10 Things Men Can Do to End Human Trafficking

all-that-is-necessary-triumph-of-evil-edmund-burke-quotes-sayings-picturesThis is going to take courage, men.  Good thing you were created for courageous acts!

1. Absolutely refuse to be complacent.  The end of complacency begins with rejecting the false assumption that trafficking is a “women’s issue” and realizing that it is a human issue.  Women are only one half of the equation.  The fact of the matter is that men and women are both victims and perpetrators in this global pandemic (Click here to learn more about male trafficking victims).  However, women are disproportionately the victims while men are disproportionately the perpetrators, according to the 2012 United Nations Global Trafficking in Persons Report.   Thus, if the majority of perpetrators are men, then good men have a responsibility to stand up against this injustice.  We need you to lead the fight by standing up for true masculinity; a masculinity that respects and empowers women and does not buy or sell them as if they are commodities.

Furthermore, we must reject the false assumption that trafficking happens only in large cities, or on rare occasions, or only in foreign countries. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal industry, just behind drug trafficking.  If you don’t think this issue has or could possibly reach your small town, this is where I break from the statistics and ask you to simply think about how much illegal drug activity happens in your town or even your very own neighborhood.  How many people do you know who have been affected directly or indirectly by illegal drug use?  Is there anyone in your family who has used illegal drugs?  We probably all know at least a dozen people who have been on illegal drugs or have been affected in some way by this industry.  And there is not a town in America that does not have some part of this industry taking place.  Now think about this:  a drug dealer can sell a drug one time, but a trafficker can sell a person over and over again up to 40 times a day.  If it’s not in your small town yet, it soon will be, especially if good men like you refuse to do anything about it.  It’s impossible for illegal entrepreneurs to ignore the possible profit margins.  And since the demand to purchase sex is on the rise in our overly pornified culture, traffickers are rising up to meet the increased demand with an increased supply.

Which brings me to my next point two points: refuse to be a part of the demand!

supply-and-demand-image12. Refuse to purchase sex or patronize anywhere sex is sold.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many people believe that prostitution is a victimless crime.  If sex for sale is in demand, then supply has to go up to meet that demand; this means that the number of trafficking victims goes up.  Wherever sex is for sale (whether legal or illegal), there will be trafficking!  According to the 2013 U.S. TIP Report,  “If there were no demand for commercial sex, sex trafficking would not exist in the form it does today… Too often, trafficking victims are wrongly discounted as ‘consenting’ adults. The use of violence to enslave trafficking victims is pervasive, but there are other—more subtle—forms of fraud and coercion that also prevent a person from escaping compelled servitude.”

END THIS DEMAND!  Trafficking is a business and it operates on business principles, i.e. supply and demand.  In a market where women as seen as disposable, if the demand decreases, eventually so will the supply.  Men, this means not even patronizing legal businesses where sex or sexuality is for sale (e.g. strip clubs, bikini bars, sex toy shops, massage parlors, etc.)  All of this feeds the beast.  Any purchase of sex whether legal or illegal feeds the demand and results in more and more women being forced or coerced into the industry.

punch-computer-33.  Refuse to buy or even look at pornography.  This includes soft porn (music videos, movies, TV, etc.)  I chose to put pornography in its own category because so many believe that pornography is separate from the sex industry and is therefore okay to look at and that it doesn’t hurt anyone.  However, watching pornography is just as much a part of the demand for commercial sex as is patronizing prostitution.  In fact, I would go so far as to say pornography is the root of the commercial sex industry.  The pervasive normalization of pornography in our culture is the heart and soul of what is fueling the demand.  It is what is raising up men who want to purchase sex and think its okay to purchase sex.

Dear brothers, the porn industry is high-jacking your sexuality and selling it back to you.  In this case, you are the victim.  Porn is destroying not only your image of women as human beings, but also your image of men as human beings.  It is dehumanizing you by selling you on a lie: that women are hyper-sexualized nymphomaniacs who are always available for sex and exist to satiate men’s sexual appetites and that men are nothing more than mindless, unfeeling, amoral beings entitled to degrade and dominate women.  Porn is eroding your character, desensitizing you to the issue of human trafficking, and destroying your ability to experience healthy intimacy.

