I heard a message at a church recently, one that I respect greatly, “The best thing you can do to ensure great success in life is to be born into a good family”. Right away my heart sank, my eyes welled with tears and then, of course, it got better.
Here is the thing, he wasn’t wrong – it just hit me at the heart. I know this is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and there is so much to say. Here is the thing, we can address all of the risk factors – the things that make kids vulnerable to trafficking in the first place. We need to talk about the fact that we have a culture that even makes it possible for people, children to be bought and sold, like products – that is the bigger problem. Yes, let’s address the risk factors, talk about social media, abuse, foster care and so much more. However, when it comes right down to it – let’s realize we will never truly end or change culture without looking at the factors that make children, teens and adults a desirable commodity in our society.
First, I would like to address sexual abuse; for much, much too long our society has decide that we just wouldn’t speak of these things. They were private, embarrassing, and often times ‘family matters’. The thing is that far too many children and young adults experience sexual abuse, exploitation, or some form of this. The reality is that it changes the way you see the world, your ability to trust, to react, to learn, to communicate and operate in the world. Many people (girls and boys) learn from an early age if they do get the courage to speak to another trusted adult in their life about what has been happening that they will not be believed, minimized, or told some other lie about how it will destroy the family or their life. From this point on if the child has had the courage to speak she/he may not speak of it again for a very long time. The child will learn that everything the abuser has told them has been true or at least this is what the child will think.
A child who has been abused in this way has learned often from a very early age that her/his value is in their sexuality and this is what they have to offer the world. Often times this is what they are told. There are many other things they have been told as well – so imagine the little minds, instead of being told they are valuable, strong, and talented and can do anything they desire are told, “it is their fault this is happening because she is a slut”. I am not making these words up, they actually happened. So, as Rachel Lloyd of GEMS states, “The groundwork has already been laid for the exploitation that will happen, the pimp/trafficker does not need to do much work”.
Statically, survivors report that 70-90% had previous sexual abuse, this effects every area of a young persons life. Often times when one looks at the very things that are said they are the exact same things a trafficker says during the grooming process. The victim/survivor often feels like she has no other option but the abuse that they are facing, because this is all they are ‘good at’. She/he may have been told that they can’t trust anyone else and if they do, then horrible things will happen ( you may know as an adult some of these things are not true but as a child these things are not as clear).
What is one of best things you can do to change the culture around you? Build strong families, invest in your friends’ kids, help raise kids who know their worth and protect them. Let your community, friends and networks know that it is not acceptable to abuse, rape or watch porn or online (71% of girls were sold online) – this all filters into sex trafficking, yes even those over 18 are trafficked. Joking about this is not ok, and leads to a society that only perpetuates this type of violence.
We can change this criminal industry but it will take you and I standing up for the most vulnerable in our society and believing them when they do speak. Each of our voices matter and we must work together to end this present day slavery. We must notice kids in our communities, and believe them when they speak up. Together we can end human trafficking. I want to be to tell my kids about this someday – as something we accomplished together. (To be continued…)