By Rev. Valerie Fairchild
I attended a presentation by the Phoenix Dream Center on sex trafficking (phxdreamcenter.org). No, this isn’t a pretty subject. And the problem is huge in Phoenix — and growing. Phoenix is one of the top human trafficking jurisdictions in the country!
I first became aware of the sex trafficking problem just before Super Bowl when agencies were spreading the word — basically, keep close tabs on your teens over the next couple of months. Teens were vanishing, picked up by force, fraud, or coercion and then kept and sold for sex to Super Bowl fans.
Now I’ve learned just how prevalent this is year round. The average age for entry into sex trafficking is 13. Let that sink in. That’s not the earliest age — that’s the average. Most of the victims ‘willingly’ walk away from malls, parties, bus stops, school functions, etc. with the trafficker completely duped by the smooth stories and promises. Most traffickers are male but they can also be female.
One young woman shared that two older women befriended her. They made her feel special and loved and valued. She lacked these feelings in her home life. They made promises and gave her gifts. They were prostitutes who decided to run their own trafficking business and keep the extra funds for themselves. The victim actually continued to attend school while ‘working’ nights until she became pregnant and the school caught on.
Now she volunteers with the Dream Center and goes with teams out onto the streets at night to try to convince other girls, who feel completely trapped, that there is a way out.
Her primary message is that God created them for much more than that and they have value in His eyes and in the eyes of those who want to help. But it’s a tough sell to the hopeless.
This is a supply and demand business. Yes, if there wasn’t demand for the product there wouldn’t be a business of supply. Pray for those who create the demand. Pray for the business owners. Pray for the victims.
Go to http://endsextrafficking.az.gov/training.html for education materials for talking with teens and more. Learn to be aware of signs of trafficking and abuse and ways to help. We can help as a church as well.
And pray some more. God values every life, and so should we.
Others ways to be a part of ending human trafficking right now are:
- Plan on attending the Stop Human Trafficking rally in on March 12, 2016 at 9:30 am. Visit EL MESIAS UMC, 1050 W. Mariposa Ranch Rd, Nogales, AZ or contact Lynn Wallasky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Keep a legislative watch in your state or join the Conference Human Trafficking subgroup of the Board of Church & Society.