It’s time to take back your masculinity.  Reclaim your humanity!  You are not amoral and unfeeling; you were created to uphold justice and to have compassion.  You were created to protect and uplift women and girls not to degrade and dominate them.  Just say no to an industry that is fueling slavery while simultaneously forming you into someone you are not!

black-father-son-shaving4.  Disciple younger men and boys.  The words you speak and the choices you make now are setting the standard of masculinity for the next generation.  You can rest assured that your sons and younger men within your sphere of influence are watching you and they are picking up on your values.  They’re watching to see how you treat women and what you say about them.  The rest of culture is grooming them to become consumers of sex and women.  Will you challenge culture by standing for the truth?  Your influence is more powerful than the influence of the culture, but you have to exercise it thoughtfully and on purpose.  The two best things you can do are to take a stand for purity and to love and respect your wife.  Don’t degrade her, don’t make comments about women’s appearances, and don’t glorify sexual conquests.  Correct boys and men who reflect a desensitization to degrading women.  

We live in a culture in which the words “pimp” and “player” have a positive connotation.  Men, you can change this by teaching younger men that “pimp” is not synonymous with “cool” because pimps are traffickers.  Teach boys that women are to be respected and protected not dominated and disposed of.  Teach them by example!  Because, trust me, they’re much more likely to do as you do rather than do as you say.

5.  Raise awareness.  Everyone has their own circle of influence.  Take it upon yourself to learn everything you can about the issue of human trafficking and then start telling people abut it.  Start with your family and your children, then branch out and tell your friends and coworkers.  If you have a small group at church, bring it up there.  Talk to your men’s group about it.  If you’re not a speaker invite someone who knows about this issue to share with your group (I’d be happy to oblige), or show the film, Nefarious (trust me, it will get your group talking).  It’s available for instant streaming online now.  There is a plethora of resources out there.  The more people who are aware, the less indifference there will be.  The less indifference there will be, the more change can happen.

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6.  Join a group to end the demand.  There are several groups dedicated to raising awareness, ending the demand, and caring for victims.  Join one of these groups and let your voice be heard.  We’re stronger when joined together than when we are apart.  Groups such as these will keep you stirred up to attack this issue head on and will keep you informed about the latest developments in legislation, prevention and aftercare.  If you’re in Illinois, check out End Demand Illinois  a campaign which is dedicated to shifting law enforcement’s attention to sex traffickers and people who buy sex, while proposing a network of support for survivors of the sex trade.  Another such group is The ARMED Campaign (Association of Real Men Ending the Demand), an extension of Eve’s Angels founded by Anny Donewald.  which is a movement to get MEN educated and advocating to end the demand of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children.  Men who join this campaign, take the following pledge:

THE PLEDGE:

I’m taking the pledge to protect women and children from the dangers of Sex Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. I also pledge to never sell, purchase, contribute and/or aid in any way, the criminal act of trafficking and/or purchasing sex from any woman or child.

 
7.  Support legislation and legislators who are attacking the demand.  For so long, the victims of trafficking have been criminalized, while the traffickers and those exploiting the victims were met with few if any repercussions.  Within such a system, trafficking is fostered.  Thankfully, attitudes are begin to shift in the U.S. and law makers and law enforcers are beginning to recognize a need to revamp the system.  However, they need the support and pressure of constituents to expedite the process.  Support politicians who are pushing to criminalize pimping and purchasing sex and who recognize prostitutes as potential victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking.  This is known as the Swedish Model of prostitution laws (and hint: it works.) Write your congressman and to tell him/her how important the issue is to you and that you are in favor of adopting the Swedish Model in your state.  

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8.  Financially support ministries, organizations, and NGOs who are working on the front line and in aftercare.  These are the people doing the hands-on work with trafficking victims.  We can pass law after law but without people actually going after the victims and offering aftercare, no one will be rescued from this injustice.  According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the sad fact is that there are currently less than 100 beds in aftercare facilities available for underage victims of trafficking in the U.S.  Law enforcement officials are beginning to recognize that many women and girls taken off the streets are victims rather than criminals.  But, if they have no aftercare facility to which to send them, they have no choice but to send them through the judicial system in which they are criminalized.  

