Mike McDonnell is co-founder of the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, VP Social Justice (Human Trafficking Ministry) with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and a member of St. George Episcopal Church, Camdenton.
What We’re Learning About The Episcopal Church That Can Help Us Grow Spiritually
The church, that wonderful and sacred mystery, is a community brought together by grace, as gift, not because of what church members have done, but because of what God has done in Christ. And the grace is just the starting point. The story doesn’t end there. As Annie Lamott says, the grace of God loves us enough to meet us where we are, but loves us too much to leave us there. So let me pose a few questions we must ask, prompted by the letter to the Ephesians: What is the way of life that lies before us? What is that way for our congregations, for our leaders, lay and clergy? What is the way for each person’s spiritual journey?
No additional information on legacy giving was available at the time of publishing. We’ll update this article when details are available.
Human Trafficking and the Sex Industry: A Moral Challenge For The Church
Our Diocesan Convention was blessed to have Brittany Zampella as our speaker on Sex Trafficking. She delivered an impassioned presentation imploring individuals to become aware of the “insidious injustice” of sex trafficking and the damage it does to trafficked victims, their families and our society. Brittany emphasized the importance of abolishing the entire sex industry if we hope to rid ourselves of the horrific evil of young girls and women trafficked for the sole purpose of greed and male sexual gratification.
Attendees were leaving the room after her presentation shaking their heads in disbelief that the problem of sex trafficking was so severe. Bravo and thanks to Brittany for a making a complex subject understandable. A job well done.
Pornography seems to have gained a certain amount of legitimacy and respectability. It’s not unusual to hear someone (albeit jokingly) refer to their ‘porn stash’ or questionable online browsing history. The reality is that pornography can create ripples of pain and human suffering that spread out into the world.
Editor’s Note. I’d like to warn readers that Mike’s article makes hard reading. Once again he doesn’t pull any punches, and confronts, head on, a topic most people would rather not discuss. Pornography and human — specifically male — sexuality. As I’ve mentioned in the past in relation to sex trafficking, if we choose to be offended and pretend that this problem doesn’t exist, there cannot be an informed discussion. Without discussion there will be no change.
In today’s society pornography seems to have gained a certain amount of legitimacy and respectability. It’s not unusual to hear someone (albeit jokingly) refer to their ‘porn stash’ or questionable online browsing history. Such comments give credence in an ‘industry’ (and it is an industry) that has a very dark underbelly. So while, in some circles, pornography may be accepted and embraced as a part of today’s world, for others, the impact of the criminal elements who exploit (primarily) men’s weaknesses creates ripples of pain and human suffering that spread out into the world. For some pornography can become an addiction, and then there is the plight of the ‘participants’ many of whom are coerced by blackmail, abduction, and threats of violence to them or their families. It all starts with ‘an innocent bit of fun’…
The darkness of pornography can engulf your mind and soul bringing the weight of desperation that presents no glimmer of hope, or light just foreboding, and an unimaginable gloom. It is a nightmare coated with the aura of seductiveness that radiates a false promise of sexual fulfillment and love, that can result in disappointment, shame, broken relationships, destroyed lives, and personal ruin.
Pornography may be the most challenging evil for men to defeat. It attacks at the heart of a man’s natural desire to find love and intimacy. Unfortunately, some men misunderstand love and become confused in their effort to find closeness through sexual gratification. It is easy to understand the allure of sex and its power over the minds of men; but when we seek momentary satisfaction through a third party, we have crossed the line of morality in so many different ways.
This statement from The Catechism of the Catholic Church is excellent in defining the dangers found in porn:
Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public) since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.
I have heard men speak of porn as “nothing more” than pure entertainment and, that moreover, it enhances their sexual relationships with their spouses or girlfriends. What is the effect on a man watching someone else have sex? What benefit do they receive? What justification do they use to rationalize their self-gratification? Who benefits, and at what cost to the individual watching or reading porn? After all, it may seem that the woman or young girl performing sex acts areis having a great time even if it is staged. We can be taken in by a false realism believing that the girls are not being forced to satisfy unusual sex requests, and are not suffering physical abuse and torture; instead what we are viewing is merely two people finding pleasure in each other’s arms. Therefore, if we continue to follow that cloudy logic, it would look as if that all the women are enjoying themselves, moaning and groaning in delight, and besides, don’t they all experience an orgasm? So if they are enjoying every minute of the encounter why shouldn’t I? They are having great sex and making good money. What is wrong if I satisfy myself by becoming part of their reality even if it is manufactured?
Statistics for porn are easily accessible if you are seeking more data… you will discover that the analytical part of porn is depressing and frightening.
