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The Deeper Problems behind Human Trafficking

The Deeper Problems behind Human Trafficking

Common Ground
 
We all agree that human trafficking is a heinous crime. We know that forcing or coercing men, women, and children into performing sex acts is wrong. We push awareness and make sure posters are up at every airport, bus station, and mall.
 
"See something. Say something," is the mantra. We want the public to be vigilant and ready to intervene if something strange goes down in front of us.
 
It's a great idea. It comes from good intentions. But it's not working.
 
The Heart of the Issue
 
The sex industry in the U.S. is booming and shows no signs of being hindered by public awareness campaigns. Why is that?
 
Because the sex industry isn't fueled by public ignorance.
 
It's fueled by the demand for sex. And that demand comes from the hypersexualization of our culture. It's everywhere you look: television, magazines, the internet, billboards. It's highlighted in our music and celebrated in our movies. On Superbowl Sunday, we flaunted it on stage in front of 98 million viewers, children included.
 
We are teaching kids from a young age that they were made for sex. We're showing young girls that their value lies in their sexual appeal. We're teaching young boys and girls that sex is entertainment.
 
Our kids are already searching desperately for love and fulfillment. Where are we pointing them?
 
Broken Victims
 
The other reason trafficking abounds so much is that people are broken. And broken people are often looking for love. That kind of vulnerability is exactly what traffickers are looking for.
 
Victims of human trafficking are almost always people marginalized by our broken system. They come from ethnic minorities, broken homes (or foster homes), or poor communities. Many times, they are homeless, jobless, impoverished, or orphaned.
 
Is it any wonder that exploiters grab their attention?
 
When someone grows up in a home or society that gives them little hope of love or value, they take what they can get. Traffickers promise their victims love, value, fame, and/or a job.
 
When you have no other chance at those things, why wouldn't you take their offer?
 
Exploiters also prey on people's basic needs. Homeless youth need food, clothes, and shelter, and they will do what they need to do to survive. If they have no other option, they are often forced to turn to sex. After all, if we won't give them those basic needs, traffickers will.
 
Making a Real Change
 
We protect our youth by changing the things that make them vulnerable in the first place. We provide housing for the homeless, better school systems, more mentorship programs. We create jobs for the unemployed, opportunities for immigrants, and hope for the hopeless.
 
It might look like welcoming the immigrant who moved in down the street. Or mentoring the girl in foster care who joined your daughter's school recently. It's offering love and practical help with no strings attached.
 
True change begins when we own the brokenness of our society and address the real issues. We need to admit that the U.S. isn't a place of free and equal opportunity like we thought it was. We need to create better programs that provide opportunities for the marginalized. We need to extend love and acceptance to those who are on the fringes and hurting. And we need to stop glorifying the sex industry like it's normal.
 
Working for Change
 
When I think of changing the cultural mindset of sex, one woman comes to mind. Mindy Summers is a young woman who started a ministry called "SoLoved." She and her team reach out to local women in the sex industry, showing them how valued and loved they are. They spend countless hours in strip clubs, listening to the ladies' stories and offering them encouragement.
 
Because of her insight into this issue, Mindy was devastated by the Superbowl halftime show. She wrote,
 
"Tonight on a Superbowl halftime show…two super talented women chose to share their God-given talents with the football fans by pole dancing and thrusting with little clothes on. In front of the whole world. The moves, the poles, the song lyrics…the sex industry was glorified as empowering tonight.
 
Let me tell you. That is a LIE. These two ladies choose to shake their tails for the world to gawk at…but there is nothing empowering about women being the recipients of the onlooker’s sexual attention. They have bodyguards to walk them off the stage. Most women just get a can of mace.
 
We say we are tired of rape, sexual assault and young girls being told their body is what gives them value…BUT THEN we go and we INVOLVE YOUNG GIRLS in the very scene…at a football game…and the crowd goes wild & we clap and praise it.
 
So dear young girl-
 
I bet you are super confused. We tell you that YOU ARE NOT YOUR BODY. We tell you that what’s inside is what needs to shine. We tell you that you have a MIND AND A SOUL. We tell you to take self-defense classes, carry mace, watch out for date rape and don’t let a guy pressure you. BUT THEN…we entertain you with pole dancing, thrusting, hyper-sexualized lyrics & seductive facial expressions…and we clap for it.
 
We tell you that women can do anything. Women are equals. Then we bring out two influential women to entertain us…with what? Sex.
 
Don’t buy into the lie. Women do have minds. They also have self-respect. The things that are done in bedrooms and inside strip clubs should never be performed on a stage for strangers and children to watch. And you know what…I’m sorry that this is how things are. You deserve a better world. A world where women are empowered and can use their God-given talents in ways that don’t scream sex. Because again…that’s not why women are here."
 
I don't share this to judge Shakira or J.Lo; they are incredibly gifted musicians. They deserved that halftime slot, and I love that Hispanic culture was represented. But like Mindy, I'm heartbroken by the message their performance sent to young boys and girls. Because the ramifications of that are echoing in the brokenness of our society.
 
So what now?
 
I hope this post is upsetting to you. I hope it's hard to read and that you feel a tension inside. I hope that it sparks conversations and causes you to question what we've accepted as normal. Is this really the world we want to pass on to our children? If not, what can you do to change it?
 
If you're human at all, you've been impacted by the hypersexualization of our culture. Start noticing it. Realize that it negatively impacts the lives of millions of people. And if you're really brave, take a stand to change it.
 
And if you've been tricked, lured, or forced into any sort of sex trafficking (or even if you're unsure), we are here to help you. No matter what led you to where you are now, we can help. There are resources for you. We care and will listen to you. 

If you'd like to talk to an advocate at the Iowa Victim Service Call Center, call 1.800.770.1650 or text "IOWAHELP" to 20121.



*Quote from Mindy Summers used with permission from "A Woman's Take on the Super Bowl Halftime Show and Human Dignity ..." by Walt Mueller.