Monday, June 13, 2011

We Hold Their Freedom {Part II}

{I promise I'll be publishing some encouraging, feel-good posts soon. For now, bear with me as I openly share with you the things I'm learning. I simply can't keep this to myself.}

The other day I woke up thinking about how I wanted to plan my day. I could either clean up the house & run my errands or I could toss all that to the wind and call up some friends for a bit of summer girl time by the pool. As I weighed my options I started to sift through my mental to do list, and then it hit me. I have the freedom to choose what I will do today. At the thought of that I felt blessed and grieved all at once. The grief came because, contrary to popular beliefs about the freedom in our nation, there are hundreds of thousands of women and children in our country that do not have that freedom of choice. Understanding the current reality of human trafficking has changed my life. It's a knowledge that you cannot un-know, if that makes sense.  

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the Trafficking in America Conference in Nashville with my good friend Melanie. It was very informative and I learned many things that I will share with you in a moment. But before I get into the numbers given to me at the conference let me first say that I know statistics can be overwhelming. They can make us feel as though the problem is too great for any one of us to make a difference. But all of that begins to change as soon as you meet one of those numbers. All of a sudden that statistic is replaced by a precious face, one that could easily belong to your sister, your daughter or your best friend. That face has eyes like windows to a soul deeper than the pacific ocean and the moment your eyes meet theirs you catch a tiny glimpse of the hair raising truth. They have seen and experienced more than any human being should ever have to in a lifetime, let alone a childhood. I have met a few of those victims. Their stories of bravery and victory have inspired me to rise to the occasion and be an advocate for the oppressed.

I believe that trafficking, like every injustice, requires action. So in my attempt to take a stand for justice I would like to start by raising awareness. I am passing the truth on to you. What you do with it after this point is your choice. {And I don't mean that manipulatively. I mean that sincerely.} If you don't want to stay up at night thinking about the haunting facts you may want to stop reading now.

{If you're still reading, thanks for your bravery.} Here are some of the statistics I received at the conference. Remember, this is the Trafficking in America Conference. It is not a problem that is far away. It is a problem that is right here at home.
  • All 50 states report instances of trafficking each year. 
  • For my Tennessean readers: 78 out of 95 counties in TN have reported trafficking within the last two years.
  • It is estimated that there are 244,000- 300,000 victims of human trafficking in America right now.
  • There is an estimate of only 50 beds available nationwide in safe houses/shelters for rescued victims.  
  • Though many people believe that the victims in our homeland have been brought here from other countries, the truth is the vast majority of victims are actually American children. 
  • The most at risk children are runaways or homeless. There are approximately 1.7 million runaways reported each year. 90% of runaways will be approached by a trafficker within 48 hours of running away. 33% of them are lured into forced prostitution.
  • The average age of entry into U.S. prostitution is 12-14 years old. 66%-90% of adult sex workers were victims of trafficking as a child.
  • Some children are sold for profit by a family member in order to make ends meet or to support a drug habit.
  • Trafficked children are raped an average of 8-30 times per day.
  • The average cost to "de-virginize" an 8-9 year old girl or boy is $30k. (These consumers have money. Many of them are Doctors, Lawyers & businessmen.) Sex with children is considered to be one of the hottest forms of sex in the world.
  • The sex trade industry is worth $32 Billion per year.
  • The reason this industry continues to thrive is because of the high demand. Like all businesses, it's success is driven by the consumer. 
You may be shocked by the numbers above. And maybe your wondering how in the world we ended up here and what we can do to stop this nightmare from happening. Let me share with you a bit more about where all of this is coming from...
  • The porn industry is at the foundation of this entire epidemic. Addictions to pornography are driving people to purchase an experience like the ones they've seen on the internet, in videos and in magazines. One former prostitute claimed that many customers demanded she imitate something they watched in a video.
  • This is not just a "worldly" problem. 65% of all men in church are addicted to pornography. 35% of all pastors are also addicted to pornography.
  • The sexual exploitation of women has become common place in our country. There are more strip clubs in the U.S. than in any other nation in the world. Although people often justify their consumption by believing that these women chose this profession, the truth is many dancers have also been victims of trafficking. 
  • Why do people traffic women and children? For the love of money. A single gentleman's club in a major city can generate $10-$12 million per year. A small club in a rural area can generate $1 million per year.  
  • Why don't the girls get out? They are often beaten and threatened if they ever attempt to escape. Many are told that their family will be killed if they do not cooperate. They are manipulated through emotional and physical abuse to stay. 
Maybe you're wondering what you could do to help stop this. Each person can play a vital role. Step one is to spread the word. So many people are shocked to hear the truth about what's happening. Step two, be intentional about lovingly ministering to any consumers of pornography that you know. There are helpful tools available for accountability such as the covenant eyes software for computers. If we want to fight against sex trafficking we have to encourage the people to turn away from the images. Step three, be a part of prevention by talking to your children about the dangers of this industry. There's no need to live in fear, but we should educate them. We need to go beyond the "don't take candy from strangers" talk. Traffickers prey on teens via facebook and at the mall and even by wooing girls through a "dating relationship." Many victims had no idea their boyfriend was a trafficker. Parents need to be involved in and aware of where their kids are and who they are hanging out with at all times. You should also be intentional about monitoring their internet use. Check out these statistics...
  • 90% of 8-16 year olds (including girls) have viewed pornography online, mostly while doing homework.
  • 29% of 7-17 year olds would freely give out their address. 14% of 7-17 year olds would freely give out their email address. 
  • 11 years old is the average age of first exposure to pornography. (Some children are exposed to it by a friend at a sleepover. Prepare your child for what to do in that type of situation before they face it.)
  • Many girls who are manipulated by a trafficker posing as their boyfriend are lured into having sex with them before they are introduced to prostitution. Talk with your daughter about her worth and the benefits of abstinence as well as the dangers of premarital sex. 
The people who are involved in human trafficking are displaying humanity at its worst but we can be the light and show humanity at its best! Let's be a light in the darkness. Together we can make a difference! If you're interested in investing in the rescue of victims around the world you should check out the International Justice Mission by clicking here. If you'd like to join a campaign and become an abolitionist against trafficking in the 21st century you should check out the A21 Campaign by clicking here. To see a list of practical ways you can make a huge difference click here.

"Learn to do right; Seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow."- Isaiah 1:17

Was any of this information surprising and or helpful to you? Do you plan on taking a stand for this injustice? Your voice is powerful and valuable. I'd love to hear from you.  

Blessings and Miracles,

Monique Zackery

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  1. Great information here. Thanks also for sharing the importance of Internet accountability when it comes to taking a practical step in this cause. It is so important for people to understand the vital connection between sex trafficking and other forms of commercial sex (like porn).

    Please stop by the Covenant Eyes blog some time and read our articles about the anti-sex trafficking movement.

  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Luke. I'll be sure to check out the Covenant Eyes blog! - Blessings.


"Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." - Proverbs 16:24