Porn Hub is the most significant pornography site in the world. Each year for the past five years they have published an annual “Year in Review,” to “discover and reflect,” on how people have been viewing porn. What is amazing is their business acumen in their target marketing by age, sex, sexual preferences, location, time of day usage, country, state, etc. They have terrific insight into who is using their product and when. If you happen to be a porn-site visitor who mistakenly believes your information is private, you may want to rethink your position. Let us review Porn Hub’s Analytics (1) 2017 worldwide numbers and Daily Infographics 2013 stats (2) for the US:
116,000 requests for “Child Pornography” every day
Statistics for porn are easily accessible if you are seeking more data. However, as I was warned before receiving the Porn Hub Analytics, you will discover that the analytical part of porn is depressing and frightening. The numbers reveal an alarming and almost overwhelming prevalence of pornography throughout the world.
What does that say about us men? What in the world is going on in our minds that we need this external stimulation to find satisfaction and, most importantly, what does God say about pornography?
I am not a scientist nor a theologian, but I am a pragmatist. You may look at those professions and wonder what does being pragmatic have to do with science or theology, let alone porn? Nothing actually, but from my perspective, it allows me to ask myself several essential questions without dependence on science or religion. Is sex beneficial to me? Does sex satisfy? What are the costs and rewards of sex? Is there a moral quandary when using pornography? And why do I need artificial stimulation to satisfy my sexual cravings?
As a young man, it seemed as if I had sex “on the brain“ 24/7, and indeed I probably would not have been opposed to reading or viewing porn. It is and was very seductive, stimulating and alluring. Consequently, being rational about sex and controlling urges was challenging. However, age conveys a measure of wisdom, and clarity of thought; although, getting older does not free me from the lure of pornography. Though the desire is significantly dampened, it still lays hidden in my mind.
Let me take a moment to review and answer the questions I asked:
Is sex beneficial? I don’t know about you, but I love sex. There is nothing more satisfying than finding yourself entwined with a woman. It is both fulfilling and relieving and offers a degree of closeness that cannot be attained in any other manner. It is a gift given to two people that cannot be measured in precise physical terms but is to be understood as spiritual when given and received in love.
Is sex satisfying? Yes, no and maybe. Yes, when it is being given and received by two individuals as an offering, willingly and openly accepted. No, when it is forced or coerced, for self-gratification without care or concern for the other person’s well being. Maybe, when a person, because of their physical and or mental condition is allowing another person to use his or her body to satisfy themselves or being gratified themselves.
What are the rewards and costs of sex? The rewards resulting from a healthy sexual relationship are cumulative. It brings a feeling of well being, intimacy and attachment that are realized in very few circumstances. It is part of the shared human experience that the very personal contact of sexual intimacy can only bring by strengthening the bond between a couple. The flip side is the toll that porn will inflict on a relationship through the pretense that pornography interjects excitement and variety in sexual relations. However, pornography’s goal is to blur the lines between love and self-gratification. It achieves this by featuring women and even children who “seem” to be willing to perform and enjoy all varieties of sexual perversions that the viewer may desire. Porn embeds an illusion in the minds of men that will become more addictive over time. This deception has the effect of ultimately subduing the love women may feel for their spouse, which can eventually wreak havoc with family relationships and careers. The fundamental question that must be considered by all men viewing pornography is: do my actions have a negative or positive impact on my family and others in and beyond my sphere of influence?
Is there a moral quandary when using pornography? Let’s be clear, porn is destructive and supports criminal elements that trafficks women and children (including boys) for the sole purpose of enriching themselves at the cost of lives. Men who watch and purchase pornography are not doing it for any reason, except to satisfy their sexual desire, no matter the detriment to the victims who are raped, violently molested, starved and even killed during deviant sexual behavior. Researchers have also found an association between the use of pornography and infidelity in marriage. Does that surprise anyone? (What Porn Does to Intimacy, July 16, 2014, Psychology Today)
What do you think? Is there a “moral quandary?” As I‘ve already mentioned, I am a pragmatist. The chances that pornography could bring about anything positive is remote. It is destructive to men and devastating to the children and women who suffer from the consequences of persistent sexual abuse. Is it immoral? Damn straight!
4…18 [Men] are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. Ephesians 4:18-19
If you are using pornography to fill an emptiness in your soul, please find help. If you are married, you need to understand why you require artificial stimulation to satisfy your sexual cravings and work out how to remove your dependence on it. If you are single, please realize that what you are often watching supports the trafficking of humans and that the picture you see is only an illusion and is not real sex or love. It is make-believe, not real and is an evil, immoral pretension of what is a beautiful, life-sustaining gift to humankind. It is not the answer to the spiritual wellness or joy you deserve.
