By Aaron Gaglia (@GagliaAC)
On January 9th, Family Research Council held an event entitled Human Trafficking: Modern Slavery in order to educate the public about sex trafficking in the U.S. This event featured two speakers with a Q & A afterwards. The Honorable Linda Smith, founder and President of Shared Hope International and Mark Blackwell, founder and President of Justice Ministries were the two speakers.
Smith served as a Republican member of congress from Washington (1995-1999) and is a major leader in the fight to end human trafficking. She has authored works on sex trafficking including Renting Lacy and co-authored The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. The Shared Hope founder has spoken out about this issue in various forums including Congress hearings.
Mark Blackwell is from Charlotte, North Carolina and started Justice Ministries, a non-profit that helps victims of sex trafficking in the Carolinas. He became aware of the issue in 2010 from an International Justice Mission presentation at the Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
In her speech, Linda Smith started by noting how her human rights activism started with pro-life activism and now has transitioned to sex trafficking activism. She called trafficking the “selling of the innocence of children.” She then went on to identify the buyer: “The other shocking thing I found was it really is a product for ordinary American men.” This aberrant behavior is increasingly becoming more and more mainstream. “This has become a normalization as a result of expanded prostitution fueled by expanded pornography that has gotten younger and younger,” Smith explained.
She then described the work that Shared Hope does. They send operatives undercover in order to figure out what sex trafficking looks like. One major injustice they discovered was that the buyers were not going to jail but the victims were– they were being charged as prostitutes.
After further describing their work, she told the story of two girls in which she exposed some of the tactics of sex traffickers such as an older man posing as the girl’s boyfriend and blackmail.
The average buyer of sex with a child is less likely to be a wealthy jetsetter and more likely to be your next door neighbor. Smith emphasized this point saying: “And ordinary men that we’re arresting across the United States and starting to prosecute are people that you are sitting beside in your churches, in your businesses, and on the metro. It is a 95% wonderful man and a 5% who has gone and started down this path and is driving this market.”
Next, Mark Blackwell chronicled his path to learning about the sex trafficking and starting Justice Ministries, in which shared some startling statistics. There are approximately 1,000,000 victims of domestic minor sex trafficking in the U.S. Half of these are under 18. Astoundingly, there are only 600 dedicated bed spaces for the rehabilitation of victims of human trafficking and only 2,000 total that could function as bed spaces for victims in the U.S. The average age when a girl enters slavery is 12-14 years old and there is only a 2% chance of a U.S. trafficking victim being rescued.
Blackwell called on the church to take action as he was very clear about the centrality of Jesus Christ in this work. He said, “Jesus is the author of abolition and if he is not included in this fight there is no hope.”
Overall, the event was very somber yet filled with hope. Though this evil is becoming increasingly mainstream, there is hope to fight it. Abolitionists such as Mark Blackwell and Linda Smith are working hard to fight this undeniable injustice and there are more and more people that are speaking out against and working to end this injustice.
Throughout the whole event, one thing particularly stood out to me—this evil is being fueled by the increasing normalization of aberrant sexuality in both the secular world and the church. As the church we need to stand up for Biblical sexuality and against pornography and prostitution. We need to foster a church where Biblical sexuality is upheld not only in word but also in deed and spread that light to our dark world.
Do you think our sexually promiscuous culture is fueling the demand for sex trafficking? Share your thoughts below.
See below for two previous IRD blog posts on human trafficking by Mikhail Bell: