Ministries Unite to Shatter the Travesty of Sex Trafficking

by | Jun 6, 2016 | Charisma Archive

She wasn’t kidnapped. She followed her heart.

Rebecca Bender was far from the average sex trafficking victim. She didn’t grow up in foster care and was never an at-risk youth. In fact, she was a varsity athlete and boasted honor roll achievements in high school.

Likewise, her boyfriend seemed like an American-pie sort of guy. Bender met Sam (not his real name) after she moved to Oregon with her baby and a few friends. He was 24; she was 18.

“He was just gregarious and the one who everyone wanted to be his friend,” Bender told Charisma. “All the girls wanted to be his, but he took an interest in me.”

This “gregarious” boyfriend packed up Bender and her daughter, and the three moved to Las Vegas in 2000. Soon, Sam coerced her into selling sexual favors for his personal profit. Her boyfriend became her sex trafficker.

In a six-year period, she endured forced prostitution, broken bones, emergency room trips, brandings and a near-death experience. Bender still remembers the night a client asked her to lay on a bed pretending to be unconscious while he serviced himself in the corner. The recount is horrifying yet common to sex trafficking victims.

“I was lying there with my eyes closed when all of a sudden, he was on top of me, strangling me and raping me,” Bender recalled as tears choked her voice. “I tried to fight him, but I couldn’t. I remember thinking, This is it, my baby’s not going to have a momma. My vision started to go blurry, and I felt an overwhelming shaky feeling. Suddenly, he leapt out, jumped off and ran out of the room.”

It wasn’t until 2007 when Bender’s pimp was arrested, and she found herself encountering God inside the walls of a Christian shelter. “His voice wasn’t audible but a piercing thought that radically shifted my paradigm,” she recalls. “I still remember verbatim: ‘That feeling is the feeling of life, not death. It was Me who released his hands from around your neck.'”

That was nearly a decade ago. Today, Bender is an ordained minister pursuing her master’s degree at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Married with four daughters, she’s sounding the alarm about sex trafficking and helping the FBI and Homeland Security recognize and rescue victims—and there are millions of them.

The Human Trafficking Epidemic

The U.S. State Department defines trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery. The federal agency reveals 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80 percent are female and half are children. Social activism site Do Something reports there are 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Richard Estes and Neil Weiner conducted a case study revealing the most common age of entry into prostitution for minors in the United States is 12-14 years old for girls and 11-13 years old for boys—and as many as 300,000 children annually are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2014 were likely sex trafficking victims.

While the statistics seem overwhelming, organizations like Exodus Cry actively seek to abolish the commercial sex industry in the United States and abroad. Exodus Cry also created the documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls to educate viewers about the evils of the commercial sex industry.

“The first thing that is important for people to realize is that the commercial sex industry is an institution of violence and exploitation,” says Exodus Cry Director Benjamin Nolot, who founded the organization in 2007 while on staff at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.

Exodus Cry works through social and legal reform—and plenty of prayer. The ministry also works to identify the cultural, spiritual and industrial roots necessary to abolish the commercial sex industry.

“We recognize there is a vast spectrum of circumstances and various routes that can lead to the destination of exploitation,” says Exodus Cry Director of Intervention Helen Taylor. “From the American teenage runaway who is picked up by a trafficker and ends up being sold for sex over the Internet, to the Cambodian village girl offered a job as a waitress, only to find the ‘restaurant’ is in fact a brothel and she has no means of escape.”

How Porn Feeds the Sex Slavery Beast

Today’s slave trade shares many parallels with the African slave trade in centuries past. But slavery didn’t disappear with the likes of William Wilberforce or American abolitionists. Rather, it morphed into a different beast.

Nolot quoted Victor Hugo, whom he decreed a prophet of our time: “We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women, and its name is prostitution.”

Since 2010, Exodus Cry’s intervention team has hit the streets and strip clubs with gift bags or roses and a message of love and hope. The ministry also hosts events like Banquets and Beauty Pamper days. In 2013, Exodus Cry pioneered an outreach model to reach girls sold for sex online on websites like

“The internet has swiftly become the world’s largest red-light district, and we knew that if the johns (prostitutes’ clients) could easily find women this way, so could we. In 2015, we began a Bible study program to sexually exploited girls in a local jail,” Taylor says. “Once off the streets and away from their pimps, drugs and the chaos of ‘the life,’ we’ve found jail to be an incredible ‘wilderness of encounter.’ A remarkable number of girls have met the Lord and been transformed.”

What many people don’t realize is pornography feeds the sex trafficking industry—and many Christians are feeding the slavery beast. According to Barna Group, 77 percent of Christian men aged 18 to 30 look at pornography at least monthly, 36 percent view pornography on a daily basis, and 32 percent admit being addicted to porn.

“Pornography serves as fuel for trafficking because of the way it grooms men to think about women and sex. Most people first experience porn as children, before developing the frontal cortex of their brain. This is the part of the brain where we learn to make judgments about things we see,” says Nolot. “Children are literally overwhelmed by these images, and it shapes the wet concrete of their sexuality.”

Shame can also fuel trafficking and the commercial sex industry, according to Christine Caine, who recently wrote the book Unashamed and works with sex trafficking victims through her ministry, A21.