This is a revised version of an article originally published on the Brotherhood of St. Andrew’s website.
Mike McDonnell is co-founder of the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, VP Social Justice (Human Trafficking Ministry) with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and a member of St. George Episcopal Church, Camdenton.
We live in a world rife with cynicism, racism, hatred, bigotry, and the most despicable of all these sins is the enslavement of another person to accommodate man’s greed, lust and insatiable desire to control another’s life. In the First Letter to Timothy, we find Paul’s words:
1…8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. 9 This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, 10 fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. I Timothy 1:8-11
Most Americans turn a blind eye towards slavery believing it only existed in the past, possibly during the Civil War or maybe in biblical times, remembering Moses freeing the Hebrews from Egypt. I have read commentators who believed that slavery was a means used by the ancient world to care for widows, the poor and less fortunate; producing a welfare system through servitude. It was possible that some wealthy individuals took responsibility for those requiring help and these same people may have been emboldened by the fact that Jesus never spoke of physical slavery, but of the slavery that made us prisoners to sin. As you read Paul’s words above, you may wonder how people could believe that slavery was right in any way, shape or form. I am a pragmatic person, and I think Jesus was the ultimate pragmatist. He came to give eternal freedom and not to release those who were in temporary human bondage. However, because our Lord did not make any profound or lasting statements about slavery does not make it right.
Slavery has dominated the history of the United States and the history of The Episcopal Church for far too many years. In most cases, our nation and our church were complicit in the continuance of slavery. In today’s modern world we find women bonded into prostitution, children trafficked for sex and labor, and men forced to work for slave wages across the globe, and yes, even in our own backyard, here in the US.
I want to share a few important dates, with brief descriptions, so that you may understand and appreciate the bravery of those few who have brought us to where we are in our struggle against human trafficking:
The 1780s saw the first organized anti-slavery society established in Britain. 1.
In 1807, the slave trade was abolished by the British Parliament. 1.
In 1839, the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society was created, giving for the first time impetus to America’s abolitionist movement. 1.
In 1856, at the Episcopal General Convention, The Episcopal Church had “nothing to do with party politics, with sectional disputes, with earthly distinctions with the wealth, the splendor and the ambition of the world.” 2.
In 1865, the Protestant Episcopal Freedman’s Commission addressed the changes that had taken place in the south after the Civil War.2.
In 1877, the first Negro delegates were elected to the General Convention in West Texas and Florida. 2.
In 1883, the abolishment of slavery was itself abolished by the British Parliament. 1.
In the 1904 and 1907 General Conventions, a Suffragan Plan was established with restrictions. A suffragan could sit with the House of Bishops but could not vote. 2.
In 1921, the African Orthodox Church was formed by black Episcopal Priest, George Alexander, resulting from prejudices within The Episcopal Church. 2.
In 1948, the segregation of the armed forces and civil services ended. 2.
In 1948, Article 4 the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” 3.
In 1954, after the Supreme Court ruling in the Brown vs. Board of Education, the Episcopal Church began to dismantle its institutional segregation policies. 2.
In the 1958 General Convention, a resolution was adopted that officially condemned racial prejudice and segregation in the South. 2.
In 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA 2000) was passed into law. It is considered to be the essential anti-trafficking law ever approved. 4.
On October 4, 2008, the Episcopal Church apologized for its role in slavery.
In March 2018, the Congress passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. This bill holds accountable websites, such as Backpage, when they knowingly facilitate sex traffickers. 5.
In many places in our world, people subscribe to the enslavement of others. In the United States, the home of the “free,” we are exposed daily to the notion that some people are not as valuable as others. This narrative is usually based on race, ethnicity, and sex with the desire to enrich oneself through the subjugation and control of others. The International Labour Organization estimated in 2016 that there were 40.3 million people in forced labor of which 2 million are in the Americas. In the United States, because of the secretive nature of labor trafficking, it is difficult to provide an accurate number of victims; however, it is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.
Sex trafficking is an appalling crime. In the United States, it is estimated that 300,000 youths annually are at risk to sex traffickers, with one in six being trafficked. The average age of a girl trafficked is 13 and will be asked to perform various sex acts up to 20 times daily. In a recent conversation with a trafficked victim, she contended that she was expected to produce $2,000 to $3,000 daily from being prostituted. If not, she was severely beaten or starved, or her life threatened. This woman subjugated her body to daily sexual abuse to generate income for her pimp’s financial gain, while she was degraded by the johns who paid for sex, and a society that sees her as nothing more than a prostitute who could leave her enslavement if she so chose.
