Many years ago I was intently listening to a Lenten Service sermon when the priest counseled his listeners with a statement that I remember to this day. “We will be judged not so much by what we do, but what we don’t do,” I remember it because it was true and it resounded with my soul. Since that day many years ago I have heard the same words spoken again and again. To be honest, I had probably heard those words spoken prior to that day, but I wasn’t spiritually mature enough to respond. My mind was filled with “Mike talk.” It is a problem that I share with many people that do not hear or, in some cases, who hear but ignore or do not recognize the voice of God when encountered.
Therefore, I humbly extend an invitation to each of you to thoughtfully consider, if only for a moment, the possibility that you have ignored the Father’s calling to act not once, but countless times? I have certainly been guilty of disregarding His call, and I am sure that some of you may not have responded when called. Now my challenge to you this day as you listen to Father McVey speak and I tell you about what I know is that you consider the possibility that what you are hearing is God whispering to you to act against this most horrific crime against humanity, the enslavement of another human being.
In 2012 President Obama made an important statement concerning human trafficking:
“It ought to concern every person because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name—modern slavery.” 1
What I decided to do with the president’s message is to substitute “man” or male in the appropriate places in the text. The statement immediately becomes gender-specific as it should well be for every man who has a strong desire for equality and justice. Consequently, the statement now reads: It ought to concern every man because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every male-owned business because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every man in every nation because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name—modern slavery.
Labor Trafficking: 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.2
Sex Trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion. Or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.3
Human trafficking encompasses every corner of the world. According to the International Justice Mission, there are more than 36 million people enslaved around the world in a variety of operations.4 Trafficking involves many facets including the trafficking of people for their organs, girls, and boys for sexual exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation in tourism5 including the purchase of children for $7,000 to $14,000 each to be specifically used by ISIS as suicide bombers6. UNICEF has also identified a high level of exploitation occurring in areas, such as prostitution, massage parlors, pornography, forced marriage, sweat-shop work, begging, armed services, and migrant farming. Eighty percent of labor trafficking stems from illegal immigrants that have come to the United States with a promise of employment and a better life including undocumented and documented immigrants, oppressed, marginalized populations that are targeted because of their vulnerability7.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, the businesses and services most commonly exploited by traffickers are:
- Advertising (Online and Print)
- Airlines, bus, rail and taxi companies
- Financial institutions, money transfer services, and informal cash transfers services
- Labor brokers, recruitment agencies, or independent recruiters
- Hospitality industry including hotels and motels
- Travel and visa/passport services
Some of the above are used to find victims on advertising sites, such as Craig’s List and Backpage (55% of internet child pornography comes from the United States), and trolling transportation terminals for victims. The fact is that traffickers are everywhere and will utilize legitimate business entities where they are able, to take advantage of immigrants, runaways, and individuals under duress to further their criminal pursuits. It is incumbent that these businesses acknowledge the existence of trafficking in their respective industries and take advantage of their unique standing to identify and report trafficking incidents. If they do, they will deny trafficker’s opportunities to work via legitimate organizations to advance their criminal enterprise.
Industries that benefit directly from the use of labor trafficking victims are agriculture, the services industry, and commercial industries. UNICEF has identified the 128 “worst” offenders and identified the goods that are most likely to be produced by child labor or forced labor, such as gold, sugar cane, coal, cotton, rice, tobacco, cocoa, diamonds, garments, coffee, bricks, and carpets.
A significant step beyond government legislative efforts to halt labor trafficking is to purchase “Fair Trade Certified Products.” Buying Fair Trade means that the laborer’s compensation is fair; they receive healthcare and have the collective bargaining power to negotiate safe work environments. Eliminating and or reducing the profit margin of the organizations supporting labor trafficking will adversely impact the criminal’s financial bottom line reducing their motivation to enslave individuals for monetary gain.
