We don’t like to think of ourselves as a country where sex slaves live behind walls in our town.
Much less appealing is the idea that we’re accomplices in the sexual slavery in the United States.
Since it’s National Child Abuse Prevention Month (between 500 million and 1.5 billion children are estimated to experience violence annually), since our local paper recently covered a sex assault charge perpetrated by a Christian school teacher and pastor (yes, even in our small “safe” town of Steamboat Springs) it is time to uncover what we can do to prevent sexual abuse.
We can all make major changes. If you don’t care for the reasons, you can skip to my nine steps at the end.
I read God in a Brothel: An Undercover Journey into Sex Trafficking and Rescue by Daniel Walker who worked four years as a undercover emancipator.
Sexual slavery isn’t just a Thailand thing.
Jane is from Kansas, her mother was a prostitute and drug addict. When Jane was six years old her mother’s pimp began molesting her and her sister. Jane was raped by her mum’s pimp when she was seven. At thirteen he began selling her on the streets. At 13, she saw the huge demand for her services, regular customers paid $600-$700 a session for sex. Jane used the money to pay for rent and care for her younger sister. When Jane’s younger sister was eight, Jane’s mother sold her to another pimp to fund her drug habit. Jane was fourteen at the time. She ran way to Phoenix and began work as a stripper. She got pregnant and continued working the street her entire pregnancy.
Paraphrased from Daniel Walker’s God in a Brothel (IVP, 2011).
Is Jane a sex slave? Maybe not technically. But I’ve met girls who’ve faced lives like this. They’ve been invited by a friend to the camp where I’m speaking. They come to speak to me from the shadows and weep until they are exhausted. Often they don’t know what to do, they’re in the foster system, or they’re corseted in a religiously abusive situation where they cannot breath a word about what they’ve experienced.
Consider Jeni who traveled to the United States from Seoul after being offered a well-paying sales job. She arrived in the land of the free to discover the sale was of her body and her employers were sophisticated criminals. Jeni was shuttled between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. She began work at 10 am and worked until no more willing customers wanted her body. She had no freedom of movement, she couldn’t even go on a date without requesting permission from her “employers.”
Paraphrased from Daniel Walker’s God in a Brothel (IVP, 2011).
Interview with Daniel Walker
Last week, I won a drawing to participate in a conference call to ask Daniel Walker some questions.
After a celebration jig, I prepared this question: What can Christians do practically in our churches to prevent sex trade in the USA?
What follows is my attempt to re-create Daniel Walker’s answer.
I don’t look to those who hold the keys of power in the state to change sex slavery. Never have governments said so much and done so little.
Sunday School teachers, mothers, fathers, youth workers, Teach the story of Moses. Egypt is not simply a metaphor for God saving his people from sin, it’s a story of the God of Israel fighting against slavery. Teach your children to stand up against injustice in the smallest forms.
They don’t have to fear the world, God gave them courage to step up for justice, to notice the smeared, the bullied and stand in the gap. Standing up against a bully is as much a part of discipleship as anything else.
Women’s groups in the United Kingdom chained themselves to the city halls to demand the vote. Why aren’t women’s groups doing something?
(My heart beat faster when I heard this. Women did do amazing things to get the vote. Women created an embarrassing ruckus and used their bodies and dignity to go on hunger strikes, to get attention and secure the right to vote to themselves. Why aren’t we doing more for our sisters? for children in this country?)
Men’s groups need to do more than go on wild adventures into the woods.
The United States has a history where groups in your church (Walker is a resident of New Zealand) established the Underground Railroad to rescue slaves. You didn’t wait for your government to save them. The people of the churches organized a movement.
My pen was smoking by the time he finished.
So what can you and I do about sex slavery?
- Let’s start simple: lead a book club on Daniel Walker’s God in a Brothel. Use the discussion guide.
- Teach the story of the God of Israel rescuing the slaves of Egypt. Yes, use Moses on a flannel graph. Share how God cares about injustice, redemption and rescue and wants us to fight for hope with his help.
- Help the men in your life face their own objectification of young women. Why did thirteen year old Jane attract so many adult customers wanting sex? Why are men sexually drawn to younger women/girls? The allure of girls for sexual partners is an idea grown from child pornography and media pressure that girls are sexually more appealing than women. Men are taught to believe this. Hugo Schwyzer offers an appropriate critic on men who prefer girls to women “Can a Man Change his Sexual Attraction to Teens?“. Read Schwyzer’s diagnosis, then consider inviting the men you love into a safe conversation about how media shapes their own desires for younger women. Refuse to berate, express shock or disgust as they share. Douse their shame with compassion. For men to be fully human they must be safe to be vulnerable.
- Think carefully about vacation trips (are you on Spring Break, think about it now) to any major metropolitan center (e.g. Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York, Las Vegas, etc). I’m not saying don’t go. Instead, consider how your presence can be part of breaking the cycle of poverty and greed that fuels the Adult Entertainment industry. Consider how you can vacation AND partner with a national organization like Treasures who shows you how to adopt a strip club and change lives. Or accompany JC’s Girls in Las Vegas to offer another story. Don’t visit big cities without considering how you’re part of the solution to sex slavery.
- Give money specifically to end sex slavery. Consider Compassion International, Hagar International or NVader, Walker’s organization created to educate local law enforcement on stopping sex slavery in their own backyards. Or if you’re interested in casualty prevention, give to Soulation where we offer counseling, one-on-one chatting, regular resources and safe places to ask questions about identity, sexuality and God.
- Invite someone who is not in your socio-economic circles into your home. This summer we’re inviting a young woman who is facing her parent’s divorce and struggling to make ends meet to be our intern in White Woods. We’re offering her a place to stay and she is watching our son. We need her help, she needs our family.
- Offer yourself as a mentor to one high school student (talk with the youth pastor or counselor at your local church or school) invite yourself into their life by buying a meal and LISTENING. Give them your cell, learn to text better and let them educate you on their life. Discover how difficult it is today to be a young man or woman who wants truth, dignity and love. Battle alongside them.
- Ask God to bring one person into your life that needs help to escape the cycle of poverty. Read Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution in preparation. This month our family has invited a young woman who’s lost her mother to alcoholism and is fighting to keep herself afloat to help us with childcare needs. She’s bright and about to head off to college, but she is not from the “typical” babysitter pool. She is helping us, we are helping her.
- Talk to your spouse about what makes women valuable. Of course, I recommend you read Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home and begin a small group to discuss further. I think what we think about the value of women in our churches and homes dictates the kind of men and women we raise, the kind of courage they will have when they face abuse of any kind. How will your children respond when they meet a stripper, will they see them as a object, a project, or do they see a image-bearer? If this makes you surprised you need to download a free copy (yes free THIS WEEK!) of Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk. Go, right now. Stop reading this already and get a copy of the way to have conversations with people different from you and STILL talk about the God you love.
- Any more ideas?
p.s. I did not receive God in a Brothel for free, nor was I contacted to endorse Walker’s book.
p.p.s. Next week, writing on Sexual Pleasure, Pain and Fifty Shades of Grey.