The horror of child sex trafficking has grown to be almost as big as the global drug trade. But the abusers can be stopped if enough of us act now.
I stood in a vacant lot in south Asia surrounded by rocks, fallen trees and the foundations of a new home. Earlier that evening, I’d had dinner with dozens of girls and young women who had been rescued from child sex trafficking—forced prostitution where they served 30 to 40 customers a night. Now they live in a beautiful safe house on the property. More girls were on the way, and the safe-house director was showing me the lot where she was building a home to house them.
I looked at the lot, at the new house barely started, and at this one foreign woman who had to raise her own support as well as operating costs to house, feed and heal all these girls. “How do you keep from getting overwhelmed?” I asked her.
She looked at me as if I were crazy. “If I do what I’m supposed to do, and you do what you’re supposed to, the job gets done,” she said, as if running this type of ministry was the most natural thing in the world.
And she was right. Often when we hear about horrific situations such as child sex trafficking, we don’t know what to do. The stories are so awful, and we feel so powerless. We want to help—but what can we possibly do?
God is using ordinary people like you and me all over the world to make a dent in this global nightmare. There are large ministries doing great things, but there are also dozens of people who have other full-time jobs or no jobs. They’re not ministers or evangelists, but God moved on their hearts and gave them creative ideas—and they’re making a difference.
You can, too.
In the fight against child trafficking, there are four P’s: protection, prosecution, prevention and partnership. Protection involves rescuing trafficked children and helping them heal from the trauma. Some children who have been abused through sex trafficking are as young as 5 years old.
Child sex slavery happens not only in Third-World countries but also throughout the United States. Children are trafficked within the U.S., smuggled across the border from another country or brought here openly from foreign lands. Traffickers hold them captive in cities such as yours and mine. Recruiters work in U.S. high schools and even middle schools to lure young children.
Organizations such as International Justice Mission (IJM, ijm.org), International Crisis Aid (ICA, crisisaid.org), the Dalit Freedom Network (dalitnetwork.org) and many others conduct rescues throughout the world, risking the lives of their workers to free children from filthy brothels where they are caged like animals.
In the United States, ICA, state task forces such as the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking (FCAHT, stophumantrafficking.org), and the Polly Klaas Foundation (pollyklaas.org) conduct search and rescues. Project Exodus (project-exodus.org) works in Los Angeles and sends teams of trained volunteers into the community to observe businesses believed to be involved in trafficking. Results are compiled into a report given to other anti-trafficking and law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles.
After children are set free physically, it can be years before their hearts and spirits are also free. It takes skilled, patient care to help them heal. Love146 (love146.org), which is opening safe houses to care for rescued children internationally, found that many caregivers have a heart for helping traumatized kids but little training to do so. Love146 organizes in-depth seminars to provide trauma training for caregivers, particularly in Asia.
Most Americans are surprised to find there’s a need for safe houses for minors in the U.S., but each year more than 100,000 kids and young women are trafficked for sex within our borders. The U.S. office of Cambodia-based Chab Dai (chabdai.org) compiled an online resource showing services available to rescued victims in the U.S.
In the U.S., many faith-based organizations provide safe houses and aftercare, including ICA (Missouri), Ahava Kids (Connecticut and Georgia, ahavakids.org), Gracehaven (Ohio, gracehavenhouse.org), Dream Center (Los Angeles, dreamcenter.org), GEMS (New York, gems-girls.org), Restore (New York, restorenyc.org), Redeemed Love (Georgia, redeemedlove.org), Generate Hope (San Diego, generatehope.org), Hope House Project (North Carolina, hopehousenc.com) and Freedom Children’s Home (Florida, beautyfromashes.org). The shelters are designed specifically for survivors of human trafficking (not victims of domestic violence or other abusive situations, who have different needs). Some take children; others are for only women or men.
You can help organizations that provide protection in many ways. You will generally not be able to meet with the children, but you can provide supplies, food, clothing, gift cards to local stores and more. You can also learn the signs of trafficking (humantrafficking.org), and when you see something suspicious, call the national hotline: 888-373-7888.