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Pat Bradley, Crisis Aid International

These aftercare facilities generally rely on donations to operate.  That’s why it’s so important to give to reputable organizations.  One of my favorites is Crisis Aid International which is based in St. Louis, Missouri.  Since opening in 2012, Crisis Aid has provided service for more than 25 American victims of sex trafficking ages 14-24 years old.  Theirs is a holistic approach.  According to their website,  the girls “are provided a safe loving home with their own bedroom.  They receive a variety of services and opportunities including basic care, professional counseling, medical and mental healthcare, more than 60 life skills programs, educational opportunities, recreational activities, and more.”  When I met met with Crisis Aid’s founder, Pat Bradley, in early 2012, he told me of their plans to build a second wing to their facility which will house up to 11 minors.  But they need donations to make this happen.
 
9.  Change how you view women.  Especially promiscuous women and women in the sex industry.  Please realize that no little girl wants to grow up to sell herself.  Every woman seemingly in the industry by choice has a story.  
 
download (1)Sex work is traumatizing.  In fact, many studies show that people in the sex industry commonly experience as much or more Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome than men who have been in war.  So, before you think, Well, if she respected herself, she’d just get a different job,  you have to ask yourself, What has happened in this woman’s life that has brought her to a place where she is “willingly” being sexually traumatized for eight or more hours a day and convincing herself that this is what she’s worth, that it’s worth the money, and/or that she likes it.
 
It’s also important to realize the way in which our current culture is grooming girls to see themselves and their sexuality as a commodity and a way of being seen.  There is tremendous pressure put on girls and women in our popular culture to conform to this standard.  So, before you judge that girl in your Twitter feed who posted that inappropriate pic of herself, realize that she is simply conforming in order to survive in an overly pornified culture.  The appropriate response is compassion, not judgement or pity.  Check your heart, brothers.  If there is judgement, pity, derision, or shaming in there, then you’re heart is no different from the hearts of those who would degrade and abuse her.
 
10.  Empower women.  Operate in the opposite spirit.  If you want to combat the degradation of women, then do the opposite:  empower them!  Honestly, it’s ridiculous that this even has to be said.  But it does.  Seriously, only insecure men are afraid of empowered women.  And I know you’re not insecure.  You’re a real man!  And true men treat women as equals, in the home, in the marketplace, and within the church, and have no fear that their own positions and/or masculinity is somehow challenged by gender equality.  Rather, true men see the value in partnering with women as equals.  “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9rosie
 
And let me just propose that if you, your business, or the ministry you are involved in does not allow women to be in positions of leadership or to teach men, you are part of the problem.  You’re saying, “Yes, I’m against trafficking.  But no, I don’t believe women share equal humanity with men.  Men are superior to women and have every right to be in sole authority over them.”  Yeah, that’s a contradiction in terms.
 
But please don’t take my word for it.  Before you spout any Pauline theology at me, check out these resources by people who have studied the issue and are far more articulate than I.  After you’ve read all three of these articles AND the books they reference, then you can argue this point with me.
 
 
So what do you say, men?  Are you courageous enough to take up the cause?  I believe that you are!  Stand up and fight for justice!  It’s what you were born for!
 
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Benjamin Nolot, A Forerunner for Purity in a Pornified World

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Benjamin Nolot

“Women are intellectual, emotional, spiritual…creative, athletic, familial, political, caring, compassionate, relational, strong; they may desire autonomy and independence, or family and children; they long for commitment and fidelity; they are searching for deeper meaning and purpose; they long to have an impact in the world.  Simply put, women are not a sexual buffet for the gratuitous appetites of men; they are image bearers of God and the crown of His creation.” 

photoThese words were spoken by Benjamin Nolot (founder of Exodus Cry and award-winning director of Nefarious, a film exploring the nature and manifestation of human trafficking in the world today), at the One Thing conference in Kansas City, which wrapped up on the last day of 2013.  Blake and I drove the six hours to KC this past weekend mainly to hear him speak, but also enjoyed hanging with some friends, a teaching by Mike Bickle, worship with Matt Redman, Laura Hackett, and Jon Thurlow, lunch at Cosentino’s (a downtown market with a plethora of different fresh food), and an early birthday treat for Blake which started with our favorite KC BBQ at Jack Stack’s and wrapped up with some coffee, cookies, and chai at a local coffee house called Crossroads (Blake even wore his Crossroads hoody that day.  How did he know?).