We men have turned a blind eye towards our accountability in the treatment of women in our society, but even worse, we have enabled abusers, pimps, johns, and pornographers to capture our souls, our nation, and to damage forever the girls and women that have long suffered as sex objects. We do this through our conversations, glances, the purchase of sex and pornography, and by not teaching our male youth that women are to be respected. I suggest to men that they consider what it is like to be chained and tortured and forced to have sex against their will. What it would be like not to have a choice as to who you are with and to feel your body violated, not once, but multiple times daily, every single day of your existence. Imagine your mother, wife, daughter or sister suffering the constant repetition of this horror. The reasons why some girls are targeted by traffickers while others are not, varies. These trafficked girls and women may very well be the same women we purport to love and care for, but we do little to change their sexual environment. Therefore, where they live, their economic situation, race, or ethnicity does not protect them from sexual abuse and predators.
I believe there are very few women who have not suffered from unwanted sexual advances. Many women have been physically and sexually abused. Maybe you know someone, family or friend, who has experienced this kind of violence. It is likely that we are aware of females who have been abused or even suffering harm today. Just possibly, we may have been the abuser. The questions we men must resolve to find the answer to is why do we harm women, why do we seek sexual gratification illicitly, and why do we purchase and watch pornography?
Human trafficking in today’s world is called “Modern Day Slavery.” Slavery from the ancient times to the American Civil War to present day slavery has one thing in common, the exploitation of many for the financial gain of the few.
In the four-plus years that I have been involved in the “Stop Human Trafficking” movement, I find myself writing and rewriting the same words and asking myself, “How can I break through the generations of men with the learned behavior of discounting and abusing women?” I find myself becoming angry every time I look at the statistics about the number of women and children trafficked globally and in the US. I find that statistics do not stir the hearts of men, no matter how shocking they are, if we are not motivated to alter the way that we view and treat women. I understand that perfectly. I am as guilty as the next man in the way I regarded women. Years ago, my favorite response came from the question “When you see a woman what do you notice first?” I replied, “It depends on which way they are walking.” It sounded cute and funny then and to me was an innocent statement of fact. Unfortunately, it was a statement that went straight to the heart of sexual objectification of women. As I became involved in the anti-sex trafficking movement, I spent some time reflecting on my “go to” comment, and what I saw about myself was disconcerting. I realized how revealing my actions and views were in promoting the abuse of women to those around me, especially my children and friends. It was impossible for me to proclaim any degree of holiness when I believed that the degradation of women was acceptable.
Learned behavior is problematic to change, but not impossible. It takes desire, perseverance, support, and occasionally professional help to alter unhealthy behavior. Recently there was an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch religion page titled: “Look to Jesus to learn how to treat women.” Anita Anton quoted a comment from Barbara Leonhard, Oldenburg Franciscan,
“Jesus refused to treat women as inferior. Given the decidedly negative cultural view of women in Jesus’ time, the Gospel writers each testify to Jesus’ treating women with respect, frequently responding in ways that reject cultural norms. He recognizes their dignity, their desires, and their gifts.”
I appreciated her comments because if we treat women with “respect,” showing them the dignity they deserve and allowing them to use their God-given gifts fully, the sexual objectification of women will begin to cease. Finally, after all these thousands of years, women will be equal in the eyes of man. We can at least adhere to the path that the holiest man of all time, Jesus of Nazareth, has shown us to follow. So, let us begin.
This is a revised version of an article originally published in the Brotherhood of St. Andrew’s magazine: St. Andrew’s Cross.
Mike McDonnell is co-founder of the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, VP Human Trafficking Ministries with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and a member of St. George Episcopal Church, Camdenton.
In early November, Mtr. Laura Hughes, my wife Maureen, and I spent several days at The Diocese of West Missouri’s Annual Convention. The convention, for the most part, was very enjoyable with the exception of the last three hours which I have told people was absolutely mind-numbingly excruciating.
However, it was to all of us, I believe, a worthwhile expense of our time to attend, and finally, after 11 years I am getting a handle on understanding the process of how the Episcopal Church operates on a diocesan level. Having said this, I am not writing about the convention, but the emotional experience I had while attending. Three times I experienced tears rolling down my cheeks and a great twisting of my heart and soul.
I haven’t fully worked out the impact of these emotions or even the why, but they did happen, and I feel they occurred because of the profound presence of the Holy Spirit.
