Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fear The 'Fad' of Sex Trafficking

Transitions' girls making 'worry dolls' with Naropa art therapy students.
When Transitions began its journey to see young girls find hope and healing from being sexually trafficked in 2006, we had one fear. That fear was that this issue would become a fad, which would fade from public popularity and move on to the next big thing. This issue for us, is about the girls - real girls with real needs to find restoration in their lives and a revival of their dreams. This is not something we did when it was popular. In fact, we began this journey in 2004, when the word sex trafficking was an anomaly to the general public.

Eight years into our journey, we are seeing significant progress - more awareness, more education, and a growing body of foundations, funding agencies, and people that realize the critical need for services to the survivors of this horrible crime. The world of aftercare, treatment, and reintegration is just now beginning to mature to a place that we are having meaningful conversations about what success (in working with survivors) looks like.

Worry dolls created by the girls at Transitions' Dream Home.

But, there is a problem. For a large percentage of people, this issue is something that captures their attention for a time and then they move on to the next big 'cause'. In fact, even within our own field, we are seeing a shift. Major organizations, like IOM (International Organization for Migration) have shifted their focus from repatriation and services to looking at migration in regard to climate change! This shift was due to the interest of donors and an increase of funding for climate issues instead of trafficking. But, we are seeing a movement to no longer focusing on sex trafficking to look at other issues.

The 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) emphasizes that the 'new' issue is labor trafficking and not sex trafficking, which is deeply disturbing. Sex trafficking has not disappeared, nor has it been curbed; rather, sex trafficking has become more complex and pushed further underground. This means that we are making progress, but we need to adjust the methodology for investigating and rescuing victims. The fact that criminals have become more complex in the way they are trafficking and exploiting victims should not dissuade us from making the effort or changing focus to something else.

We certainly can't believe that sex trafficking has gone away and that now traffickers are only exploiting human beings for labor? Yet, by the shift in attention, you would be led to believe that sex trafficking (particularly of minors) has been greatly eliminated. Yet, we see an increased influx of foreign men in Cambodia (Southeast Asia as a whole) and the 'chatter' online would also give the impression that sex tourism is on the rise.

Survivor at Transitions doing sand tray therapy.

We need to maintain our resolve to persevere in our efforts to identify, rescue, and restore the lives of survivors - girls, women, and even boys are counting on us to stay our course. We cannot allow sex trafficking to become a trend, like skinny jeans or dub step. These are human beings crying out for us to see them, hear them, and help them. In order to do this, we need to find innovative ways to engage the global community to stay involved.

Transitions is committed to the long-term effort of restoring the lives of young girls rescued from sex trafficking, through the power of a dream. We believe in giving survivors a new future and providing them with the services and tools they need to begin a new life. This means that we need people (like you) to continue to care and keep your attention on the precious lives that have been affected by sex trafficking. One of the most powerful ways to do this is through sponsoring a girl. Project Every Girl gives you the ability to make a tangible impact in the lives of survivors. You can also advocate with your friends, church, school, and community to get involved.

We also need new and innovative solutions for keeping a focus on this important and critical issue. This is where you come in. If you have ideas for how Transitions can increase awareness of the work we are doing with survivors, let us know. Comment here or on our Facebook page!

All photos by Lauren Huntley 2012


  1. The question of how to maintain the public momentum against sex trafficking has also deeply concerned me. Mind you, we all agree that labor trafficking is important too: the hell of slavery is a question of severity: all of them intolerable. Sex trafficking, however, is a special order of moral repugnance that deserves our full attention. It categorically should *not* exist on this planet and the message should be repeated that *we* are the ones responsible for allowing it to happen. The wolves will do what they do, but we are the shepherds. It is our job to stop the bad guys.

    What we need is an advertizing campaign that doesn't waste money, air time, and public attention by saying, "Real Men Don't Buy Girls". We need one that calls people to donate. It needs to name actual orgs the way Children's International does on a daily basis. If possible, itneeds to spread the message that supporting the Sex Industry helps create the demand for trafficked people (a *very* unpopular truth).

    At this time, I don't know of a single large shelter system that has anything approaching the necessary budget to make this happen. Perhaps something could be arranged if groups like Transistions Global and Hagar International were to partner. Perhaps they could link with preventative orgs like Children's and World Vision to create an advertizing campaign.

    Short of finding some sympathetic billionaires, word of mouth and individual activism are the best tools to hand. To anyone reading this, I implore you to look for creative ways to raise money using your talents. For example, I'm working on a novel: a science fiction piece that will involve sex trafficking which I hope will reach an audience not commonly touched on this subject. I plan to donate all the royalties to counter-trafficking groups (so if anyone is interested in reading the chapter drafts so I can have feedback, I'd appreciate it!).

    Some of us are in positions of influence. Ask to speak in front of your congregation (I have a 30 minute speech just for that if you like, wouldn't be hard to tailor it). Talk to people you trust. Share with them your passion for this terribly important cause. Tell them the stories of these real girls and boys. In doing so, you will help create in them the urgency to give to one of the groups that fight sexual slavery.

  2. Brian, thank you for your input. We appreciate your passion and engagement in restoring the lives of survivors~!