HT 101: Eyes Wide Open
We often have the privilege of providing education to a variety of groups on the reality of human trafficking in our community. Before we begin, we typically ask the entire group: What do you think human trafficking is?
As you might imagine, we receive a wide range of answers from, "Isn't that when girls get kidnapped?," to the very literal translation of "people in traffic." Many of our perceptions about human trafficking are formed by what we see in the entertainment industry or on social media platforms. However, those perceptions leave us with a commercialized understanding rather than practical examples.
Our organization's introductory training on human trafficking is called HT 101: Eyes Wide Open. So...what does it mean to live with eyes wide open?
We believe that through educating the general public, we can shift the narrative. This not only helps prevent human trafficking, but it also helps create a network of community support for those who have already been exploited. Education is a bridge of understanding and compassion.
Below, we have compiled a list of the ten most commonly asked questions along with their answers from our introductory training. We pray that this information sparks not only a desire in you to know more, but also that your heart be compelled to advocate for those in our community who have been exploited.
1. What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is the exploitation of a person by force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of commercial sex acts, forced labor, or domestic servitude.
2. Who are the traffickers and who are the victims?
Look at the above photo. As you scan the faces, who do you believe is the trafficker? Who do you think is the victim? We use this image in our training, and often times, we receive various commentary on who and why they chose certain images. The reality is, however, by looking at the photo, it is impossible to tell who is the trafficker and who is the victim of trafficking. Human trafficking can happen regardless of gender, race, socio-economic status, etc. Although, we want our students to know the single unifying factor for every trafficker is a heart with evil intent. The only synonymous factor for victims of human trafficking is a vulnerability within their life circumstances that a trafficker has identified and is able to exploit.
3. What is considered child sex trafficking?
Any child under the age of eighteen who is recruited, harbored, transported, provided for, obtained, patronized, or solicited for the purpose of a commercial sex act. In contrast to adult cases where the victim is over eighteen year of age, force, fraud, and coercion do not have to be proven in cases of child sex trafficking. Again, any commercial sex act involving a child is considered sex trafficking.
4. Does it happen in Dothan?
Unfortunately, yes. It is not an overstatement to say that our ministry encounters women on a daily basis who have been sexually exploited. No community is immune. Often, victims of sexual exploitation are minimized to a label such as prostitute, addict, runaway, homeless, etc., and therefore, are not properly identified as victims of exploitation.
5. What about the white van scenario?
Many times, our perception of sex trafficking involves kidnapping and a white van. We often tell people that if sex trafficking could be boiled down to that simple scenario, we would simply train people to avoid white vans. However, that is not the case. Only 2% of overall sex trafficking involves kidnapping. Sexual exploitation is much more likely to occur within the context of known relationships, such as family members or boyfriends.
6. What about the posts that circulate on Facebook about human trafficking?
A few months ago, posts went viral about the dangers of sex trafficking. There were various stories circulated involving children being hidden in furniture and cars being marked in the parking lot of popular stores. We want to be clear it is incredibly important to take the topic of sex trafficking seriously; however, it is also important to vet the sources of information we encounter. As with any topic, social media can be a wonderful source of information and connectivity, but most of the time it is necessary to dig a bit deeper to be sure the information is credible.
7. Is social media dangerous?
It can be, but it doesn't have to be. Whenever we are given the privilege of teaching teen girls about sexual exploitation, we share with them the following statistic: 60% of recruitment for sex trafficking begins on social media. We stop at this point in the presentation to ask, "How many of you are planning to delete your social media?" The answer is always the same...no one. The reality is connectivity is engrained in our culture, and social media is here to stay. We do not teach teens and families to avoid social media. We teach them to be wise while using it. The top three suggestions we provide for social media usage: 1. Set accounts up as private, which will require permission to see pictures and posts; 2. Do not communicate with people you do not personally know; 3. Post minimal personal information.
8. Why doesn't she just leave?
This is one of the most common misunderstandings people have about sexual exploitation. Victims of human trafficking have experienced severe, complex trauma. Many times, the trauma has been experienced over the course of their lifetime. Whether there was emotional manipulation, physical intimidation, or economic control, there are numerous factors traffickers use to maintain access and control over their victims making it very difficult for the victim to escape the life. Therefore, traffickers know physical bondage with ropes or chains is not necessary to control their victim.
9. What is the best way to protect myself and my family?
Simply put, be educated on what human trafficking truly looks like in our community; be wise on social media; and know who you are in Christ.
10. How can I help in the fight against human trafficking?
First, pray. Prayer will always be our most effective way to fight against sexual exploitation in our community. Below, you will find the link to a prayer guide that specifically addresses each area of our ministry along with a verse we ask you to pray over the women and girls we serve. Second, volunteer. Whether it is with Dare to Hope or another ministry serving vulnerable populations, giving your time to others not only glorifies the Lord, but also pours love upon those who you are serving. Third, give. Many feel compelled to help but do not know where to start. Giving plants a seed, and as it comes to fruition, it helps change the lives of women and girls in our community.
For more information on trainings and further educational opportunities, please contact us at email@example.com.