I was deeply moved by reading the November 3rd edition of the USA Today Newspaper. There was an article, by George Schroeder, about a six-year-old boy, Will Kohl, who had undergone a heart transplant. Will was diagnosed, before he was born, with a significant heart abnormality: ‘hypoplastic left heart syndrome’ in which the left ventricle is severely underdeveloped. He had been at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children Hospital for 295 days (as of Nov 3) and 44 days since he had his new heart. Will has undergone several treatments that were stop-gap measures designed to get him to a point in his life where he could receive a new heart. At 3 ½ years old, Will was placed on a waiting list for a new heart. Since that time, he had to be placed on a Berlin Heart (artificial heart) and suffer the disappointment of finding a heart, but discovering later that it was unsuitable. Ultimately, the hospital located for him a suitable heart.
This is just one heart-wrenching story about the dozens of children at the Stead Children’s hospital. What makes this story a little different is not Will’s or the other children very serious conditions, but what happens on Saturdays during the Iowa football season. You see, the hospital is built next to the Iowa Kinnick Football Stadium. On the 12th floor of the hospital, there is a huge window overlooking the stadium. It is where patients gather with their parents on game day. As the families look-on, the huge crowd of 68,000 suddenly turns toward the hospital (including the visiting team), and looking-up begin to wave at all the kids and their parents. This Saturday happens to be a night game, and as the kids are looking down from their 12th-floor perch, they see thousands of cameras and cell phones flashing. The kids with their parents enthusiastically return the wave. The gratitude expressed by the kid’s and their parents through their broad smiles will move you to tears and remind you that love can be found in the middle of a sporting event. Kudos to the University of Iowa!
On Saturday I watched a presentation showing how the Episcopal Church is working with the Council of Churches of the Ozarks. We were shown a video, prepared by the Council of Churches, explaining how they reach out to the community to assist those in need. One of the stories in the video was about a young woman who was holding tightly on to her “wiggling” child, as she conveyed her thanks for the assistance she received. As she looked at the camera, I heard her voice cracking with emotion as she sincerely articulated her deep appreciation. We live in a world filled with cynicism, but at this very moment, I saw pure gratitude. There was no sign of entitlement in her voice, nor was there anyone whispering that she should not have gotten pregnant if she could not afford a baby. There was heartfelt gratitude and thankfulness that someone showed her love and thought she was worthy of being helped.
Finally, during Friday evening’s Ordination and Reception Mass we sang (and I say that very loosely for me) two of my favorite Hymns: “Holy Ground” and ”I, the Lord of sea and sky.” Now in itself, that would be nothing extraordinary, but for some mystical reason my soul was stirred by the words in “I, the Lord of sea and sky.” In all three verses, the Refrain is repeated following the three questions, as follows:
1st verse, Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send;
2nd verse, I will speak my word to them. Whom shall I send?;
3rd verse, I will give my life to them. Whom shall I send?
The Refrain after each is: “Here I am Lord. Is it I, Lord?”
To any of you who know me reasonably well, you will know one of my questions to myself and others I speak with, is about recognizing when Jesus is whispering to us, specifically about what we are called to do. It has been a question I asked myself countless times during my life and to be honest, I have never, ever been satisfied with my self-answers. However, maybe the answer to my lifelong question is always to be open to God’s call and his request for me to use my gifts for him. Maybe some of that answer for you and me lies in the totality of the Refrain; “Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord? I have, if you lead me, I will hold your people in my heart.” Consider what St. Francis is attributed to have said,
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
So my question for you to consider when you hear that quiet whisper is, “Is it I, Lord who you have called?”
Mike McDonnell is co-founder of the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking coalition, and member of St. George Episcopal Church, Camdenton.
What’s the truth behind human trafficking, and how men specifically can work on eradicating it. A paper presented at the Human Trafficking Workshop for Men held at St. John’s Springfield, on September 17, 2017.
Editor’s Note. I’d like to warn readers that Mike’s paper makes hard reading. It doesn’t pull any punches, and it confronts, head on, a topic most people would rather not discuss. Human, and specifically male sexuality. The sad truth is that if we choose to be offended and pretend that this problem doesn’t exist, there cannot be an informed discussion. Without discussion there will be no change.
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:
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.”
Mike McDonnell is co-founder of the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking coalition, and member of St. George Episcopal Church, Camdenton.
On Saturday September 16, St. John’s Springfield hosted a Human Trafficking Workshop for men. The event was organized by the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and lunches were provided by Saint Francis Community Services.
During the course of the day we heard some very harrowing stories about human trafficking from Mike McDonnell and Fr. Brian McVey. And they made it very clear that a large proportion of the demand for human trafficking can be laid at the feet of men.