This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for liberty. I’m grateful for those who fought to preserve it for me, and for the opportunity I have to protect it for others. I am grateful for the countless people fighting for the same cause. I am grateful for the strength God has given so many people to look beyond their own self-interests, to the interests of others, and to dedicate their lives to leaving this country in a better condition than they found it.
What if you were thrown in jail for something you were forced to do against your will? What if you were coerced and shamed into a lifestyle that you would have never chosen for yourself? Although it’s hard for most of us to imagine, this is the experience of many victims of human trafficking.
Unfortunately, the victims of these crimes are often treated as criminals, while the real perpetrators get off. It was not until recently that Florida passed some common sense human trafficking laws. Previously, paying for sex with a child prostitute was not technically child abuse and law enforcement had no choice but to arrest children who had been engaging in prostitution. So, a young girl could be kidnapped, sold and raped and then arrested in order to clean up the streets. The biggest risk to the perpetrator was a $500 fine for solicitation.
Fortunately, some laws were passed in 2012 to help change some of this. You can read an executive summary here. Law enforcement and the DCF now have more flexibility and a clearer understanding of who the victims of these crimes really are.
But like so many other things, the problem of human trafficking can’t be solved just by passing a law. There’s a role that you and I play as well. I’ve realized that the law isn’t the only thing that needed to change. My assumptions and views also need to change. I think there are ways that I viewed the victims as criminals, and missed the larger picture.
A couple years ago I drove down a back street on the “other side of town” and saw a sign that said “We have a zero tolerance policy for prostitution.” I remember chuckling somewhat self-righteously and thinking “Well I’d hope so. Why does a sign like that need to be posted?” That was followed by some fairly quick judgments of the people I saw on the nearby street corners. Get a life, get right with God and clean yourself up.
Don’t get me wrong. Some people engage in prostitution purely by choice. Sex sells, after all. But there are just as many people for whom this life is not their choice. There are numerous ways that people are ensnared, broken and prevented from escaping a hell-on-earth existence.
Now, when I see someone on the street corner on the “other side of town” I have a few questions that had never occurred to me before. I’d encourage you to ask these questions as well.
- What can be done to help that person break free from this bondage (whether forced or self-imposed)?
- How was this person broken, sexually? Were they abused as a child? Bombarded with the media’s objectification of women? Taught to think of themselves as worthless?
I think we could all learn something about God’s heart for those who are involved in sexual sin, whether it’s their own choice or not. God didn’t shy away from using Rahab, the prostitute, to do something heroic before being adopted into God’s family. Jesus helped restore rather than stone the woman caught in adultery. We have an opportunity to incarnate Christ to both the victims and perpetrators of sexual crimes, since both of those groups are trapped in a form of bondage to sin. It’s starts with cultivating a heart of compassion and recognizing that it’s only by the grace of God that any of us are free.
On a related topic, you can read this great article on sexual brokenness by Sheree Phillips, who also happens to be my mom.
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