It’s happening to children in the streets of Bangladesh. It’s happening to American girls in the alleyways. It’s happening to innocent kids in Texas.
Young people across the world are being used as sex slaves and labor workers. It’s not a foreign issue or passing fad. It’s here, now and needs to be stopped.
Organizations all over the world dedicate funds and time to fight this prevalent issue.
Director of Traffick Stop Dr. Tomi Grover believes that ending human and sex trafficking is a process that her group tackles four ways: prevention, intervention, education and restoration.
Paul Yates serves as director of involvement for Tiny Hands International, a group that works primarily in Nepal to uncover slave traders and sexual abusers. Because slave transfers occur over country lines, Tiny Hands seeks to prevent the problem at its start.
“Border control is the greatest investment for us to protect girls from the injustice of being sold. We have monitoring stations where our staff stands on the roadside and watches girls come across, day in and day out,” he said. “If we feel that there is potential trafficking going on, we have the authority to pull them aside and ask them questions and determine whether we think trafficking is an issue.”
Supporting free trade is another way to actively stop forced labor. Organizations like Not for Sale employ rescued Cambodians who make T-shirts of all types. Large scale changes start with making small, simple and practical decisions.
Sophomore public relations major Andrea Hale serves as secretary and head of marketing and promotions for UMHB’s own association combating human trafficking, Freedom Movement.
“When I first got involved, I assumed that overseas, far away, these things were going on. But there is stuff not only in the big cities in Texas, but in Temple. How close to home is that? It’s a reality for us, right here.” she said.
Though the universality of the issue can be overwhelming, Grover encourages people to discover their own gifts and ask how they can use their talents to strengthen the fight against trafficking right now.
“Raise the standard of what you allow in your life. It’s as simple as knowing where you buy your clothes from. Did child slaves manufacture the clothes on your back? There is an app for that. By being aware of these things, you yourself can take a stand against the abomination of the slave industry,” she said.
Freedom Movement holds awareness events for Belton and surrounding communities. By keeping in contact with similar organizations, the group hopes to give people the most current and helpful information they can.
“It has been an incredible experience. Seeing the response from students to our new organization is amazing. The support and turnout at our first event was encouraging. We really just want people to know about the issue,” Hale said.
Educating the public about the difference between prostitution and sexual slavery is important in dealing with the issue. Furthermore, young people can refuse to condone the American philosophy on sex.
“Culture has become integral in telling women their value. The media tells boys that the value of women is in their sexuality. For this generation to address this fact and fight against it, it would be huge. It’s not acceptable to treat women or men as sex slaves. That’s not what God created us for,” Grover said.
Tiny Hands instructs the people of Nepal by first building relationships. With the appropriate knowledge, Nepali men and women can identify sexual and physical abuse in their communities and put a stop to it.
“To cut the head off the beast, we have to expose and educate people about all of the terrible things happening to these girls,” Yates said.
What about education here in the United States? In Texas, Belton and even at UMHB? It’s as simple as doing things with purpose.
“No Shave November is coming up. What’s the point of that? Men can grow their beards for a cause. When people ask them about their facial hair, tell people it’s for the fight against human trafficking. When you grow hair while sharing why, you can make a difference right where you are,” Yates said.
Even after the abuse ends, the rescued need care. The Tiny Hands team recently freed a 14-year-old girl from her worst nightmare, giving her life back.
Yates said, “Usually, we hope to collect enough information to inform authorities to infiltrate and tear an operation down. We usually don’t do rescues. But with this story, it was incredible to follow the operation on Twitter. Our people got to celebrate this girl’s fifteenth birthday in freedom. It’s amazing,”
What can be done
While human trafficking and sexual slavery may seem an impossible adversary, they can be stopped.
“We can’t be ignorant. There are victims of our own, here. Our country needs to be aware of what this really is. It’s not kids making bad choices or being promiscuous. Sex trafficking is something totally different and needs to be brought to an end,” Yates said.
Whether it’s educating men and women on biblical sexuality, taking initiative to tweet and Facebook for the cause, fundraising or tackling the issue head on, people worldwide have the power to make a difference.
“God is gloriously ruining people for this cause. He is building in them a compassionate response to the issues of trafficking… and it’s a personal choice to do something about it.” Grover said.
Locally and internationally, organizations spread awareness with hopes of changing governmental policy, making the punishment for trafficking more severe.
Hale said, “It’s overwhelming… but God is in this. The biggest thing is awareness. Human trafficking is prevalent, it’s common, and it’s a huge issue. People need to realize that something needs to be done. We want to get people on board with us so that they are not only aware, but wanting to change it.”