[Exactly a year ago today, I wrote this post and it got shared almost 100 times on Facebook alone. A lot has changed since then -in my heart and my personal participation in the fight against injustice. But nothing has changed with regards to how much this breaks my heart and my desire for people to become aware and DO something. You all spread this post like wildfire once before – let’s do it again?]
This contains graphic language that might shock and offend you and if it does, I am not sorry. It is also my longest post ever but please, please, please read it.
If you’ve had any form of serious conversation with me recently, you’d know that the issue of sex trafficking is something I am passionate about. It is the issue I am convinced – at least as convinced as I can be right now – that God put me on this earth to be a part of solving. It is the issue that makes me weep like a broken-hearted lover, and yet makes me so mad I can’t formulate words so then I just scream and scream and scream at the ceiling/God.
For some reason, this topic has come up in almost every setting I’ve been in over the last few weeks. While I know it’s an uncomfortable subject that most people would rather avoid, I’ve been discovering more and more that I’m not the only one my age passionate about the issue of sex trafficking. Thank the good Lord in heaven. I’m so glad more people are talking about it. I’m so glad more people are distraught and heartbroken over it. I keep praying that more people will have broken, heavy hearts about this issue.
Today, I went to an event put on by the Not for Sale CSU chapter. It was called “Trafficked: A Glimpse into the Reality of a Modern-Day Slave”. Honestly, I was dreading what this event would do to my already fragile heart. Turns out, the dread in the pit of my stomach wasn’t unwarranted. After waiting in line outside for half an hour, we were eventually ushered into the building. I was clutching my chest to keep my heart from racing right out.
First, we were taken into a room where the seven of us in our group met our “trafficker” for the first time. He seemed nice – welcomed us to America and told us of the wonderful job opportunities he had lined up for us. We were going to be working for prestigious companies with a good chance of climbing the ladder pretty quickly. “Are you excited? Get excited!” he said to us. No one made a sound – we knew what was coming, or so we thought.
Our trafficker led us back into the hallway and to another door. As we were ushered into this new room, we each received an orange name tag with a new identity and country of origin. I was Khansee from Laos. As he handed us our new identities, he yelled, “This is who you are, you worthless piece of shit. Now get in the fucking room and keep your eyes on the ground!” We piled into the room and sat on the floor, eyes glued to the ground in fear. There was a woman behind a desk with papers in front of her. She told us all to hold our hands out and she stamped us. We were sold; branded. Our trafficker asked who the virgins among the group were (to which the other man in the room randomly selected three girls from our group as the virgins) and ordered them to go get their picture taken behind a curtain. Once they were done, we were booted into the hallway and sent to another room.
The door was shut behind us and on the television screen in the corner of the room, there were images flickering on and off. Eventually I realized we were supposed to be watching this video. It was of a woman who was being sexually violated, telling us of who she used to be until this became her life; begging us to help her. When the video was done, our trafficker began his terrifying speech. We were called everything from “just tits and vags” to “cunts with legs”. We were called cattle – worse than cattle, in fact, because they just straight up killed cattle. But not us. We were told that we were never to look anyone in the eye – no one was here to love us or care for us. No, they were only here to fuck us. He told us that if we even attempted to escape they would hunt us down, find us, beat us up, bring us back and then find our family members. He said they would rape our brothers and sisters while our parents watched and then they would dismember them. We were told that the men who would come knock on our door would be rough – we might come back with gouged eyes, bruises, broken parts. And it was our responsibility to make sure we were presentable for the next customer. If we tried to fight off the customers, they would hold us down and make us comply. Then he spoke specifically to the virgins – he told them that they were a highly priced commodity so if they came back after their first time not completely stretched out, he would stitch them back together and sell them off again to the highest bidder. As he said this, he pointed to torn out newspaper pages with threaded needles spread out on them. This process would continue until the girls couldn’t be passed off as virgins anymore – they were too stretched out and used. He told us that maybe we didn’t think we could enjoy “fucking 60 men a day, or sucking big, fat cocks” but we would come to love it. He threatened to chain us to the one bed in the room if we didn’t comply. “Don’t make me use it,” he said with a creepy laugh as he pointed to the chains.
