He Will Faithfully Bring Forth Justice

As we wrap up the 2012 pureJUSTICE internship, check out last year’s Justice Week on the Covenant Eyes blog for more on this issue.

Raped on a Porn Set: Full Interview with Shelley Lubben
Sex Slaves Next Door: Former Victim Speaks Out
10 Ways to Oppose Sexual Exploitation

Click here to view the full Covenant Eyes’ Justice Week

Sex and Shades of Grey – Part II

by Maria Marballi

I do believe that the Lord has this particular faction of young women on His heart: the abused turned prostitute.  When the gift of sex is broken in a young child, the image of sex polarizes from holy, to unholy: from beauty to evil, from pleasure to pain.  The image is tarnished, as they become victims of incest and abuse, each sitting solitarily in their rooms praying for the memories to magically disappear- for innocence to be restored.  Hands over their head, buried between their knees against the cold floor.  This is where many prostitutes begin their journey.

It’s grim to try and understand why exactly the abused return to a life of sexual entrapment, but we do know what God has to say.  “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).  And those that cause His little ones to stumble, often times stumbled themselves into the trap that dulls the mind like a drug: pornography.  It first appears a “small sin,” a mild impediment on the journey towards eternal life, however, slowly becomes an increasingly lofty barrier that grows superior with each opened window browser.  Some stories progress as an addiction obligated to be fed: an easy feat nowadays, I might add.  As the addicted stand before the mountain of compiled digitalized sexual experiences, they need more; they need the real thing.  Now what?

One in every three girls and one in every six boys are sexually abused by the time they blow out their eighteenth candle.  I am not one to provide a hard-fast rule on the progression from pornography viewer to abuser- however the viewing of such material creates an insatiable appetite that causes some to reach into the screen and grasp the experience only to place it on the obligatory shoulders of a child.  This is not to say that porn viewers become abusers, but rather that pedophiles have a history of viewing pornography more often than not- and my purpose is to understand the transition from bad to worse and how the worse manifests itself in the victim.

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My View on ‘My View’

by Haley Ashworth 

Recently, the Deseret News published an opinion piece by John Harmer, who speaks out loudly against our society’s indifference to the sex trafficking and pornography epidemic.  Harmer is only one man, but hopefully his voice will be amplified with this article.  It is refreshing to see someone else who recognizes the connections between pornography and the horrendous sex crimes being committed, especially someone who seems to be so in line with the mission of pureHOPE.  Harmer uses the specific tragedies of two young girls’ murders to point to the more universal problem of the acceptance of porn.  Both girls were raped and then murdered in ways that reenacted hardcore child pornography.  Sadly, these are not isolated cases; you can learn more about the effects of porn here.

In the article, Harmer asks, “So who killed Destiny Norton and Sierra Newbold?  We all did.  We did it with our passive shrug of the shoulders for the continuing production and distribution of materials that cannot be described in this newspaper.”  Admitting to this truth is crucial for a change to take place, and we can start by looking inward.

I know not all of us support or view pornography, but that is not enough.  To the millions of men, women, and children enslaved in the sex industry, it is not enough that we abstain from buying them.  We must be their voices and advocates.  In Isaiah 1, we are told to “seek justice, encourage the oppressed.”  This is more than an issue of abstinence.  It is a command to proactively pursue justice for those who do not have it.

Until we take a stand against the apathy of our culture, things will stay the same.  According to Brent Ward, a man who used to be the U.S. Attorney for Utah and head of the anti-pornography unit for the Dept. of Justice, the reason the government cannot help with this issue “is because there is no mandate from the people to deal with it.”  We cannot expect our government to fix a problem if our society doesn’t consider it to be a problem at all.  Let us begin to seek justice and avoid apathy, gain wisdom and understanding, and encourage others to make a difference. The pureJUSTICE Bible study is a great place to start.

 See Also:

Haley Ashworth is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University and is currently serving as a 2012 pureJUSTICE intern.

Sex and Shades of Grey

by Maria Marballi

We love labels, don’t we?  We use them for just about everything.  One couldn’t possibly conquer a grocery list without the guidance of aisle indicators or product tags.  They create definite separations between finite categories that indeed need to be separated.  Cookies are in the snack aisle; shampoo in health and beauty.  Done. Here’s my money. Labels make things simple, clear-cut and require minimal high-caliber judgment on the part of the buyer.

