Unlike the typical case of individuals learning about an issue through academia, books, and/or the media, I had the privilege of learning about the issue of prostitution and trafficking from the source. Having no previous understanding of the issue, I spent day after day and night after night doing life with amazing individuals who were at various levels of transitioning out of the sex industry.
Through those relationships, I’ve learned a few things:
1. Prevention begins in the home.
In the United States, the average age of entry into prostitution is between 11 and 14 years old. There is a growing epidemic of absent fathers, leaving children unprovided for, unprotected, and without leadership. When the father is not in the home to provide for his children, often, the mother must work long hours to provide for the family while the children are left with little, if any, supervision. Left unprotected, a child is at great risk of being sexually abused by babysitters, neighbors, and family members. In fact, the leading risk factor for entry into the sex industry is a history of childhood sexual abuse. Children deeply desire stable families and pimps (AKA traffickers) know this. Often, they’ll force children to call them “daddy” and threaten to kick them out of the “family” if they don’t follow the rules. When we deal with the deep wounds of individuals who are transitioning out of the sex industry, we spend little, if any, time focusing on the abuse of pimps, buyers (of sex), or boyfriends. Rather, it always goes back to two things: mom and dad. Our children need parents who are committed to one another and to their children.
2. Rescue is the easy part. Restoration is the hard part.
Although the media would have you believe otherwise, rescue is relatively easy. Most people in the sex industry will admit that they never intended to work in a strip club, brothel, or pornographic film and, if offered a reasonable alternative, they would take it. However, we desire holistic transformation and that goes far beyond getting a person off of the streets. Issues of abuse, trauma, and mental health have shaped the individual’s identity and style of relating. Past judgements must be addressed through forgiveness and repentance and this can be an agonizing and scary process. I call it, “Changing Their Normal.” It is so scary, in fact, that many choose to go back to the streets—the life with which they are so familiar—over following through toward the unknown. For a caregiver, this process can be almost as excruciating. We must remain so aware of our own struggles and the grace and mercy that we’ve received over and over again so that we will not grow weary in extending grace and mercy to others over and over again.
3. Addressing demand is key.
It all boils down to money. Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world and ranks second only to drugs as the most lucrative illegal money-making venture in the world because there is such a high demand for commercial sex and a person can be sold time after time. Until we decrease demand, more and more victims will continue to be exploited. We tend to think that issues as profound as this are a world away and that only a select few can have any impact on it. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. When we purchase pornography, lap dances, sensual massages, or intercourse, we are feeding an industry that will continue to exploit more individuals. We cannot allow ourselves to remain ignorant. People like to say that men are the problem. But, men are not the problem; men are the solution. The world needs men who are leaders—who provide for, protect, and guide others. The world needs these men to influence those around them, rather than men who misuse others to gratify their every impulse.
Rescue is the easy part. Restoration is the hard part of sex trafficking.
I refuse to allow people to look back on our generation and ask, “Why didn’t anyone do anything about slavery?” This is our chance to leave our mark on history. How will you respond?
Learn more about this problem and the solution by watching Courtney’s TedX talk here.
To read about how one woman is fighting slavery (and how you can, too) read How I First Learned of the Sex Trafficking Epidemic.
You may also like 4 Ways You Can Join A21 in the War on Human Trafficking, Advice on Technology Safety for Kids From a Licensed Psychologist, Why I Won’t Be Posting #metoo, and Why You Need to Talk to Your Teen Girl About Sex and How to Do It
About our guest writer: Courtney Dow
Courtney Dow, MEd, CRC, is the Director of Out of Darkness—a non-profit organization of the Atlanta Dream Center. She’s a native of Atlanta, GA and a graduate of Auburn University with a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling. Dow previously worked at the International Labour Organization, a department of the United Nations, before joining the NightLight International team in 2005, where she worked until November of 2016. Courtney has assisted victims of sex trafficking from the United States, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, India, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Turkey, and Uganda. In 2012, she received Auburn University’s Young Alumni of the Year Award and was featured in the “Young Influencers List: Fifty change makers on the rise” in The Catalyst Leader: 8 essentials for becoming a change maker by Brad Lomenick. Courtney desires to see people who are in bondage to the abuse of their past set free.