A young girl sits in a cold, dark room. Tears stream down her red, raw cheeks. She quietly whispers to herself through her own muffled sobs, “How did this happen? How did I get here?” Then suddenly she hears those footsteps again. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. The lock on the door begins to turn and the familiar creak in the hinge echoes through the tiny room. She closes her eyes as tight as she can, but she knows it won’t make it stop. He’s here again…..and this time he isn’t alone.
Another girl sits in front of a mirror. The music is pulsating through every object in this tight and cramped dressing room. She looks herself up and down and wonders if the makeup will hide her true feelings. Her skin is covered in purple, blue, green, and yellow splotches – bruises and track marks – some new, some old – but each carries its own pain and memory. A single solitary tear runs down her face. She wipes it away quickly – she’s not allowed to “feel” anymore. She can’t afford to feel – it’s the only way she can survive. A gruff and burly man pokes his head through the curtain. “You’re on in 2!”, he huffs at her. Slowly her eyes move to the only thing on that table that can make her forget she’s there…make her forget she feels anything at all. Perhaps it’ll offer only a momentary high, but anything that can take away the pain is worth it to her now.
Back and forth another girl walks. Her feet pounding more pavement in a night than most people see all week. She remembers a song from her childhood, Chasing Pavements, but snickers as she realizes THIS is not what Adele had in mind. Quickly, she darts her eyes across the street to see if HE saw her momentary lapse of emotion. The mere thought of HIM sends shivers down her spine, almost as much of thinking of the next John to stop on her strip of sidewalk. This is not the life her mother had planned for her. It’s not even the life she had thought of. All she was looking for was a way out of her house and away from her parents – instead she found a way into her own personal hell on earth. And finding a way out of this hell seemed impossible; death itself might be a sweeter option, she mused.
These might sound like scenes out of a movie. But for far too many, this is a familiar daily occurrence in the world of sex trafficking. And it’s happening all around you whether you realize it or not.
Today is “Shine A Light On Slavery Day” – part of the End It movement. In support of this cause, you’ll see people wearing a red “X” on their hand. But this issue doesn’t just exist one day out of the year. For the people living it, stuck in the middle of it, for girls like these that I’ve spoken of, it’s every single day: 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds of a living nightmare.
Many years ago, in my younger days of working youth ministry, I was on an inner city missions trip to St. Louis. Our first night there, after all the kids were sound asleep, the staff of the Dream Center took the leaders out to help with their prostitution ministry. We spent time showing the women, walking the streets, that God’s love for them was unconditional – all while our driver kept an eye on the pimps with the van door open, prepared for us to make a quick getaway if need be. We finished the night, or should I say morning as it was nearing 3am at this point, in a parking lot of a strip club in Illinois, eating BBQ.
At the time, I didn’t think much of this experience outside of what it was on the surface – witnessing and sharing the love of God to those in the “sex industry”. But a couple of years ago, I witnessed one of the saddest things I’ve ever experienced.
While helping a friend look for a runaway, I saw first hand the people inside some of these seedy establishments we all know and pass by often, yet have never given them a second thought. I saw girls, impossibly young, not a day over 16-17yrs, so drugged they could barely stand upright, nearly if not entirely naked, selling themselves for a few dollars and a moment of dancing to men three times their age.
My heart immediately ached for these girls. I wondered how many of them had families who were desperately looking for them too? These were girls who had likely been lured away with the promise of a better life, their own life away from the parents they thought at the time they hated, promised a job and roof over their head – and before they knew it, they found themselves addicted and indebted to a man who not only didn’t love them, but saw them as property instead of a person.
I asked how this could ever be going on…right here in what I thought was a safe city…and why on earth were the police not here, breaking down the doors,to rescue these helpless underage girls?!
My world was quickly turned upside down as I began to hear story after story of how often their (the law’s) hands are tied when it comes to things like this. When fake/false identification is provided that can’t be proven otherwise – when probable cause must exist as well as warrants before they can enter these establishments – and even times when the law works against the girls and is harsher on them than on the perpetrators who put them there.
And this isn’t just happening in one or two places, or one or two cities; it’s everywhere. And whether you realize it or not, it’s all around you too! As you begin to notice the tell tell signs of an enslaved person, you begin to see it everywhere – even more so when events come to town where there is an influx of people. It’s not just frightening, it’s downright horrific.
What, you may ask, should you take away from all of this? Perhaps you’ve known of this already occurring in your city. Or maybe I’ve enlightened you to a world you thought was CHOSEN by these people “working” in it? What I desire you take away from this is that it’s time we no longer turn a blind eye to sex trafficking and slavery and instead choose to make a difference. Whether that’s praying for them, showing God’s love to them, getting involved in ministries helping them, or donating so others can make a difference- DO SOMETHING! Quit sitting idly by thinking this will never affect you.
I could certainly talk on and on about this issue. No girl should ever have to experience this – but those who have should know – IT DOES NOT DEFINE THEM! They are just as valuable to God as you and I are. They’re just as beautiful. Just as smart. Just as precious. They are worthy not only of God’s love, but of His sacrifice for each of us.
YOU can make a difference too by getting involved!
A21 Campaign – Founded by Christine Caine – they are setting out to abolish slavery and human trafficking – http://www.A21.org
Bochy’s Place – Founded by Carla Shellis – giving these girls, who have been rescued out of this world, not just a place to live and recover, but a foundation to build a life – http://www.bochysplace.com