In the United States, we can become more cognizant of businesses that most often are the greatest source of using trafficked victims as a source of labor as identified by DOJ, FBI, National Human Trafficking Resource Center, etc.: small businesses, such as roofing companies, asphalt companies, nail and hair salons, hotels and motels, restaurants, agriculture, labor brokers, employers of domestic servants, mall kiosks, travelling sales crews or illegal businesses, such as drugs, arms trade or panhandling, etc. Many times legal businesses will use contracted workers and are unaware that they are using trafficking victims as a source of labor. Consequently, businesses, no matter their size, need to be aware of the legitimacy of laborers they used through sub-contractors by requesting employers to provide the worker’s credentials, such as passports, visas, green cards, I9’s, and vetting the providing contractor, if necessary.
Indicators that might indicate an individual is being trafficked: Do workers have identification? Is there a preponderance of non-English speaking workers with one individual speaking for the entire group? And is their movement closely monitored, such as being unable to leave the work area even to use the bathroom without an escort? To aid in identifying victims, I am providing some information cards that fit into a billfold, and brochures that you may take with you showing trafficking indicators and a hotline number for reporting suspicious activities.
I continue my paper by concentrating on sex trafficking, pornography, domestic abuse and the shocking and destructive effect that these actions perpetuate on our society. Specifically, the horrific impact they have on the lives of women which demand our attention. However, because the balance of my presentation is fixed on sex trafficking and women, I do not want anyone to believe for a moment that labor trafficking or the sexual abuse of boys and men is acceptable because it is not. Three percent of males are trafficked for sex8, and 1 out 10 boys will be victimized before adulthood9. In a 2008 study performed in New York “boys comprised about 50% of sexually exploited children.”10 However, girls and women are the bulk of sexual exploitation, therefore, deserving of my focus this day.
Why do men abuse sex and how do our actions affect our view of women? Why are men willing to risk reputations, families, and careers to engage in self-indulgent sex? My conversation with you squarely focuses on “us” and the consequences of our unconstrained actions, buying sex, the use of pornography for personal gratification and its impact on our souls, society, and the women and families we assert to love. And finally, can anything be done to change the present circumstances?
Sex trafficking may be the most hideous crime ever to confront humanity affecting some 4½ million females worldwide. The revenues from human trafficking are estimated to be $150 billion with $99 billion derived from commercial sexual exploitation, $32 billion from construction and manufacturing, $9 billion from agriculture including forestry and fishing, and $8 billion saved annually by employers of private home domestic workers under the conditions of forced labor.11
FBI statistics show that sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime. Every year in the US approximately 300,000 American youths are at risk becoming victims of sex trafficking.12 Within 48 hours one in three runaways is solicited by sex traffickers, with one in eight likely to be a victim. Amazingly, the average age of girl preyed on by pimps is 12 years old.13 In the article “Life on the Street: New Wave of Prostitution with More Violence Is Overwhelming Los Angeles Authorities,” Miles Corwin reports that a madam told a room filled with 30 other madams and call girls that more and more of her male customers were asking her to procure 12 or 13-year-old girls. Give that request some thought. These young girls will be raped, “broken in” to perform various forms of sexual acts, suffer physical abuse and tortured as they groom them for the sex business. They will be compelled to have sex with several men daily to earn their pimps as much as $5,000 to $30,000 plus a week.14
The truth is that these numbers can be overwhelming, seriously depressing and very scary; especially, for those of you with young children. If you were to Google “sex trafficking” you find government and private organizations, such as, the FBI, DOJ, Polaris, National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Administration of Children and Family Services, UNICEF, etc. with statistical analysis that would fill several typewritten pages with unimaginable facts validating the immense impact of sex trafficking on our society. It is a sad commentary on men. We are by far the biggest perpetrators of this social catastrophe, well over 90%. We are the traffickers, the pimps and the johns that ultimately are the suppliers, marketers, and customers that tolerate the peddling of our children, wives, and girlfriends for control, money, drugs, and personal sexual gratification. These shocking and disturbing issues must be at the forefront of our social agendas to stop sex trafficking, especially, if we want to make a positive change in the lives of girls and women everywhere. If we men think that we are not impacted by trafficking because we do not pay for a prostitute or sell our own children for drugs or sex we better wake up, and quickly. The private conversations we have concerning women and the sexual comments we make are overheard by young men and our youth and are accepted as reality. We need to transform ourselves and the world. So, let us begin!