Labels are so prevalent and flat-out necessary that we routinely use them to classify ethics.  Sharing is good; stealing is bad. Sincerity is good; lying is bad.  Porn is good; sex trafficking is bad.  I know what you’re thinking: what an unmistakably, unsubtle way to bring up sex.  But here I go.

What if I told you that labels, the very things that allow life to make sense, are also the reason life doesn’t make sense?  What if I told you that some of these labels could potentially be the most life-threatening ideal that many of us have learned to embrace?  While there is absolute truth, Christ-centered truth, man-made labels involving sex often have shades of grey that craftily sneak below the moral radar.  It is easy to believe that porn, prostitution, child abuse and sex trafficking have little to do with one another; however, they may have everything to do with each other, and it’s costing lives as I write.

Pornography is a 96 billion dollar per year industry.  Human trafficking: 32 billion dollars per year.  These numbers are not mutually exclusive; they are intricately woven into one another to create a web of sexual immorality and profit that is our culture today.  To succinctly summarize the far more complex issue on how these trades are related: trafficked women are often trained by porn and used in the production of porn.  Due to the fact that women are forced and coerced to perform sexual acts before the camera, therefore being trafficked, the demand for human slaves heavily stems from a desire to view increasing amounts of pornography.  While there are women that “willingly” enter into the industry drawn by the gilded depiction of glamour, many of them become victims of abuse, not knowing what they got themselves into- and even then there are not nearly enough volunteers.  They need to be manipulated, tricked and stolen.  They need drugs to finish up the day.  As an appetite for pornography increases, so will the amount of human slaves, because we are constantly imploring, “more.”

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Me, Myself and I: The Villain and the Victim

by Aszia Walker

“Apart from Christ, I am Osama bin Laden.  I am Hitler, Stalin, Mao.  Only by the virtue of Christ can I stand forgiven before a holy God.  This isn’t hyperbole; it’s biblical truth.  We’ll never appreciate Christ’s grace so long as we hold on to the proud illusion that we’re better than we are.  We flatter ourselves when we look at evil acts and say, ‘I would never do that.’  Daniel, a righteous man, came before God confessing the sins of his nation, not saying, ‘They have sinned,’ but, ‘We have sinned’ (Daniel 9:5).  He took full ownership for his own contribution to the problem of his nation’s sin.  So should we all.” – Randy Alcorn, The Goodness of God

Last year I began to notice my lack of empathy for others and my immense pride in myself.  So, I thought it might be a decent idea to pray about it and ask God to begin a transforming work in me.

Whoops.  He actually heard that prayer, and He has actually started teaching my heart about His heart.  The pureJUSTICE internship program has served as my most recent tutor.

Here I’m gaining a wealth of understanding about pornography, prostitution, and their correlations to human trafficking. But the most penetrating lesson thus far has been a personal lesson in humility and compassion as I am beginning to lose that proud illusion and self-flattery Alcorn refers to.

We’ve talked a lot about sexual lust and its widespread effects on the immorality and turmoil in our society today.  There are real-life villains doing atrocious things to innocent and unsuspecting women and children, and while perversion is an obvious driving factor of the sex trafficking industry, we have learned that still other motives for pimping women, trading humans, and possessing modern-day slaves are greed and the hunger for power and control.

Which brings me to the following confession:

I lust.  I get greedy, stingy.  And, I try to control everything.

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Just Your Average John

by Haley Ashworth

The majority of information on sex trafficking and the sex industry focuses on the women who are being exploited.  It is easy to find a typical profile for a woman caught in the sex industry, but what about the men that drive the industry—the consumers of women, the johns?  It is rare to see someone approaching the issue from that angle, and so I set out to see what research had been done.  How old are these men? Are they married?  Poor?  Wealthy?  Do they know the pain they are causing?  Do they care?

After searching through articles, research publications, blog posts, and fact sheets, I believe I have found the answers.  It is puzzling and saddening, but, for the most part, the men who have purchased women and children for their sexual use look almost indistinguishable from the rest of society, including the church. They are not dirty men in trench coats.  They are not desperate drug addicts. They are not societal outcasts who have little chance of a real relationship. The viewers of pornography, the buyers of prostitutes, the clients in strip clubs are, for the most part, just your average joe—or “john”, as it were.