Early Birthday Goodness

Early Birthday Goodness

The One Thing Conference is an annual gathering of around 30,000 people, hosted by the International House of Prayer (IHOP), which focuses on drawing people into a deep encounter with Jesus so that they might make Him and His call the One Thing in their life which takes all preeminence.  It takes place after Christmas each year and wraps up with an extended worship set to ring in the New Year.  Unfortunately, Blake and I couldn’t stay the whole time (we missed the beginning and the end and were only there for about a day and a half), but I was adamant that we hear Benjamin Nolot speak, as he is one of my living heroes.  

One Thing 2013

One Thing 2013

At this time, I feel I must explain what I mean by “living hero” because it is a term I use quite often and you will most likely read it again in future posts.  A living hero is NOT someone I idolize. They are simply someone I greatly respect and who inspires me. They are NOT someone I try to emulate, but rather, are someone I submit to learn from.  They are someone whose life I follow and am interested in observing.   I say all this because I feel it’s important that there be only one I exalt and emulate: Christ Jesus. But there are many people who are forerunners worthy of my notice and Benji Nolot is amongst those at the top of that list. 

His message at the conference was profound and was birthed out of the research and filming of the sequel to Nefarious.  While the first film revealed the problem of human trafficking, it did not explore many of the causes.  With over 30 million people enslaved today (more than ever in human history), the majority of whom are enslaved for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the enormity of the problem begs the question: why?  In other words, how has humanity reached such a deep level of global depravity that this many people are being commodified?  As Nolot puts it, “What type of society is producing so many men willing to buy a woman or child for sex?”  Nefarious-HTML1

The second film promises answer this central dramatic question by exposing the pornified nature of multiple aspects of our culture which work collectively to do two things: to groom women and girls to conform to the idealized hyper-sexualized image of femininity while simultaneously grooming men and boys to consume women’s sexuality.  This duality working in tandem is so inherently problematic for both sexes, especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy sexuality, resulting in what Nolot refers to as a “toxic sexuality.” The end result of such toxic sexuality is the dehumanization of both women and men.  Women’s sexuality become their only value and they are reduced to “nymphomaniacs with no sexual discretion or preference.”  Furthermore, they must always be available for sex in order to achieve visibility.  Men are also dehumanized as they are reduced to “unfeeling, amoral, life-support systems for [feminine arousal]” and find value through the domination and degradation of women.  

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This is just the tip of the iceberg concerning how our culture is affecting our view of gender roles, our sexuality, and ourselves as individuals.  His message was so dynamic and so multi-faceted that I couldn’t possibly address all of the points in this post. But it was so powerful that I wouldn’t want you to miss out! So check out the teachings below:

Contending for Purity in a Pornified World Part 1 (Benjamin Nolot: One Thing 2013)

Contending for Purity in a Pornified World Part 2 (Benjamin Nolot: One Thing 2013)

There is, however, one topic, the idea of the “female double bind,” which I would like to highlight here because I believe it is an aspect of the problem which has infiltrated the Church and is therefore keeping us from fully engaging with God’s heart toward this issue.  This is yet another case of the Church trying to NOT be “in the world” and in effect becoming “of the world” (with our own Christian brand of course).  Hint: it’s supposed to be the other way around.  We’re supposed to be in the world but not of it!

The Female Double Bind

The female double bind is an “impossible dilemma that women and girls face in [our] sexist culture.”  It’s based on the premise of culture-grooming mentioned earlier. The double standard is that men who are groomed to be consumers of sex are celebrated when they reach this ideal, while women who are groomed to objectify their own sexuality are shamed when they reach the ideal.  It’s the irony of a mentality which calls a promiscuous male a stud, pimp, or player (a celebratory term) and calls a promiscuous female a slut or whore (a term of derision).  