In my three years learning about human trafficking and specifically sex trafficking over the last several months, I have thought a lot about how to categorize the various key components of the trafficking business. If I were to put together a process chart, I would place them in the following order:
The vulture (or recruiter) is searching for his prey until he finds his quarry, in this case, females, especially young girls and young women. According to the International Organization for Migration, 52% of sex trafficked victims are recruited by men, 42% are women, and 6% are both men and women. He or she may find them at shopping malls, bus stations, walking down the street or in your neighbor’s home. Potential victims are everywhere. He wants the girl that has suffered abuse or may have run away from home to escape, or has low self-esteem or maybe came from a dysfunctional family. He will present himself as a savior, someone who will love, care and protect them, providing them with a sense of security. After he gains their confidence, he will take on the role of sex trafficker or sell them to a trafficker.
The sex trafficker will begin the grooming process by raping or having the girl raped several times by different men, forcing her to perform various expected sex acts. This may take days or weeks, but the girl will be primed to perform as asked or she will be beaten, starved, humiliated and even killed. They will strongly imply that if she does not do what she is told she will be blackmailed with pictures and or videos showing her performing various sex acts. The images will be sent to her family, church, and friends. If she still refuses, they will threaten to kill her family or target an additional family member for prostitution, usually a younger sister or even a brother.
The pimp is the marketer and the seller of sex services. He will take the product to market, expecting high return with little risk for his investment. He will advertise the girls on the internet, take them to sporting events, nightclubs, truck stops, exotic dance clubs and have the girls walk the streets, potentially earning himself over a million dollars annually. The girl’s salary is $0, with their freedoms restricted; they will be under constant surveillance and expected to provide unrestricted sexual favors multiple times. At the end of their sex career, they will suffer from Post Traumatic Stress, potentially endure multiple pregnancies and abortions, sexual diseases, beaten numerous times and even slain. They will more than likely die from a drug overdose, suicide, malnutrition or be killed at a young age because they would no longer comply with the pimp or john or maybe they are no longer attractive and a moneymaker.
The john is you and me. We could be a doctor, lawyer, minister, factory worker, engineer, sanitation worker, office clerk …
We, my friends, are the reason that young girls are taken from their homes, that families are broken and that women have to suffer a lifetime of humiliation.
The john is you and me. We could be a doctor, lawyer, minister, factory worker, engineer, sanitation worker, office clerk; in other words; it could be any of us. There is a good likelihood that we are married with children or even grandchildren and look at pornography on a regular basis. We, my friends, are the reason that young girls are taken from their homes, that families are broken and that women have to suffer a lifetime of humiliation. We are the purchasers of illicit sex.
As men of God, we need to become accountable for our actions and the actions of all men. This evil will continue to exist for as long as man walks this earth if we continue to ignore our responsibility to women. As men, we need to be proactive, take the initiative and begin change.
To accomplish this transformation, we need to initiate the process of scrutinizing our relationships with the girls and women in our lives. More importantly, we must consider what we can do to move the generational thought process of boys and young men beyond seeing women as a sexual object to appreciate better the female role as a worthy partner in our lives. This process needs to start with us and be transferred down to every generation of males in our realm of influence.
Slavery has been around for thousands of years. Men and women have been forced into bondage because of war, poverty and their sex. Certainly, women and children had little say about their circumstances being forced into situations where they performed labor and or provided sexual favors to their captors. I have often thought about the Samaritan woman at the well from the Gospel of John.
