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Human Trafficking Up Close

Selah Freedom

[Image via @selahfreedom]

SHINING LIGHT

HUMAN TRAFFICKING UP CLOSE

MW in conversation with Victoria Jordan

MW: What are some general statistics about human trafficking, U.S. and global?

VJ: According to the International Labor Organization, a specialized agency of the U.N., there are an estimated 40.3 million people in slavery worldwide. This means that, “there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world” (ILO, 2017).

Of the 40.3 million people, there are 4.8 million individuals in forced sexual exploitation, or sex trafficking. It is important to note that human trafficking, or modern day slavery, disproportionately affects women with 99% of sex trafficking victims and 58% of labor trafficking victims being women (ILO, 2017). While there are two primary forms of human trafficking, labor trafficking and sex trafficking, my professional experience and the content of this article will specifically address the latter.

It has been particularly interesting getting to work to fight sex trafficking in the United States. When my passion for this work first began, I believed that this was an international issue. I could not fathom that women and children were being sold in the affluent suburbs and bustling cities that I grew up in.

Working on the domestic front has taken the blinders off my eyes and has helped me to realize that there are women and children enslaved in my backyard. Sex trafficking in America is happening right under our noses. The top locations where human trafficking occurs in the United States are: illicit massage parlors, private residences, hotels and motels, the pornography industry, and online ads (Polaris, 2019).

In my professional opinion, hotels and motels seem to be the most common venue. I believe that this location is underreported to the national human trafficking hotline. This may be due to the anonymity provided by hotels and motels. Additionally, survivors have told me that motel and hotel owners and operators know about the trafficking, but are given a portion of the proceeds to stay quiet.

It is not known exactly how many U.S. citizens are victims of sex trafficking, but some reports estimate that as many as, “300,000 American children are taken into sex trafficking every year” (Selah Freedom, 2019). Furthermore, “victims can be sold 15-40 times every 24 hours, for an average of 7 years” (Selah Freedom, 2019). In addition to being sold 15-40 times per day, survivors are typically forced to make a quota for the day. This means that their traffickers will expect them to make a certain amount of money per night, or they will be violently beaten.

Typically, sex trafficking victims are also victims of childhood sexual abuse and are often in the foster care system growing up. Polaris, a national organization combatting sex trafficking shares that, “an estimated 1 out of 7 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims. Of those, 88% were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran.” (Polaris, 2019).

MW: Can you share about a rescue experience that moved you?

VJ: It is truly a miracle when even one person finds freedom from their oppressors. There are so many miraculous stories of escape women have shared. Women have jumped out of moving vehicles going over 60 mph to escape their traffickers. They have escaped from storage units where they were being beaten in between being forced into sexual exploitation.

“Women have jumped out of moving vehicles going over 60 mph to escape their traffickers.”

We recently had a survivor who reached out to the Selah Freedom outreach department because she was in a particularly violent trafficking situation. She was planning an escape and suspected that her trafficker had discovered. She heard a gun cocking in the hotel room next to hers and jumped out of the window and across the street into the arms of our outreach advocates. As she sat in the car after escaping her trafficker, she began to sing the words of the song Rescue by Lauren Daigle.

This was a particularly beautiful situation to watch unfold, since the poignant lyrics captured her experience both of her pain and her hope in the Lord. For those who are not familiar with the lyrics they go as follows:

You are not hidden; There’s never been a moment you were forgotten;
You are not hopeless though you have been broken your innocence stolen;
I hear you whisper underneath your breath;
I hear your SOS, your SOS;
I will send out an army to find you in the middle of the darkest night; It’s true, I will rescue you;
There is no distance that cannot be covered over and over;
You’re not defenseless I’ll be your shelter; I’ll be your armor
I hear you whisper underneath your breath;
I hear your SOS, your SOS;
I will send out an army to find you in the middle of the darkest night; It’s true, I will rescue you;
I will never stop marching to reach you in the middle of the hardest fight;
It’s true, I will rescue you–

MW: What can we do to fulfill the mandate of helping people be set free?

