Wrecked. Anguished. Destroyed. Devastated. Shattered. Crushed. Broken.
Normally, putting words together is something I can do fairly easily, but I cannot find words powerful enough to truly express and show my feelings after I watched last night an amazing documentary called Nefarious:Merchant of Souls. Yes, it is as ominous as it sounds, as this documentary exposes the world of human trafficking for what it really is, and it is aptly named. No other film ever made me cry as much as this, except maybe The Passion of the Christ.
I wasn’t completely unprepared. I have been researching this atrocity for a while now. I knew it would be difficult to watch and know the truth, but I wanted to press on anyway. At one point in the film, I had to ask my husband to pause it because at that moment, I could not go further emotionally. They were just finishing up with their journey into Cambodia, and it involved a pair of blood stained pajamas for a girl the age of seven. SEVEN! They had been found after a raid, I believe.
Once you know something like this exists, you cannot ignore it, which is why so many people choose to remain ignorant on the matter. Yes, I said ignorant. That doesn’t mean people are stupid. It means they are uneducated in that area, and in this case, by choice. But this cannot be ignored any longer. Approximately 27 million people are enslaved around the world today. About 80% of them are trafficked for sexual exploitation, and an alarming number of them are minors. In fact, in the US, the average age of children trafficked for sexual exploitation is 13-14. I’d like to give credit to the source where I got these numbers, but I’ve seen them time and again in the process of my research, from varied sources.
I remember learning about the abolitionist movement which existed before and throughout the Civil War, and I just figured that was history. After all, it ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, right? But slavery is more rampant today than it was even during the African slave trade.
Many people don’t want to acknowledge that all the prostitution in the world, both “legalized” and not, is a result of trafficking. Sure, there are some women who seem to go into the “industry” willingly, but about 95% of them also come from a background of sexual abuse and little to no self worth, which means their vulnerabilities/weaknesses/past injuries were exploited. Most women are tricked, coerced, or even kidnapped and forced into prostitution because no little girl ever says, “I want to sell my body when I grow up,” and demand from sexual perverts is high. Human trafficking is the second most lucrative trade in the world. After all, pimps can sell the same merchandise time and again.
Except they aren’t selling the same merchandise. No. Every time that girl, or young woman (or even boy or young man- it is not as common, but does happen) is sold, she loses another part of herself, of her soul. So she is not ever the same, losing her identity and her value sometimes up to 30 times a day.
Trafficking is like an onion. It has intricate layers, and it stinks! Whether it’s legalized or not, if it exists in a country, you can be sure there are payoffs happening to government officials somewhere up the chain.
The first glimpse into this idea I think I ever knew of was in a fictionalized tale I read for my Women in Literature class back in college. Comfort Woman by Nora Okja Keller is a fictionalized story of a Korean woman who had been sold by her own sister to be a “Comfort Woman” to Japanese soldiers during WWII. The conditions were terrible and I was shocked by what I read. I knew the story was fiction, but it had to be based off some truth, right? Sometimes I would randomly think back on that.
Then I watched this video by Love 146 in church one Sunday, and it reminded me of that novel, only this was definitely real.
Since then I slowly began to research this modern day slavery. I even was part of a 200 mile running relay race where my team decided to use the race to raise awareness and funding for Love 146. My husband and I began to feel compelled by God towards doing more, but we haven’t really known what or how to do anything. The mission trip I am about to embark on to Costa Rica will be a chance for me to work with the Rahab Foundation, an organization helping survivors from the sex trade to recover and rebuild their lives.
Like I said, I’ve felt for a while now that there is a future for me in this fight somewhere, alongside my husband. But when I watched that documentary last night, all the little questions and doubts I had been having about whether it was a real calling or not completely left me, to the point where I could almost physically feel it (yeah, I know that’s weird). I know that I cannot imagine myself doing anything else with the rest of my life but helping to put an end to this worldwide crime and to do what I can to work with these girls and women and to give them hope…
to give them God…
to share with them my favorite scripture… Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)
One of the women in the film who had been prostituted, but was rebuilding her life mentioned something about being a princess because her father is God, the King of kings. The only way most of these women can ever get out of the mindset they have been put into is to have hope, and for most of them the only place they can find hope that deep is through Jesus. Maybe you think that’s just a bunch of crazy religious fanatical stuff, but why is it people always have the instinct, whether they think they believe in God or not, to cry out to Him in their times of need?
If you want to learn more about this topic, there are countless organizations out there dedicated to this cause, including the ones I linked to already. Please find one close to you and see if you can help. Also, if this inspires you at all, please share it. We need to raise up an army of abolitionists who will fight for those who currently have no voice. Each of these “victims” or “survivors” has a story. Each is a living, breathing, feeling person who should have hopes and dreams. What gives any one person the right to put any other human being through something so inhumane?