4…16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” John 4:16-18
Women were and are still used as a property in many parts of the world to satisfy and serve the needs of men. In considering this passage, I wondered why this woman was married five times? Was she divorced each time or did her spouses die or was she trafficked in the patriarchal order of that period? There are many reasons a male over 2,000 years ago could have contrived to rid himself of an unwanted female. Maybe she was too fat, too old, too skinny, bad sex or maybe she could not produce a male heir. Whatever the reason she was being passed from man to man for their personal use, financial benefit, and pleasure, much as women are today.
Jesus knew her heart. Consequently, he is speaking to her with compassion and understanding. By his words he acknowledges her as a person as with every woman encountered, he took the time to explain to her who he was and his purpose.
4…13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
4…25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”John 4:25-26
We may rationalize in our minds that she was disreputable, but my instincts tell me that she had not been living a life of her choosing. Her questions were straightforward and her responses to Jesus genuine. She is by all indications a woman of little means, few friends and trapped in a system that provided no freedom and little promise for a better life. In short, she was trafficked. I doubt if anyone considered her plight as an individual being trafficked for labor and or sexual favors; after all, she was a woman and more than likely considered nothing more than disposable property. However, Jesus words filled her with hope and excitement.
It is evident from the various documentaries, news reports, and women marching in the streets, occupying important political offices and executive positions in large corporations indicate that some things have and are changing. However, the question remains, has it changed significantly enough to make a real difference in their lives? Looking at the situation from a female’s perspective, not much. Men in high political positions hurl insults at women; executives still pressure women for sexual favors (Fox News is a recent example), and 1 in 5 women on college campuses are raped annually.15
Have you ever compared nude art and pornography, and wondered to yourself, what’s the big deal, is it not the same? Ravi Zacharias, Christian Apologists, notes that while both utilize nude figures, one stimulates the immoral instincts in man while the other strives to highlight the beauty of man, and thus “the glory of God.”16
If ever in history there has been a crime against the will and mind of man it is pornography. The depiction of women being subjugated by men for their personal sexual gratification has been portrayed in stories and movies for years. The image of beautiful, seductive women meeting our sensual desires is a dream that men have had throughout the ages. Of course, even more tantalizing is women seeking out men for passionate sex with no strings attached.
I have had conversations with men who say that they use pornography to enhance their sexual relationships. Possibly, that may be true in the short-term, but the long-term consequences go well beyond the initial pleasure. The impact on women and young girls is a tragedy of life-changing proportions. The resultant effect is that the lives of young girls and women are sometimes damaged beyond repair. Men will eventually find that sexual arousal is only available through the more graphic depiction of sexual activities up to torture and potentially, murder. Typical sexual encounters with his spouse or girlfriend will depend on these visual displays to aid in finding sexual arousal and gratification.
Now, before continuing on the deceit that is found in pornography and destructiveness, it brings to the individual, and his family, I will address the victims of sexual violence, and be assured that pornography is not victimless.
Sex is a godly and a good act when performed with a woman that you love. However, if you have watched or purchased porn, please be aware that 1 in 5 images is of a child. It is estimated that many come from homes where they have already suffered severe abuse with porn becoming an extension of that exploitation. These kids are homeless, runaways and to be honest just “throwaway kids.”17 The children are used for diversifying the sex trafficker’s revenue sources and represent’s a $3 billion dollar industry. I guess you could say that the kids are in the minor leagues of the sex racket for porn and prostitution. They start the girls out watching porn to desensitize them as to the sex acts they will be asked to perform many times daily.
Why do men turn to porn? What is it in porn that men cannot find in a normal relationship. Is it more tantalizing, more satisfying? Men turn to porn for a variety of reasons:
- Partner is not satisfying
- Partner is not sexually available
- Partner is sexually unattractive
- All men do it, why not me?
