Yesterday the news broke about Amanda Berry and several other young women trapped inside their captor’s home in Cleveland for nearly a decade. Thankfully, theirs is a happy ending in that they survived.
A story like this makes us ask: How did we not know? How could something so atrocious occur right under our noses?
I’m currently reading “The Slave Next Door” as I prepare for a stateside mission trip that will focus on the issue of human trafficking. The book, rich with anecdotes and backed up by research, is busting all kinds of myths I believed.
Here are just a few nuggets that have rocked my world:
Human trafficking is complicated. It encompasses a range of sub-issues, and it does not discriminate by age, gender, race or religion. There are housekeepers, migrant workers, immigrants, children, and teenagers who have been exploited and victimized.
Human trafficking happens here. It happens in the United States. In happens in Washington, D.C. In northern Virginia just last week, officials raided the home of a diplomat believed to be holding two women captive as unpaid housekeepers.
The way we prosecute human trafficking offenders is broken. We need to hold so many more people accountable — we need to bring the offenders to justice, instead of the victims. We need to provide better after-care for those who have been through the traumatic experience that is enslavement. We need to hold multinational corporations accountable for fair labor practices.
We need to change the way we talk about trafficking. And the change begins with us. We can be mindful of our rhetoric, cutting out words like “whore” and “pimp” from our dictionary. We can speak with our wallets, not bowing down to cheap products just because it saves us a few pennies. As Wendy McMahan wrote recently, “ignoring worker injustice won’t make it go away.” These small actions, together, can create greater awareness of trafficking and expose the shameful behavior of those who engage in it.
The bottom line is this: Human trafficking is about exerting control over another human being for profit, pleasure or power (and sometimes all three). It is another manifestation of our brokenness, and the broken world we live in. But God wants to restore that — if we are willing to work alongside him.
Check back here over the next month as I blog about trip preparations, how you can help, and further reflections on this devastating issue that I hope to shed some light on.