Human-Trafficking-1024x688Basically, the female double bind means that a woman can’t win.  Only men are the winners (if it can even be called winning) in this type of culture and they win by wielding the invincible double bind to completely degrade and oppress women.

This is perfectly exemplified by a quote Nolot shared from a woman he interviewed who had formerly been prostituted.  She said, “We are very close to death.  All women are.  And we are very close to rape and we are very close to beating.  And we are inside a system of humiliation from which there is no escape for us.”  

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Isaiah 61

Now, I don’t know about you, but when she says, “there is no escape for us,” it completely breaks my heart.  Why?  Because I know the man who was anointed to set the captives free and proclaim release to the prisoners (Isaiah 61/Luke 4).  And His word says that the same Spirit is upon me and upon every believer.  My heart breaks because I know that it’s the will of God that the Bride of Christ, His church, have the same broken heart for humanity that Jesus has, a heart moved to action with compassion by the sufferings of humanity who are under the burden of the exploitative nature of sin. 

So why then, if the Church has the authority to set captives free, would this woman feel she had no escape? 

strippersnIt’s the same reason that a woman I met who was working in a strip club took one look at our Bibles which say, “Jesus Loves Strippers” and boldly and sincerely asked our team, “Does He really?  Am I less than to Him because of what I do?”  Because, up until that point, she had only been met with condemnation from Christians who had chosen to degrade her character right along side the men in the clubs who exploited her.  She didn’t yet know about the Savior who sets us free.  The Savior who convicts but never condemns.  The Savior who loves her so immensely.  She didn’t yet know the Father who created her and saw her as lovely.  The Father who longs to be in relationship with her.  The Father who longs to bless her.  The Father who gave up and sacrificed His own son so that He could have her as His own daughter.  She didn’t know because no one had ever told her or shown her.  She didn’t know because all the Christians she had encountered had joined right along with the World in participating in what Nolot refers to as “slut shaming.”  She was expecting God to do the same. 

Church, we must guard against throwing the baby out with the bathwater!  In rejecting sexual immorality, we have a tendency to also rejected people who are enslaved by the spirit of lust and perversion, especially women!  Women who are simply trying to survive in a pornified culture.  Women who don’t know the freedom found in Christ because we’ve not offered it to them.  Women who look at the Church and see the same double bind found in the strip club.  They feel degraded and vilified for conforming to culture no matter where they turn.  It’s completely understandable that they would choose, therefore, to stay within the context of culture rather than seek refuge in the Church.  Popular culture is familiar and the Church doesn’t feel at all like a refuge.  

isaiah61We have to have a better answer than that!  And I believe we do!  To quote Sarah Bessey, author of the book, Jesus Feminist, “The world is failing women, and we, the people of God, know the solution: our beloved Jesus and His Kingdom ways are good news, in every sense of the words!”  And I must tell you that I am beginning to see a huge shift in the way the Body of Christ is responding to women and I’m so encouraged by it!  Ministries such as Exodus Cry, BeLoved, Strip Church, and several others are breaking the female double bind both in the sex industry and within the Church.  Christ is stirring His Bride to go after the lost daughters and shower them with His love and honor.  And from what I’ve seen, it works.  Lo and behold, His Word stands true:  His goodness really does lead us to repentance.  And His light really does shine in the darkness.  And His mercies really are endless.  He really does set captives free, heal the broken-hearted, and bring dead things to life.  He really is the one who so loved the World!  

To bring this to a close, I want to invite and urge each of us as individuals to take a sincere inventory of his or her own heart.  How do I really feel about the so-called “soiled” woman?  Do I have God’s attitude toward her?  Or have I bought into the culture’s double bind?  

These are questions you must answer, because she’s asking you another question.  She’s asking you, “Does He really love me?”  

Here’s a hint:  God loves her as much as He loves you.  Why not go show and tell her?  Don’t know where to start?  Why not take your cue from Benjamin Nolot?  Begin by telling her: She is the “crown of God’s creation.”

Because, she is.