“In a lot of our work with the girls in post-trauma therapy, it’s amazing how deep that shame runs, how they feel they are damaged goods,” says Caine. “They think if God loved them, He wouldn’t have let that happen, and that’s where the lies come in. That just screams in their head nonstop. But really, how you overcome shame is unconditional love and grace in God, and that’s the only way you can walk into your future.”

What Christians Can Do to Stop Modern-Day Slavery

Annie Lobert—a sex-trafficking survivor who escaped in 2003 after a near-death experience and now leads Destiny House, a 12-month program to help free women from trafficking—urges the church to get more involved in issues like human trafficking.

“Part of sex trafficking has stemmed from the refusal to talk about real issues like porn addiction, like sex addiction or pedophilia addiction,” Lobert says. “Any sexual sin has been taboo for our churches for hundreds if not thousands of years.”

Nolot agrees. In his experience, the church will talk about anything but gender and sexuality. “We have to begin engaging our congregations on these weighty subject matters that are so central to our lives,” he says. “In the absence of a clear voice from the church, other industries are having a profound impact on shaping how we think about what it means to be a sexual being in this world.”

The power of prayer is also vital in setting the captives free, and engaging with the foster care system can create opportunities for churches to live out Christ’s command to care for the orphans, reducing the victim count. If one family out of every three churches adopted a foster child, Nolot says, the church would clear out foster care. Partnering with ministries in the battle and sponsoring survivors are other ways to help.

“Jesus makes it clear that the authenticity of our faith is measured by our response to vulnerability,” says Nolot. “We’ve reduced Christianity to a belief system and code of moral ethics, but we’ve missed the fact that it is actually the practice of something. The God who guards the paths of justice sees this, and He is mobilizing His people to intervene and respond to the vulnerability of others out of an empathetic heart.”

Jessilyn Justice is assistant news editor at Charisma Media and “C-Pop” co-host.

Discover more about how God rescued Rebecca Bender from prostitution and sex trafficking at


Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


Discerning False Prophets and Delusions with Mario Murillo

Discerning False Prophets and Delusions with Mario Murillo

My longtime friend Mario Murillo is providing a critical role in the body of Christ in speaking up against the wolves in sheep clothing. Matthew Henry said, "A traitor inside the camp is more dangerous than 1,000 persecutors outside the camp." Christians want to be...

Do You Need A Miracle? It’s In Your Mouth!

Do You Need A Miracle? It’s In Your Mouth!

So many people are in need of a miracle these days. So many people are experiencing lack, illness and despair. So many of these people are Christian people that are bewildered as to why they are experiencing such hardship. The Christian life is not an easy one, but it...

Is America Destined to Become Like Sodom and Gomorrah?

Is America Destined to Become Like Sodom and Gomorrah?

Sodom and Gomorrah were real cities and real people lived there. These were notoriously sinful cities that God warned but eventually destroyed because of their wickedness (Gen. 19:24). These cities, infamous for their debauchery and homosexuality, are mentioned 23...

How to Get Rid of Guilt Forever

How to Get Rid of Guilt Forever

Are you bugged by a guilty conscience … carrying around baggage from a certain mistake or decision that produces feelings of regret or even self-loathing? We’ve all said or done things that we wish we could take back. And while it’s completely natural to grieve over a...

4 Tips to Fix Your Christian Marriage Problems

4 Tips to Fix Your Christian Marriage Problems

Christian married couples, like everyone else in the world, can have their ups and downs. The pressures at work, home and family can mount a pile so high you barely see your spouse on the other side. God created marriage and He longs for you to have a healthy,...


Prophecy: The Isaiah 60 Church Will Arise

I saw a movie several years ago about an Amish community. In the movie, when someone needed help (whether it was a crisis, a barn raising or help in harvesting their fields) they would ring a large...
Did Mr. Rogers Warn Against Transgenderism?

Did Mr. Rogers Warn Against Transgenderism?

While he may not have realized it at the time, Fred Rogers, otherwise known as "Mr. Rogers" on the children's television program "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," may have been anti-trans and also prophetic about the culture in America more than 40 years ago. A devoted...

Evangelist John Ramirez Exposing Satanism Infecting America

Evangelist John Ramirez Exposing Satanism Infecting America

Spiritual warfare is raging across America, yet few are talking about it or the ramifications that come with it. The Bible warns Christians of the enemy's plans, but the deception of the devil has relegated many to the sidelines instead of the frontlines where they...

14 Fervent Prayers for Gen Z

14 Fervent Prayers for Gen Z

Generation Z—those born between 1997 and 2012—is rising. They are entering the workforce, entering politics and entering the ministry. But spiritually speaking, this generation is in crisis. Forty-six percent of Gen Z say they’ve committed their lives to Jesus, which...

The Fresh and Mighty Wind of God’s Spirit Is Now Blowing

The Fresh and Mighty Wind of God’s Spirit Is Now Blowing

There is a fresh wind blowing. It is the fresh wind of His Spirit. It is not only a wind that will bring refreshment, healing, empowerment and strength, but it is a wind that will bring deep rest, deep clarity and a deep stirring of what He is breathing upon! I had a...

Yes, Jesus Did Address Sexual Sin

Yes, Jesus Did Address Sexual Sin

Yes, Chris Bryant, Jesus really did address the subject of homosexuality, no matter how much you might want to twist the issue. After the Church of England recently set down an edict that forbid same-sex couples to marry but that each individual would receive "God's...

Pin It on Pinterest