Pornography addiction is not something that occurs overnight. It is a “process addiction” that may have been unintentionally initiated by looking at soft porn but begins to take on life as a want leading to an apparent need. Once the user associates the porn as a need rather than want, your brain discharges dopamine “releasing the same chemical involved when a drug is ingested.”18 “Dopamine fixes your attention on that desirable object” (porn), “giving you your power of concentration.”19
Wives of porn addicts suffer trauma, blaming themselves for their husband’s addiction. Think about the indelible impression and profound hurt that your wife may feel walking into a room finding you masturbating while viewing pornography or possibly even worse, sneaking glances at pictures of naked women during sexual intercourse. I had an encounter with a very beautiful woman who was distraught and bewildered because she found that her husband was looking at a Playboy centerfold during coitus. The entire episode ended badly for her husband. My guess is that they are no longer married unless he has sought help for his addiction, and my friends it is an addiction.
Women ask themselves why their husbands prefer images or videos to them. Are they not attractive enough or is sex with them boring? The truth is that as the addiction takes hold of your life, even a beautiful woman will seem physically repulsive. Pornography produces an alternative reality in the mind of a porn addict potentially damaging any chance of having a normal relationship without seeking professional help.
The enormous problem with an addiction to porn is that the door is opening to a greater darkness in the mind and heart. Addicts will no longer find the same satisfaction that they had initially derived from viewing sex media; consequently, they will seek extreme sources of hedonism to satisfy their need for sexual excitement in order to fill the emptiness that they have in their personal lives. Their ability to have a normal sexual relationship will disintegrate, and will eventually cost them their job, marriage, family relationships and potentially lead to more unrestrained behavior including extreme forms of sexual perversions, such as sexual torture and murder. Pornography has also been linked to rape, sexual abuse, and users of sex trafficking victims, and sex workers.
I mentioned earlier that johns come from every walk of life composing a heterogeneous population. Consequently, it is difficult to pin down a particular profile and reason for using prostitutes for personal gratification. Men who have been interviewed concerning why they use prostitutes provide an interesting insight into the rationale behind their actions. Some comments range from just being lonely to pure uncontrollable lust. In a 2010 ABC report on “Why Men Buy Sex.” one man commented that it was “No big deal”; it was just like buying a beer. Some other comments:
- “Prostitution is like masturbating without having to use your hand.”
- “I feel sorry for these girls, but this is what I want.”
- “Look, men pay for women because he can have whatever and whoever he wants. Lots of men go to prostitutes so they can do things to them that real women would not put up with.”
- “We’re living in the age of instant coffee, instant food. This is instant sex.”
- “Prostitution is a last resort to unfulfilled sexual desires. Rape would be less safe, or if you’re forced to hurt someone, or if you’re so frustrated you masturbate all day.”
It is evident from their comments that these men see women as vessels for their personal sexual enjoyment, not as an equal.
Professor Neil Malmuth, UCLA, researched men who buy sex-determining that prostitution is a form of sexual abuse. Professor Malmuth makes two key points about the similarities between men who buy sex and men who are at risk for sexual aggression:
- ‘Both groups tend to prefer impersonal sex, a fear of rejection by women, a history of having committed sexually aggressive acts and a hostile masculine self-identification.’
- ‘Men who buy sex, on average, have less empathy for women in prostitution and view them as intrinsically different from other women.’20
The wide-ranging problems with men and sexual abuse are complicated, to say the least, but I hope that you see the connection with sex trafficking, pornography, and prostitution as a continuous circle each inter-connected and feeding the other. The complexities that are derived from the male’s mental attitude towards women are far more complicated than we will discuss. However, the connections are real, and the challenge for every man taking part in this discussion is how do we transform our thinking, and deal with our own problems, and how do we disseminate this knowledge to our children and grandchildren?
