I don’t know what other people do when they can’t sleep and it’s still the wee hours of the morning, but when I couldn’t sleep this morning I decided to finally watch a documentary about human trafficking.
The movie, Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, was loaned to me by a friend and ministry partner who also works with women who have been abused and sold for their bodies.
I wanted to turn the movie off as soon as I put it in my computer. But I knew I needed to watch. I had already put it off for two weeks because I just didn’t want to hear anymore stories about rape, abduction, abuse, and hell on earth. I needed to watch because I know trafficking is real. I work with women every week who have been involved in, broken, and destroyed by the sex industry.
An ex-trafficker described the situation for the women as being treated “worse than dogs” – locked in a room and watched while they eat, sleep, are forced into sex, beaten, and threatened daily.
The part that made me most sick was the concept of “The Breaking Ground” apartments. This is where girls are first taken to be physically, emotionally, sexually, and soulfully broken in order to be “groomed” for the business.
Dan Allender, a well-known psychologist whom I greatly admire and have had the privilege of meeting, is interviewed in the film about the mental and emotional state of those who are trafficked. The reality is horrifying. Can you imagine what it would do to your brain to be told you had to do whatever a stranger wanted you to do, no matter how despicable, and also be required to smile while it all goes down?
The testimonies of the men who traffic and sell women are equally as horrifying. They have become so numb to what they are doing, one pimp equates ordering a woman to “ordering a pizza”. One man and his wife tell the true story of when they went into a “karaoke bar” in Thailand to rescue girls from the industry by “buying them” and then offering them safety, recovery, and a new life. The problem? They could not take the girls to safety without the permission of their mothers and all of the mothers refused to let their daughters leave the sex trade industry because they had sold their daughters into slavery themselves. Sex slaves don’t just exist in Amsterdam and Thailand. The film spends a significant amount of time unveiling the “Glamorized Sex Trade” in Las Vegas, Nevada. It may look prettier, but it is just as dark and destructive.
I hug women every week who have worked as prostitutes in the very city where I live. I hear their feigned toughness but see and feel the pain and brokenness in their eyes and stories. The argument of “choice” is just not valid. The average age of entering prostitution in the U.S. is 14. I have sat with people for over 1,000 hours, read stacks of books, watched documentaries, and listened to countless stories of women in prostitution. Not a single one of them chose to sell their bodies for sex. Not even the “high end” workers. They were abducted, sold, abused, forced, or told they had no other choice in order to “survive”.
We need to be aware of this horrifying truth. There is so much darkness in this world, and this is something I am particularly passionate about. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center is a site that offers suggestions and resources for getting involved and working to stop what is happening every day and a lot closer to you than you may believe. You may also check out Exodus Cry – the organization that produced this film. There are many other online resources as well. Just search for “end human trafficking”. In Sweden, women caught in prostitution are not arrested. They are offered healing and restoration. The pimps and “Johns” (men who purchase prostitutes) are incarcerated. But the men involved need redemption as well. One of the former traffickers interviewed in the film referred to himself as a captive as well, just a captive to something different but just as dark as being trafficked. What a radical idea! And what a redemptive one.
Whether you are a man, woman, mother, father, daughter, sister, brother, son, friend, or acquaintance, I know you are passionate about the life of someone. Just imagine if you could save someone you love by using your voice. It can be as simple as teaching your kids to respect their own bodies and the bodies and hearts of others. Speaking up for the voicelessness doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Most of us have the opportunity to do it in our daily lives. You don’t have to be a therapist, a documentary maker, a celebrity, a missionary, or a famous speaker to speak truth into people’s lives. You have the power to make change happen.