It was her first night out. Under 18 for sure. Blonde, beautiful and well sought after. White. American. The look of fear on her face pierced my heart. I wanted to throw up, she probably did to, if she hadn’t already. I wanted to put my coat around her and take her home...to my home, so I could mother her and tell her all the things about life she obviously didn’t know. Like the love of a man will never fill her the way she has been manipulated into thinking is true. A range of thoughts going through my head: “you shouldn’t be here…does your mom know you are out here…where is your mom…how in the world did you get here?” Her name didn’t even match the situation. It wasn’t Cashmere, Star or Sugar. (For reasons of protection, I will call her Hope). What made Hope’s story even more complicated…she was involved in a youth group at her church. They had no idea she was on the corner selling herself. The story of how she got there I did not dare to explore, but one that is predictable. There are rules on the streets; not asking a girl how she got there was one of them. The first car pulls up. She gets in. Less than thirty minutes later the car drops her back off to our corner. Tears come to my eyes as I recall this harsh reality…my heart is pained retelling it. Hope was one of many in which I witnessed a first night out.
Five years ago I was involved in a ministry of outreach to women in prostitution in the city of Seattle. Every Friday night you could find us on their corner from 11p to 3am (this ministry still exists today). A one-year commitment for me until the season of life changed. It was a very unique experience and one that changed me forever. It is how I got introduced to the term: “modern-day slavery/human sex trafficking”. By definition: Sex trafficking occurs when people are forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade against their will. Child sex trafficking includes any child involved in commercial sex (the demand for younger girls is unfortunately high). Sex traffickers frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry (www.polarisproject.com). The average entry age for a girl in the “lifestyle” is 13…everything about that is illegal and devastatingly sick. Part of our note keeping out on the streets was trying to predict if the girls were over or under 18. Streets all across America have young girls being picked up by men for sex. Girls are being sold at truck stops, residential brothels, strip clubs and massage parlors. Then there is the beast of the internet; the driving force behind trafficking. People on porn sites are abused humans; stripped of their dignity. Whether they choose it or not; it is up to us if we will participate in their demise. Trafficking isn’t just happening in big cities on the coast on in Vegas. My particular city is St. Louis, a city officially on the sex trafficking route, because it links other cities together by its highway system. In the mind of a pimp/trafficker it is the perfect place to be, because everyone thinks it is only happening on the Coasts or in other countries.
In the young impressionable and vulnerable mind of a child a pimp/trafficker gains affection through manipulation and keeps her trapped and enslaved. You know what that means for the “older girls”,which means girls only in their 20’s, this is their story too. No one chooses this line of work. Even if they do; sit with that thought for a moment. Sit with them in their pain that would lead to this kind of a choice. Sit with them in their humanity. Sit with all of them in their humanity. “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7b)
**if you want information of how you can get involved email me at firstname.lastname@example.org