Human trafficking is widely known as one of the most brutal and sickening crimes. According to the U.S. Department of State, approximately 27.6 million people are victimized by human trafficking worldwide, at any given time.
Followers of Christ are given a divine order to take a stand against the evils of the world. It is not just or Godly to sit by and allow the basic rights of humans to be grossly violated and exploited. It is time to take a stand.
What can students and Christians do in their everyday lives to help the victims of human trafficking and protect one another?
In an interview with Rachel Hines, Deputy Chief of the Special Victims Unit at the Office of the District Attorney in Cherokee County, Hines clears up some common misconceptions about the topic. She believes reform begins with understanding.
“People think of [human trafficking] as someone walking down the street and being picked up, put into a van, and sent off to a motel with some strange guy. Those things do happen and are very frightening, but we see, more often than not, teenagers who get themselves in situations through social media or online conversations,” Hines said.
Hines continues to explain that human trafficking, at its core, is the sexual exploitation of, most commonly, young women and children, in exchange for money. The truth is, oftentimes, young adults, who are craving independence and freedom, make decisions that put themselves at risk of becoming a victim of human trafficking. Once they get in this situation, they are often unable to escape.
“We see a young teen who starts communicating with someone online and then really gets themselves wrapped up in exchange for videos, pictures, and maybe even sexual acts, and they think it’s cool. They think it’s fun. They think it’s exciting. So when you talk about what teens can do, first and foremost, you have to understand what it is to be on the lookout for, right? Because it’s not what you think it is,” Hines said.
Hines discusses how communication is one of the most effective preventative measures when it comes to protecting teens from human trafficking. There is a misconception that human trafficking is only a concern for at-risk teens on the street. But this can happen to kids living in stable homes with loving families. Teenagers are often more at risk when they feel as though they are unable to communicate with their parental figures about subjects such as sex, healthy boundaries, and even pornography.
Teens are known for rebellion as they come into their own, and Hines fears that characterizing normal teenage emotions as shameful or inappropriate may actually do more harm than good.
In the Special Victims Unit, “We have all kinds of cases where the offender blames pornography for whatever crime they have committed. These are the types of things people don’t want to talk about. They almost think it’s more inappropriate to talk about it than it is to just dust it under the rug and say, ‘Oh, we’re not going to talk about pornography because that’s distasteful.’ But in a weird way, I wonder if it’s something we should be talking about more,” Hines said.
She goes on to explain that sometimes in cases they find that the strict refusal of mature, open conversations between children and those who look out for them contributes to many teenager’s tendency towards risky behavior and may be putting them at an increased risk.
It is the responsibility of Christian students to spread awareness of the truth of human trafficking. Communication, accountability, and awareness each play a vital role in the reduction of human trafficking and the protection of innocent young teens and children. Being careful on social media and with strangers is vital to one’s security. At the end of the day, social status is not as valuable as safety. Let’s protect one another.