Continuing my reflections on our conference last week…
On Friday, Bethany Hoang of IJM and Diane Langberg of her own practice gave their 2nd plenary talks. Bethany explored some of IJM’s work in Cambodia and how a particular town/village (Svay Pak) has been transformed by the work of rescuing girls and shutting down brothels. One particular brothel was purchased by a church in the US and turned into a center for healing.
Diane explored the problem of domestic trafficking. We’d like to believe that most prostitutes get into the business on their own accord. But, Diane told us that 90% of prostitutes got their start as minors and with the “encouragement” of an adult. In other words, they were pimped…trafficked. She described the usual way this happens with vulnerable adolescent girls. The pimp starts off offering all sorts of gifts and love. These girls often come from homes with domestic violence, addiction, and abandonment. The “love” of the pimp is attractive. Later he manipulates her into prostitution after he has emotional control. We often think of this as a problem with internationals being trafficked into the country but all too often these girls are US citizens.
Diane left us with this quote which convicted us of turning a blind eye. In telling us that the only way we could not see the problem is to not look,
Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees another in need and closes his/her heart against them, how does the love of God abide in him?
In the afternoon, two other individuals gave presentations. Robert Morrison, founder of FREE (www.FREEtheenslaved.net), a grassroots group in Reading working to eliminate trafficking told listeners how they could be effective even without money, time, or experience. His presentation gave the following facts
- While awareness of trafficking is increasing, prosecutions have not risen. Only 1% of trafficking cases are solved.
- Trafficking is the fasting growing criminal activity in the world because, unlike guns and drugs, human victims are reusable
- 4 forces fuel trafficking: huge profits with little fear of being caught (32B annual profits), an abundance of vulnerable people (1/3 of runaways are contacted by traffickers), a growing demand (porn and on-line ads), and a disconnected society (sees porn as “free speech” and resignation to the problem).
- Average citizens can do something about 2 forces: speak up about demand and make a connection between porn and trafficking
- Best practices in fighting this is building awareness, finding “networkers” and others who who people, find “trainers” who can educate on the problem. There are lots of resources out there to train law enforcement and others to understand the true problem
- Also, start with direct influence. Ask stores that carry papers/mags that advertise sensual massages to stop their practice. In the Reading area, they were able to shut down 10 of these parlors which often have trafficked women in them
Bob handed out a free activism kit. Included was a DVD and brochures. The DVD is 12 minutes long and educates audiences to the key facts re: trafficking. These materials are produced by the US government and are free. You can get your own at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking/campaign_kits/index.html. Bob reminded us that 1/3 of victims are rescued by someone who was suspicious and took action to get help.
In my next post I’ll comment on Assistant DA Pearl Kim’s presentation. She provided us an intimate look into the world of trafficking and abuse from a prosecution perspective.