. He seemed kind of hesitant but I just ignore that when I'm on a quest to save the world.
So I did. I posted a bit of the story, didn't share any identifying information, and asked people to keep their eyes open and call the police when they see something.
The responses shocked and saddened me. Responses like, "Someone needs to get a life, who cares?" "Lot lizard," "Victim? More like a prostitute," "Mind your own business," and "The oldest profession."
It took less than ten minutes for a dozen rude, uncaring, and nasty comments to gather. Then, I deleted it. I couldn't take it anymore. What got me wasn't her situation or even the fact that a truck driver was buying her services. It was the callousness, hardness, and nastiness of my neighors. My community. The same people that helped me find my kid's (and mine to be honest) scooters when they were stolen. The people that share "help wanted" ads to help others get needed jobs. The people that comment "praying" and "sending love" when someone has an accident.
Is it any wonder these women don't ask passersby for help?
I was shocked. Sure, I knew some people would be negative or ill informed. But, I naively thought that most people would "get it." That they would see that this woman is hurting and alone and needs our help.
I told my book club friends about it that evening and one of them wisely suggested that planning to tase the buyer and bring the victim home is probably not a long term plan.
Always sensible, that one.
So she challenged me to do what I can do. And this is what I can do. In fact, it's not just what I can do. It's what all of us can do.
First, we need to change our language. Stop using terms like "hooker," "prostitute," "john," "pimp," and especially, "lot lizard."
Sarah's soapbox moment: people aren't lizards. They're beautiful and wonderful and made in God's image. So just shut up. And if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all. "Lot lizard" isn't nice.
Instead of these nasty and dehumanizing terms use terms like, "trafficking victim" or "trafficking survivor." For the the other side use "trafficker" or "buyer."
Are all of these women wholly unwilling? No. In fact, it's incredibly complicated. It's a cycle that often (but not always) starts with abuse and neglect as a child. Sometimes it's girls from perfectly nice homes that are tricked into believing that an older boy or man loves them and wants to be with them forever. Once they get into "the life" it's hard and sometimes impossible to get out. Chains aren't always visible, and these women are trapped by circumstance, addiction, and powerful mental manipulation.
You know what really doesn't help? Calling them names. Just saying.
Second, because you can't have a first without a second, stop consuming these women.
What!?! Sarah! I wouldn't do that!
Stop watching porn. Stop reading erotica. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you aren't taking advantage of trafficked women by purchasing sexual services; but if you are, STOP. If you have a problem, get help. Harvest USA and Fight the New Drug offer help with sexual struggles.
This is a problem. Pornography isn't a victimless crime. Do you think those women want to do that? Maybe some, in the beginning. But the majority are unwilling and unhappy. Porn often (not always) starts with money and not too much discomfort and humiliation. That changes. It's a dark, angry, and violent industry that hurts the consumer and the consumed. If you're viewing porn or reading erotica, you're financing the industry. Stop it.
And don't tell me you're getting it free so it doesn't matter. You're not that dumb.
Third, do something. Pay attention to your surroundings. Take note of young women (and men) that seem alone or vulnerable. Watch for people climbing into vans or trucks when it doesn't seem quite right. Don't be stupid, call the police and call the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
If you can, and you're in a position where you can do so safely, help the victims. Hand out hygiene packs with information about local agencies. I am planning to make some and keep them in my car. Right now I am thinking I will stock them with:
2. Toothpaste & toothbrush
3. Personal care wipes
4. Pads and tampons
5. A Bible
7. Information on a local shelter, Alpha Omega Center, and the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888.
Edited: The Lighthouse For Life in South Carolina sent me a fantastic link to the freedom bags they put together for women who may be victims of sex trafficking. I will be using their list to make a few bags to keep in my car. Check out their webpage for more information! Please note that Alpha Omega Center is NOT collecting bags or items to hand out at this time. This blog post is my personal recommendation that you have one on hand to give out if the opportunity arises. Remember to stay safe!
Any other thoughts on other items that should be in there? Let me know in the comments!
The final thing you can do is educate yourself. There are many resources out there. Get to know them and learn about the problem of human trafficking - foreign and domestic. Then, get involved by making a donation. I included some links at the end.
Finally, pray. Pray for the victims and the abusers. Pray for the community. Pray for change.
We are called to be the difference. Let's get busy.
Changing Lives Together,
Sarah M. Bowen