God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, calling the people of Israel to lead a life pursuing justice for the vulnerable and oppressed:
“Is this not the fast that I choose: To release the bonds of wickedness, to undo the ropes of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke?” – Isaiah 58:6
This call to pursue justice is for everyone who claims the name of Christ today, not just for Old Testament Israel. Too often we as Christians overlook an essential part of God’s heart: freedom for the captives. While we would like to think differently, captivity is a problem which is still prevalent today.
As an Ambassador of Hope for the Christian organization Shared Hope International, I work to prevent human trafficking by raising awareness about this horrific crime.
If you were to encounter someone being robbed of their God-given dignity through trafficking, would you be able to recognize and report it? And what simple steps can you take to prevent those you love from falling into this destructive market?
What is Human Trafficking?
Before we can stop it, we must first be able to answer the question: what is human trafficking? The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act recognizes two forms of human trafficking: labor trafficking and sex trafficking.
Forced labor is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age. Source: Department of Justice
Note that force, fraud, or coercion is not necessary for a minor to be a victim of sex trafficking. Under federal law, ANY child engaging in a commercial sex act is a victim of trafficking.
Warning Signs of Labor Trafficking
Labor trafficking may be happening to a person or people who:
· Feel pressured by their employer to stay in a job or situation they want to leave
· Owe money to an employer or recruiter and/or not being paid what they were promised or are owed
· Do not have control of their passport or other identity documents
· Are living and working in isolated conditions, largely cut off from interaction with others or support systems
· Appear to be monitored by another person when talking or interacting with others
· Are living in dangerous, overcrowded, or inhumane conditions provided by an employer
· Are being threatened by their boss with deportation or other harm
· Are working in dangerous conditions, without proper safety gear, training, adequate breaks, and other protections
Source: Polaris Project
Warning Signs of Sex Trafficking
Sex trafficking may be happening to a person or people if:
· They want to stop participating in selling or trading sex but feel scared or unable to leave
· They disclose that they were reluctant to engage in selling sex but that someone pressured them into it
· They live where they work or are transported by guards between home and workplace
· They are children who live with or are supported by or are dependent on a family member with a substance abuse problem or who is abusive in other ways
· They have a pimp or manager in the sex trade
· They work in an industry where it may be common to be pressured into performing sex acts for money, such as a strip club, illicit cantina, go-go bar, or illicit massage business
· They have an older, or simply controlling parent, guardian, romantic partner, or “sponsor” who will not allow you to meet or speak with the person alone or monitors their movements, spending, and/or communications
Source: Polaris Project
How to Report Trafficking
Now that you know what human trafficking is, and some signs to watch out for, what can you do about it?
If you see something that looks like trafficking, it’s best to report it to both national and local sources.
Call your local law enforcement first, then contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888, or text BEFREE to 233733. If the supposed victim is a minor, call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678) or 8) or visit https://www.missingkids.org/. The faster you can report the situation, the better! So don’t hesitate or second-guess yourself.
How to Prevent Trafficking
Though rescuing those caught in the snare of trafficking is vital, it is equally important to prevent women, men, and children from being trafficked in the first place. Here are four simple ways to spread awareness and prevent trafficking.
1. Tell Others
“Open your mouth for the people who cannot speak, for the rights of all the unfortunate.” – Proverbs 31:8
Jo Lembo, Director of Faith Initiatives for Shared Hope International, says, “The more people who know the signs of trafficking, and who know how to effectively respond, the smaller the world is for those who would buy and sell our children.”
Tell your family members the signs of trafficking. Share this article with a friend. Become a volunteer for an anti-trafficking organization to get the word out and stop the forces of evil from preying on the vulnerable.
2. Be a Friend
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17
One reason that victims, especially teenagers, get trapped in the first place is that they think no one understands them, cares for them, or loves them. Connect with the broken and hurting people around you: foster kids, the outcasts, the bullied, and other at-risk teens you know.
3. Post Freedom Stickers
“Rescue the weak and needy; save them from the hand of the wicked.” – Psalm 82:4
Freedom stickers are a project of the anti-trafficking organization In Our Backyard. Inside a restroom stall is often the only place a trafficking victim is alone and able to ask for help. Stickers with the National Human Trafficking Hotline can bring freedom and save lives. Even if a victim never comes in contact with a Freedom Sticker, seeing the sticker brings awareness to this devastating crime.
4. Share the Gospel
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” – Mark 16:15
What does sharing the Gospel have to do with ending human trafficking? A lot, actually. As noted above, low self-worth is a disadvantage that traffickers—particularly sex traffickers—exploit. The healing power of the Good News of God’s love and grace is often underestimated, but knowing Jesus, and seeing His love displayed through friends, can be the difference between victim and victor. Survivors testify to the power of faith in restoration— and let’s not forget, a heart touched by the Gospel is impacted not only in this life, but also in eternity.Knowing Jesus, and seeing His love displayed through friends, can be the difference between victim and victor. Click To Tweet
You care about fighting the “forces of wickedness” (Ephesians 6:12), or you wouldn’t be reading this article. On behalf of every life you will change in the war against trafficking, thank you. May you trust the God of justice and mercy (Micah 6:8) as you stand up for the least of these.