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Serving the sparrows

"Serving the sparrows" Continued...

Issue: "Rejecting religious liberty," June 15, 2013

At stage three, she learns about God as “healer and cleaner.” One measure of success at Redeemed is that the sparrows eventually meet and profess faith in Christ, but that isn’t a condition for receiving help. Stage four: Redeemed staff help her prepare for a transition into independent living. They coach her on how to establish work and housing, find a church and join a small group, and build a healthy group of friends.  

The entire process can take from six months to one year, depending on the woman and her personal story. It is neither neat nor easy. Sometimes the women relapse and return to their former life. Sometimes, they stay physically, yet have a harder time moving past substance addictions. But Martin and the volunteers at Redeemed are neither rushed nor intimidated: “We’ll work with these women for life … until they tell us they’re ready to go on independently, without fear of relapse.”

Many Christians, Martin said, emphasize ending trafficking by rescuing its victims, incarcerating its pimps, and trying to convince men to stop buying sex. But in reality, Martin explained that trafficked women rarely see themselves as victims, the legal system is ill-equipped to prosecute the pimps and johns, and it’s too late to change the minds of men who treat women as commodities.

He hopes to galvanize local churches into starting outreach and awareness ministries of their own. He urges churches to combat the vulnerabilities that make some women more likely to be trafficked, such as illiteracy, homelessness, and poverty. Actively pursue one-to-one contact with prostitutes, he said. Guide them into healing programs that help turn back the negative perception they have of the church, and consequently, of Christ.

“We’re not the solution,” Martin said. “The church is the solution. We’re just the avenue.”

Read more about the connection between sex trafficking and pornography.

—with reporting by Cheryl Keen, Rob Holmes, Karen Johnson, and Michael Reneau

Reports and responses

While child sex trafficking is an issue in our country, nobody knows for certain how many victims under age 18 there are in the United States. Hard data from the FBI show officers make between 1,100 to 1,200 arrests for child prostitution each year. But anti-trafficking organizations talk about 100,000 to 300,000 victims based on a 2001 study by Richard Estes and Neil Weiner that said 326,000 were “at risk for commercial sexual exploitation.”

Estes and Weiner included 14 broad categories of youth who could become involved in sexual exploitation, including runaways, female gang members, and youths living 50 miles from the Canadian or Mexican borders. The report fails to cite evidence showing how many of these “at risk” youth are actually involved in commercial sex.

The researchers admit the numbers “are not representative, in the statistic-sampling sense of the term”—yet news organizations, anti-trafficking groups, and the Department of Justice routinely cite their estimates. (Estes and Weiner focused on child sex trafficking, which sidesteps the question of how many adult women involved in prostitution and pornography chose that path freely.)

In addition to questions about scope, some activists question whether the millions of dollars spent on raising awareness of sex trafficking is effective. Lisa Thompson of the Salvation Army says young people choose ways to oppose the practice that “are technologically driven—linking to a movie or starting a website, and I’m not sure how much more of that we need.” She adds, “The responses aren’t necessarily as thought through as they should be. … I wish it would be more creative than just ‘let’s make a movie.’”

Thompson believes young people could instead mentor at-risk children, volunteer at a juvenile detention center, or help with homeless ministries to prevent sex trafficking from becoming an issue in the first place. —Angela Lu

Tiffany Owens
Tiffany Owens

Tiffany is a correspondent for WORLD News Group.

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