By Deborah Perkins –
He didn’t look like a pimp. On their first date, he bought her an expensive drink, told her she was beautiful, and never touched her, unlike other men she had known. Well-dressed, well mannered, and handsome, he was the type of man you’d bring home to mother. And she did.
He spent Thanksgiving with her family, winning them over with his plans to start his own business, even sending her to college to get a business degree so she could help him. She didn’t know then that his business was illegal. His business was sex, and step by step, he deceived her into becoming a slave.
Jasmine Grace’s story began like a fairy tale but ended as a nightmare. One of the lucky few who was rescued from a life of slavery, she now shares her story publicly as a survivor. She speaks in churches, schools, even at the U.N., hoping to raise awareness of the countless other women exploited by human traffickers.
TRAFFICKING BY THE NUMBERS
Human trafficking, a form of modern slavery, is defined as the “labor or sexual exploitation of a person by force, fraud, and/or coercion.”* Trafficking is big business, to the tune of roughly $32 billion dollars a year, and it’s one of the fastest-growing criminal activities in the world. ** The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 21 million people caught in trafficking’s abusive cycle, many of them women and children.
As informed Americans, we are aware of the problems with international trafficking at our borders. What we may not know is that women are being lured into captivity in our own hometowns. They are vulnerable, often teens hurt by broken relationships, and are lured by an exploiter (like the pimp described in Jasmine’s story) to fulfill a buyer’s demand. Through physical, mental, or emotional force, the victims are coerced into providing services to meet that demand – with their own bodies.
I learned about Jasmine’s story last year. She is a fellow Bostonian, and her story awakened me to the truth that sex trafficking is a growing and dangerous problem right here where I live. Her story exposes a powerful lie: Prostitution may be voluntary, but victims of sex trafficking are taken by force.
Jasmine never saw the fruit of her labor, since her earnings were always taken by her “employer.” One of the children she conceived was aborted, adding to her nightmare.
Fear, shame, and the criminal nature of her activities kept her from seeking help from authorities. In the end, drugs and alcohol became her only solace. Had it not been for the providence of God, Jasmine would still be enslaved to a system that would slowly kill her over time.
Jasmine’s story challenged me to re-examine the idea of justice from a biblical perspective. Several scriptures came to mind: the Lord is a God of justice (Isaiah 30:18, 61:8). Righteousness and justice are said to be the foundations of God’s throne (Psalms 89:14 and 97:2). And Jesus walks in the paths of justice, setting captives free (Proverbs 8:20; Luke 4:18).
In the words of Micah the prophet, what more does God require of you than to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, NKJV.) Real Christianity requires us to act on behalf of those who suffer, especially those who are exploited (Isaiah 58).
HOPE FOR ABOLITION
Fortunately, Jasmine’s story has a happy ending, and she is now on a mission to help as many people as she can through her ministry, “Bags of Hope.” Because a local church cared enough about her to take her in without judging her, she was able to turn her life around, now teaching others to do the same.
“Sex trafficking today is in the same place domestic violence was 20 years ago,” Jasmine says. “Two decades ago, no one wanted to talk about violence in the church. Now a new issue is coming to the forefront, one that we cannot ignore. Women and men are being prostituted for illicit gain, and local authorities often don’t recognize what’s happening right under their noses.”
Jasmine and other devoted workers are busy training hospital staff to recognize the signs of abuse. They are talking to high school students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, as well as sex. “Trafficking begins much earlier than you might expect,” Jasmine said in a recent talk at Wellesley College. Children as young as 12 to 15 years of age are being targeted now.” The lucrative nature of this business, along with their need for love and acceptance, draws them in.
HOW CAN I HELP?
Inspired by Jasmine’s courage, I am planning a “Bags of Hope” outreach event in the Boston area this coming February. Participants will donate toiletries and other necessary items to fill bags that are then given to homeless and addicted women on the streets. This type of event is fun, easy, and has been done by Girl Scout troops, teens needing community service hours, and moms groups in our area, raising about the anti-trafficking movement. It’s one practical way to fight for justice.
January is designated “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month” by the White House. Churches can contact FAAST International to download Power Points and videos for use in their services. There is more information on prayer and practical ideas for help at NWOPrayer.org.
If you know of women or children who are victims of this type of controlling behavior, share with them the free, national Human Trafficking Hotline number: 1-888-373-7888. (Or text “HELP” to Be FREE (233733). This hotline can be used to report a tip or request help, training, and resources.
Jasmine’s story will be published in book form on January 7, 2017. (Click here for a preview). If nothing else, take the time to get to know about human trafficking from someone who has lived it. I promise you, her words will strengthen your faith and change your life.
*Human Trafficking, ‘”Know the Facts,” Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, PDF. 15 April, 2013.
**Shelley Welch and Robin Camerer, Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking (“FAST”) Instructor Guidelines; FAASTInternational.org.
© Deborah Perkins, www.HisInscriptions.com