What comes to your mind when you hear the word “slavery”?

I don’t know what comes to your mind when you hear the word “slavery”, but perhaps for most of us, our minds go immediately to the atrocities of the slave trade of the 1800s. However, slavery is not a thing of the past.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Victims are young children, teenagers, men and women.”

There are approximately 27 million slaves in the world today. Traffickers prey upon the misfortunes and vulnerabilities of their victims in order to exploit them for their own selfish gain. Traffickers brutally dehumanize their victims to maintain control over them. The physical and psychological trauma caused by human-trafficking is devastating.

But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream. – Amos 5:24

Human trafficking is a form of slavery that has been going on for many centuries and is still alive and well and spreading throughout the United States and the world. According to Polaris, “human traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Under U.S. federal law, any minor under the age of 18 years induced into commercial sex is a victim of human trafficking—regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion.”

Human trafficking situations look very differently across the world.

  • Many victims are deceived by what they thought was a romantic situation. This is often referred to as the “lover-boy” scenario where a trafficker preys upon a vulnerable young woman, woos her, gains her trust and then forces or manipulates her into prostitution.
  • Other victims are promised jobs and are sometimes smuggled across borders thinking they will be working in a restaurant or some other business, only to arrive and be handed over to a cantina or brothel owner and forced to work as a sex slave.
  • In some cases, victims are sold by their own parents or other family members for financial gain.

In all of these cases, victims are “broken in” which means they are violently raped and abused, threatened, and terrorized into a complete place of submission so that they will not run away or turn their trafficker in. The damage effects of this kind of cruelty and manipulation are devastating.

Human trafficking is occurring in a range of venues including online ads or escort services, fake massage parlors, residential brothels, cantinas, on the street or at truck stops, or at hotels and motels (Polaris). It is important to note that the internet has become a hotbed for traffickers and buyers, making it easier for them to generate business and spread out.

And while we may imagine this nefarious business happening in other corners of the world, the truth is that it is happening in our own city, in our own backyard. The U.S. Department of Justice identified the I-10 corridor as the #1human trafficking route in the U.S. with as many as 1 in 4 victims passing through Houston.” “There have been 957 suspected victims and 1,057 suspected human trafficking incidents reported by Texas-based reporting agencies to federal databases since 2007.”

In 2012, the Mayor of Houston formed a taskforce to address the issue of sex trafficking in Houston. The suburbs of Houston in recent years have also begun to realize the presence of sex trafficking. In January of 2015 Fort Bend County recognized that their criminal justice system and social services were not adequate to deal with growing problem of sex slavery, and they followed the City of Houston in creating a task force to begin addressing the problem. Online sex classifieds in the Katy and Sugar Land areas have born witness to the presence of sex slavery and trafficking of minors in our area. Police have learned to look for descriptions like “baby doll,” “low mileage,” and “new in town” to describe minors being sold for sex.

Human trafficking is a multi-faceted problem and it’s not enough for us to simply react. We must understand the root of the problem and apply wisdom in seeking to understand the issue of human trafficking because this abysmal business is multi-faceted. Greed and lust give way to terrible acts of cruelty, and dealing with the demand is paramount if we are ever going to see the supply eradicated.

We may recall stories of brave abolitionists like William Wilberforce and Frederick Douglass. But the abolition movement is not a thing of the past. In fact, if you listen, you will hear the roar of a new generation of freedom fighters calling out once again for men and women to rise up and speak up on behalf of the oppressed and demoralized who have been deceived and trapped in a ruthless industry that generates billions of dollars by inflicting great terror and abuse on vulnerable people. As we look back over history we will see that the gospel has always been the greatest force for social reform. We are standing on the shoulders of great men and women, who moved by the Spirit of God, spoke out and acted courageously in defense of the voiceless and oppressed. In the wake of true Christianity, mercy, justice and love flow and give way to courageous and Christ-like endeavors.

Our own lives bear witness to the fact that there is no life too broken for Christ to heal. There is not problem too difficult or complex that He cannot overcome. So, we do not lose heart in doing good because scripture says that where sin abounds, grace abounds more (Romans 5:20). So in the face of this terrible problem of trafficking, we look to the cross and find all the power we need to fight the good fight of faith on behalf of every trafficking victim.