VJ: Jesus has called us to set the captives free. We are called to continue the ministry of Jesus in Isaiah 61:1-3, which states, “the Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek. He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise, instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

There are so many types of bondage. Yes, there are people in physical bondage all around us. How can we help them? First, do not consume pornography and purchase sex. It is sad that this has to be said, but if there were not a demand to purchase sex there would be no supply of sex trafficking victims. Second, know the signs and make reports to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. The Department of Homeland Security has made a comprehensive list of questions to help you determine whether an individual is being trafficked.

This list includes:

  • Is the victim in possession of identification and travel documents; if not, who has control of the documents?
  • Was the victim coached on what to say to law enforcement and immigration officials?(This also applies if you are a healthcare professional)
  • Was the victim recruited for one purpose and forced to engage in some other job?
  • Is the victim’s salary being garnished to pay off a smuggling fee?
  • Was the victim forced to perform sexual acts?
  • Does the victim have freedom of movements?
  • Has the victim or family been threatened with harm if the victim attempts to escape?
  • Has the victim been threatened with deportation or law enforcement action?
  • Has the victim been harmed or deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care, or other life necessities?
  • Does the victim have bruising at various levels of healing?
  • Can the victim freely contact friends or family?
  • Is the victim a juvenile engaged in commercial sex? (There is no such thing as a child prostitute)
  • Is the victim allowed to socialize or attend religious services?

In addition to physical bondage, there is also spiritual bondage. So many people, believers and non-believers are in spiritual bondage. 2 Peter 2:19 discusses this when he states, “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.” Peter is referring to false prophets and teachers, but he makes an interesting point that applies to more than just this group. He points out that, “People are enslaved to whatever defeats them.” Another translation says, “People are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”

Peter is saying that we are held captive, and we are in bondage when we let something master us. Does anger master you? Does anxiety master you? Does fear master you? Does gossip master you? Does gluttony master you? Does sexual sin master you? In order to fulfill our biblical mandate to set others free, we need the Lord to set us free of our spiritual bondage. James gives us a beautiful depiction of how to obtain spiritual freedom. He charges us to, “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

“Peter is saying that we are held captive and we are in bondage when we let something master us.”

The enemy wants us to hide our sin. He wants us to feel shame and condemnation and to believe the lie that Jesus cannot and will not set us free. The enemy wants to separate us from the love of God through a web of lies that are often rooted in a childhood wound. This is not the end of the story. The end of the story is that we have victory through the blood of Jesus. The end of the story is that when Jesus sets us free, the Lord will then empower us to spread his truth and his healing message in order to set others free as well. The Gospel is first inwardly focused and then outwardly focused.

“The end of the story is that we have victory through the blood of Jesus.”

MW: What are some organizations that are important to this work?

VJ: There are so many organizations doing amazing work in this field! I have included a list of a few organizations with links to their websites. These organizations are leading the way in the fight against human trafficking through awareness, prevention, residential, and outreach services.

Polaris https://polarisproject.org
A21 https://www.a21.org
Refuge for Women www.refugeforwomen.org
Selah Freedom https://www.selahfreedom.com
International Justice Mission https://www.ijm.org
Free the Slaves https://www.freetheslaves.net
Not for Sale https://www.notforsalecampaign.org
Thorn https://www.thorn.org
Shared Hope International https://sharedhope.org
Agape International Missions Agape International Missions

MW: Thank you to Victoria who took time out of her busy schedule to talk to us and educate us on this important topic. May we all continue to commit ourselves to breaking down every form of bondage. We stand for freedom under the banner of the blood of Christ and His ministry of love. 

WE STAND FOR FREEDOM

JordanAbout Victoria:
Victoria Jordan is a pastor’s wife, mother, and sex trafficking survivor advocate. She has worked in the field of anti-human trafficking in the context of prevention, awareness, and directly with survivors in a residential setting. She oversees a safe house for survivors of sex trafficking that is operated by Selah Freedom. She has a masters degree in social work from Baylor University, where she specialized in anti-human trafficking social work. She has been married for 5 years to her loving husband who is one of the pastors on staff at Relevant Church in Tampa, FL. Together they have one child, Hazael Jordan.

For more Victoria: @mrsvicjordan

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