Human Trafficking Awareness Month: What’s More Powerful than a Loaded .357?

When I first learned that human trafficking is a modern-day reality, it pierced my heart. I heard about a girl forced into sex many times a day. I heard about a boy chipping bricks for ten hours a day without compensation.

I know so many others have felt the same: the ugly truth first disturbed me, then ignited a powerful desire to do battle against it

But also like so many others, I found over time that it isn’t easy for ordinary people to battle trafficking. The FBI can kick down the doors of brothels. Great organizations like IJM can prosecute traffickers. And all of us can support this work with funds and prayers, and cheer it on with advocacy t-shirts and social media.

But how to engage directly was less obvious.

The long, slow, rarely-dramatic work of justice that comes especially through personal involvement and sacrifice can often be elusive when it comes to countering human trafficking.

But it is there, often right under our nose. In fact, any of us can engage the fight against human trafficking – personally and directly.

guns_firearms_smithwesson_703328_hHere’s a hard reality: no one on the planet is more vulnerable to trafficking than a child growing up without parents.

That includes many of the 400,000 children in US foster care today. It includes millions of orphans around the globe. Without the nurture and protection parents ought to provide, these children make the perfect target for traffickers.

That’s why, in a 2013 raid by the FBI, 60 percent of child victims of sex trafficking rescued were foster youth. It’s why a study in Moldova found that children growing up in institutions are ten times more vulnerable to trafficking than other children. (See this BLOG POST for more sobering studies on this reality.)

As noted in an article this week by a friend I greatly respect, “Human trafficking happens here in Virginia”:

The foster care and youth group home community is particularly vulnerable to human trafficking because of the instability of their situation. And sadly, traffickers often target young individuals who have an unstable life, and have been abused, neglected or exploited. For example, a recent Los Angeles Probation Department survey revealed that about 60% of the 174 children arrested for prostitution were foster children. Youth that “age-out” of the foster care system, typically at age 18, are among the most preyed upon for trafficking. They often are in need of money, have a deep desire for belonging, and traffickers believe no one will look for these young people if they go missing.

What does this tell us? Simply this: one of the most potent way to thwart human trafficking is to provide a consistent, caring adult relationship for a child that has none. As a foster family. As a mentor. As an adoptive parent. As a CASA. By supporting orphan care projects globally. Perhaps just as a steady friend.

It may be less dramatic than kicking down the gates of a trafficker’s headquarters. (I’ll confess, I’d still like to do that someday.) But simply being consistent and caring in the life of a child may say “hands off” to traffickers as powerfully as any loaded .357.


Photo Source:  Flickr.