by Grace Gaskill

In the 1800’s Victor Hugo said: “We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution.” Unfortunately, 200 years later, slavery is still the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Women and children are being sold for sex, and it is happening both legally and illegally all over the world. There’s no difference between legal and illegal prostitution. Either way, women are being exploited. Women find themselves caught in the chains of the trade in a variety of ways. Some are abducted and some are lured in by someone who appears to be romantically interested.

Sex trafficking is heavily prominent in Eastern Europe, and because of this it is easy to feel detached from the crime. However, there are legal brothels right here in America. In the United States, the average age of entry into trafficking is 13-14 years old. 

“Slavery still exists…and its name is prostitution.” – Victor Hugo

There are many resources ranging from books to articles to movies, and they all seek to educate others and hopefully one day eradicate human trafficking all together. Additionally, there are many organizations established that work to see the eradication of sex trafficking. Organizations such as End It, A21 Campaign, and International Justice Mission (IJM) are all worth looking into for more information about this topic.

While it is good to get involved with the big organizations on a national and global level, it is also important to be involved on a local level. SOURCE and Breaking Free are two organizations that exist right here in the Twin Cities. SOURCE (sourcemn.org) and Breaking Free (breakingfree.net) are fighting the trade through awareness, prevention and rehabilitation. Both organizations are actively helping women get out of the slave trade and back on their feet.

It costs $21,000 to get one woman through the SOURCE program for one year, and while that may seem like a large sum, it is completely feasible. If every undergraduate student at Northwestern gave $11.60, one woman would be able to go through the program. Think about forgoing three to four cups of overpriced coffee a year (not a month) so that one woman can find rehabilitation and freedom. SOURCE even has an option to give online. Go to: sourcemn.org/donate.

There is also a ministry right here on Northwestern’s campus that is working to raise awareness about human trafficking. Writing in the Sand seeks “to offer ourselves as instruments and agents of God to prevent sex trafficking in our communities through awareness and outreach” (WITS mission). Writing in the Sand is led by Anna Heruth, Kaelly Danielson and Ashley Rains.

“We are passionate about bringing awareness to the campus and surrounding communities,” says junior interdisciplinary studies major Anna Heruth. She first became aware of human trafficking one summer on a missions trip in Haiti.

This year Writing in the Sand’s big ministry focus is awareness. They meet once or twice a month, but it is mainly an event-based ministry in order to be flexible with crazy college schedules. Writing in the Sand has a prayer walk in Minneapolis once a quad that entails walking through and praying over an area with a heavy strip club and prostitute presence.  In the Spring semester the ministry is looking forward to “Community Crawls” — going around the community and to places like Mall of America, which is a huge hub for sex trafficking, to hang awareness flyers, post the hotline number and get people talking about the trade.

“We want more male involvement,” continues Heruth. “It’s great to have diversity with gifts and talents. Men are crucial to the healing.” This is also a big reason why Writing in the Sand has shifted their ministry focus this year: so that more men can be involved in raising awareness.

Another way that Writing in the Sand is raising awareness is by showing “Nefarious” here on campus. A few weeks ago, the documentary was shown in one of the carousels, and although the event was held on Northwestern’s campus, the showing brought students from surrounding universities.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com.

“It’s easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed with how big of an issue this is,” said Ethan, a student from North Central University who attended the showing.

“Nefarious: Merchant of Souls” is a documentary about sex trafficking that explains the trade from both a local and global perspective.  It is written, produced, and directed by Benjamin Nolot, who traveled the world with a team of people investigating this dark and larger-than-life industry. The movie specifically focuses on stories in Moldova, Thailand, and the U.S. (Nevada).

In Moldova victims are sold unknowingly and unwillingly, in Thailand the women are in the trade because they see no other way to earn a living; in Nevada it appears to be glamorous and entices women. In actuality, no one wants to sell themselves. Women find themselves caught in the trade, wanting to escape, but not having the means (physically, emotionally, mentally or financially) to do so.

One story talked about a club that provides a variety of services. At the end of the night the customer may get a receipt that reads: “Beer: $4, Grapes: $5, Girl: $3.” How is this okay?

“I am afraid to close my eyes when I sleep because when I do, all I see is pain,” shares Stefa, a former sex trafficking victim and interviewee in the documentary.

Countless former victims shared horrific stories of the things they have experienced. They talk about physiologically becoming two different people: they do anything they are told and they think they enjoy it, while at the same time hating it and wanting to be free.  On average, women only last about six to eight years before they have sexually transmitted diseases or are killed.

“Nefarious” contains the message of redemption and God’s love for these women. “God wants to set the captives free,” said Ohad, a former trafficker. The documentary is emotionally moving and eye-opening. Overall, Nefarious encourages its viewers to get involved in three simple ways: prayer, awareness, and giving. Sex trafficking does not need people to sit on the sidelines and feel sorry; it needs people to take a stand and fight the trade. For more information go to nefariousdocumentary.com or the Writing in the Sand Facebook page to see how you can get involved.

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