So, what is this awareness that as men we should impart to our male children? I am warning you that the answer is simple, but a thorny problem because men feel it is something that a person needs to earn. It is the same thing that you and I crave every day of our lives, respect. Respect for ourselves is hoped for, but how do we disseminate that same regard we seek to our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and as a matter of point, all women? Respect is really problematic only because of long-held attitudes of women being submissive to men making them susceptible to abuse and attacks that are so ingrained in our society globally that if we don’t change, women will always be victims of male abuse.
The only way, I believe, to alter this cycle of abuse is to instruct our boys and young men regarding respect, consent, and non-violence in relationships. If we start teaching the male children in our lives at this very moment, we have an opportunity to ensure that women will be considered equals and treated with dignity. We must pray that a female baby born this very day will grow up in a world that honors her sex, respects her as a human being and loves her for who she is, a child of God.
If addicted, what can you do?
What can you do if you have a problem with sexual addiction? First, give yourself a pat on the back, because you have just crossed the first barrier to recovery by taking responsibility for your actions. The good news is that your success is obtainable now that you have accepted the challenge of altering your life’s direction. So, what do you do next? Seek professional help for your spiritual and emotional well-being! You can begin the spiritual recovery process with a priest or minister by seeking prayer, counseling, and absolution. However, to succeed in a permanent transformation, you will need sustained support from your pastor, family and the guidance of professional psychologist or psychiatrist experienced in sex therapy. Remember, it is a beginning, and with the right assistance, you will begin to see the light of hope at the end of a very dark tunnel leading to reclaiming your life.
If the information that I offered today has disturbed you or stirred your heart or possibly made you angry enough that you want to take action I have provided you with a few action items that you can begin undertaking as soon as you leave today:
- Buy Fair Trade Products, transfairusa.org
- Teach the males in your sphere of influence respect for women
- Inform yourself about human trafficking through research and by attending workshops
- Support anti-trafficking legislation by meeting and or writing your federal and state legislators
- Volunteer your time with anti-trafficking organizations
- Learn to recognize the human trafficking indicators
President Harry Truman once said, that “great men’s first victories in life were over themselves and their carnal urges. Self-discipline with all of them came first“.21 We do not have to go too far back in history to find the truth in Truman’s words. Sex is powerful, seductive, rewarding and destructive at times. I know that there was a time in my life and the lives of many of my male friends where sex seemed to be on our minds 24×7, almost completely controlling all our actions. As men, we need to open our minds and hearts to what we can do to stop Human Trafficking. Albert Einstein was quoted as saying:
“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
I think it is imperative that we don’t ignore evil or God speaking to us by doing nothing.
As I said earlier, “Let us begin.”
- Human Trafficking by the Numbers. Retrieved from http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/human-trafficking-numbers
- Retrieved from, www.co.washington.mn.us/2422; Trafficked Victims Protection Act, TVPA 2000
- Retrieved from, www.co.washington.mn.us/2422; Trafficked Victims Protection Act, TVPA 2000
- International Justice Mission, 2016
- Department of Homeland Security, Definition of Human Trafficking, www.dhs.gov/ble-campaign/definition-human-trafficking
- Random Facts, 55 Little Known Facts About Human Trafficking, facts.randomhistory.com/human-trafficking-facts.html
- Utah trafficking in Persons Task Force, Captain Fernando Rivero
- National Institute of Justice and Disease Control & Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, 1998
- Child Maltreatment Report, 2012
- Catholic Citizen, Men and Boys Sex Trafficking Overlooked, May 11, 2016
- Human Rights First, 01/07/17
- Christian Science Monitor, October 2016
- National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking
- Urban Institute, May 11, 2014
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Statistics About Sexual Violence
- Ella Hutchinson, Licensed Professional Counselor
- Ravi Zacharias, Theo-Sophical Ruminations, Art vs. Pornography: What’s the Difference, May27, 2009
- Kevin Majeres, MD, www.purityispossible.com
- Professor Neil Malmuth, UCLA, MAILONLINE, Sept. 15, 2015
- Samuel W. Rushay Jr., Prologue Magazine, Spring 2009, Harry Truman and his History Lessons