He left us to sit for a minute until there was loud pounding on the door and we were herded into the next room. In this room, we were sweatshop workers. We were told we would only be given a 30-minute lunch and bathroom break in the day. Otherwise, we were to sit in our spots lacing shoes without looking up or speaking. The man in charge of us would randomly yell at people who weren’t doing it right. Once, the guy sitting next me complained that he hadn’t eaten all day and said he would like a lunch break. The trafficker knocked him to the ground and kicked him until…he never came back. Then he asked, leaning in right next to me, “Now, would anyone else like a break?” Silence. “Good.”
After this room, we were herded into the last room where we were sold as child soldiers. It was pitch black and all we heard were men screaming at us to line up against the wall with our eyes on the floor. Then a flashlight was turned on and we were forced by armed men to kneel with our hands behind our heads. I couldn’t tell you what this man was yelling about, I was trying to stop myself from bursting into tears and visibly trembling. Just to prove that he wasn’t all talk, he shot the girl beside me. Then he chose me out of the line up to be his “whistle blower”. My job was to scream as loud as I could when I saw enemy troops so they would kill me first and my death would help the rest of my group to know the location of the enemy. He asked one of the other girls in the line up if she knew the girl standing beside her. She said no. He handed her a gun and asked her to kill the girl beside her or he would kill her. She did it. And then we were done.
My friend Caitlin and I didn’t speak for the first few minutes back into “reality”. There were no words. They tried to ask us questions about our experience and I couldn’t give an answer, knowing that the moment I opened my mouth, I would convulse into tears. I tried to keep it together, until I couldn’t hold the tears back any longer and I asked Caitlin if we could leave.
I’m a 22-year-old woman, and I had never been talked to or treated like that. I was legitimately terrified and they didn’t even touch us. In reality, the girls in those brothels are usually between the ages of 5 and 12. I am 22 and I couldn’t handle it. Think about a 5-year-old. And those little babies don’t just get threatening speeches, they are physically abused too. They are chained to their beds.What I went through today cannot even be compared with what actually goes on by the minute around the world. I got a painless “SOLD” stamp on my hand; they get branded with hot rods, or tattoos. They spend their days and night staring at the floor or ceiling while some filthy pig takes his turn. Today. Right now. This very second. And what are we doing?
Feeling overwhelmed is not the answer. There’s work to be done. Delegating the task to people who are “more passionate about it” is also not the answer. I find it hard to believe that we are to accept that some people are just called to not care and live in suburbia all their days while some people are called to go. That’s a cop out answer if you ask me. Go read Isaiah 58, will you?
God made us all with differing passions and desires and interests. But when something is so pervasive, when it’s the second largest crime in the world, when the largest human trafficking location in the US is right here in Denver, CO, when there are millions of people enslaved while we worry about the latest fashions and whether or not we’ll ever get married, when it is something that breaks our Father’s heart,how can we look away?
You might not be called to “go”, but you can raise awareness with whatever your passions and interest are. You can pray for people’s hearts to break and for God to raise up an army of warriors who will fight for justice and redemption. You can conquer the corporate world and give your money to this cause. You can talk about it until people get irritated and uncomfortable. You can give your life for this cause. You can go to law school so you can fight for the rights of these forgotten ones. There’s so much we can do. But please, don’t just sit there and sympathize. Get up and do something. Let’s give the gospel hands and feet. Let’s not just talk about the Good News – let’s show the Good News through our actions.
Maybe the Trans-Atlantic slave trade lasted so long because people delegated the responsibility of fighting it to others who were “more passionate”. Maybe sex slavery still exists and will continue to exist because we’re too comfortable and the thought of little girls being forced to have sex all day and all night is too much for our delicate senses. Surely other people who are much tougher and braver can go fight. We’ll stay here at home and feel sad for a few minutes whenever the issue is raised, and then go shopping to lift our spirits.
Tonight, 300 youth will be trafficked an hour away from me in Denver. I’ll be asleep in my bed in my nice condo, my outfit for church tomorrow already planned out. No one will force me to have sex with them, no one will beat me up till I’m bruised and broken, no one will call me a “cunt with legs.” It’ll be easy for me to forget those 300 people in Denver tonight. But I’m praying He won’t let me forget. I’m praying He won’t let you forget. I’m praying He bombards you constantly with this issue until your heart breaks and you begin to care. In the same way God chooses to use us to spread His love, he chooses to use us to fight for the things that matter to Him. Will we join His army or look away?