Melissa Farley, a psychologist and founder of Prostitution Research & Education also noticed the lack of information on the johns and performed a research project to gather more data. Through interviews with two groups of men (buyers of sex and non-buyers), she gained and shared much insight into the differences between the two groups.  Farley reports that “sex buyers in the study used significantly more pornography than non-buyers,” demonstrating once again the link between sex trafficking and pornography (learn more about that here and here). The buyers of sex also admitted to being more violent with women, and according to the study were “nearly eight times as likely as non-buyers to say they would rape a woman if they could get away with it.” This severe attitude of violence points to a cyclical pattern. Similar to the way a drug addict eventually needs harder narcotics to achieve a high, viewers of pornography gradually need more violent and “hardcore” images in order to be satisfied, eventually leading to a tolerance of violence towards women, even to the point where they desire to act it out.  Prostituted women are the perfect outlet for this because the men are in complete control. Continue reading

Seeking Justice: The Sex Trafficker

by Margaret Fox

Earlier this summer, Governor John Kasich signed into law Ohio’s new human trafficking bill.  It has been widely hailed as a ‘tough on crime’ victory for the anti-trafficking movement, in no small part due to its steep sentencing for convicted traffickers: it nails offenders with a ten year prison sentence.

In the past, commercial sex laws have largely targeted prostituted women and children, without severe penalties for pimps and handlers. That’s what made trafficking such a high-profit, low-risk business for those willing to get their hands dirty. But thankfully, increased public awareness has prompted a slow but steady shift in the nature of legislation; now, most American laws to combat sex trafficking involve rescue and rehabilitation for victims, and prosecution of those profiting from their exploitation.

So who are these people?  Who finds their way into trafficking and pimping women and children, and how?

Last year two researchers at DePaul University College of Law, Jody Raphael and Brenda Myers-Powell, conducted interviews of ex-pimps in the city of Chicago.  Some of the common denominators among their subjects, including racial distribution and income, are likely unique to Chicago or the United States.  But the study does offer valuable insights into trafficking, some of which may apply globally.

For instance, 100% of women involved in trafficking others had once been trafficked themselves.  Almost 90% of traffickers, male and female, had suffered physical abuse as children, and 76% had suffered sexual abuse. And as for the question, “how does one get involved in sale of human flesh”?  Family connections may have a good deal to do with it: over half of those interviewed said they had family members involved in trafficking.

According to a University of Rhode Island study, there are diverse ways to enter and run a trafficking operation.  There are small-scale, local operators who might deal with fewer than three girls at once, and these make up at least half of all offenders worldwide. However, about a quarter of the industry is dominated by large-scale crime rings, which constantly coordinate recruitment efforts.  For these organizations, sex trafficking is likely just one of many illegal ventures; along with drug dealing, it may provide the bulk of the group’s income.  The study reports that many of these organizations use bars, strip clubs, and escort services as fronts.

The connection between organized crime and trafficking has been the subject of significant study over the past few years, particularly in regard to national security.  Like other criminal operations, Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups use trafficking to help fund their organizations.  And even inner city gangs without a history of sex trafficking, may be jumping on the bandwagon. In 2008, a newspaper in Seattle published an article on street gangs increasingly entering the commercial sex trade, and NPR reported on the disturbing trend as recently as last November.

So, who are the people being groomed to become pimps and traffickers? In some sense, the same people at risk of becoming the trafficked: many are individuals in difficult circumstances, likely abused or neglected in childhood, looking for a sense of power and a quick profit in one of the few “careers” accessible to them.  Those who have left pimping and trafficking repentant testify to the darkness they encountered and were ensnared by. The fact is, sex trafficking robs individuals of human dignity on both sides of the equation. As legislatures across the U.S. and the world continue to put traffickers behind bars, ministries should not neglect the responsibility of following them there with a message of forgiveness and redemption.  At the same time, there is ample opportunity to find and rescue the young men and women most vulnerable to this industry, long before they fall into it.  Inner city outreaches have a great part to play in this work.

As Christians, we need to seek justice, not only in the world as a whole but in the hearts of its people.  We need to pray for the freedom of the exploited, but also redemption of the exploiters.  After all, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  We know from precious experience that God is in the business of transforming hearts.

Margaret Fox is a senior at Princeton University and is currently serving as a 2012 pureJUSTICE intern.  Click here to see her recently published article in First Things magazine.