Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Girls and Sex, Did You Know?

This morning I chatted with a young (probably mid-twenties) woman about some of the findings I gleaned from Peggy Orenstein's book, Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape and The Porn Phenomenon report put out by Barna Group.  As we talked, she shared my deep concerns over the high incidence of porn use by young adults and its creation of unrealistic expectations saying: "You wouldn't believe what guys expect now," and "I'm not comfortable with some of what they want." Fortunately for her, she has the confidence and values that empower her to uphold her convictions. But according to Orenstein's book that's rare. Many girls go along to get along, and in the process large numbers of young women are disassociating themselves from their feelings and missing out on the joy of a genuine love relationship. Not to mention severely damaging their self-esteem in the process.

Pop culture validates the approach of using sex to initiate relationships rather than as a major step toward intimacy in a long-term committed relationship. A recent episode of "Chicago Fire" depicted this aspect of the new sexual landscape described by Orenstein. Blonde paramedic, Sylvie Brett, developed a romantic interest in Dawson's detective brother (Antonio on Chicago P.D.). Unless I missed something they had only had a drink together before she shows up unexpectedly at his door wearing a trench coat. As I recall, the first words out of her mouth were: "I'm a good girl." While walking into his apartment, she adamantly states: "I didn't even kiss a boy until I was 17." Intrigued, he says, "Okay?" She then adds: "As for sex -- " and he finishes her sentence with respect and no obvious disappointment, "I get it. You want to save it for marriage." She replies with a devilish grin: "Hell no," as she opens the trench coat revealing the sexy lingerie she's wearing.

Of course Antonio couldn't have been more delighted and their sexual escapade kicks their relationship into high gear. I can't help but wonder what if I'd been watching this show with my daughter? What would I have said?

Being informed about what's going on can help us ask questions and hopefully respond with life experience that teaches how men value a girl who has not slept around. How fantasy experiences as portrayed in the media seldom work out with happy endings in real life. Rather as Orenstein's book indicates those types of casual experiences (often when a girl has had too much to drink) usually lead to heartbreak. Though Orenstein for all intents and purposes ignores this reality in her best-selling book--that's because there is no commitment. Respect and trust have not developed. The relationship has no foundation to build on.

Add in the problems with porn and according to a Time magazine article in last April 11th's issue, men who become frequent users often can't even perform when it matters. "Porn: Why young men who grew up with Internet porn are becoming advocates for turning it off" by Belinda Luscombe explains that: "there are much broader concerns about porn's effect on society that go beyond the potential for sexual dysfunction, including the fact that it often celebrates the degradation of women and normalizes sexual aggression." (p. 42).

Women contribute to these problems by supporting blockbuster films and books like Fifty Shades of Grey. Entertainers like Beyonce, Usher, and Rihanna further convince young people that sex is the ultimate achievement. Sometimes the lyrics even glamorize trafficking. Yet all too often we cheer these so-called "artists" and spend our entertainment dollars to support them.

If we're going to complain about the objectification of women, we've got to complain about all of it--whether it involves our country's leaders or Hollywood or the guy down the street. Either we're for it or against it. There's no middle ground. Girls and women are not objects. That's the message we must give our children if future generations are to have any hope of healthy relationships. It's no wonder sexual assaults are rampant on college campuses. The predominantly white college girls Orenstein interviewed often couldn't even define whether or not they had been raped. And one in four either had or will be.

What about those in poorer economic groups? Aren't they at all the more risk of being convinced they should get paid for casual sex if they're "doing it" anyway? If they've already been used and abused until they've disassociated from their feelings, why not?

Do you have ideas for how to stop the objectification of women? Please click on "No comments" and share them. We're all in this together and for the sake of our young people, this cultural climate doesn't just need to be navigated--it needs to change.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Did California Democrats Legalize Child Prostitution?

In the past few days, I've been asked twice if the news report of California legalizing child prostitution is true. To me the Washington Examiner article responsible for this interpretation has grossly misrepresented the facts of California SB 1322.

The Sacramento Bee details the problems with this news story including the fact that it's been cut and pasted onto other sites and Facebook fans are spreading the misrepresentations as fast as they have other fake news reports.

It seems to me the Bee article validates my take on three key factors.
  1. Decriminalizing an action is quite different from legalizing it. This bill is designed so that kids under 18 are no longer criminalized for being victims. It recognizes that they have been exploited and brainwashed. Rather than being put in jail, they need a caring environment where they can learn how to live healthy productive lives. Most victims of prostitution who don't get out of the "game," die way too young. They need job and life skills. They need to know their lives have meaning, purpose, and value instead of having a criminal charge on their records.
  2. The prosecution of the real criminals now becomes the focus because statutory rape (sex with a child under the age of 18) is already illegal. So is the sexual exploitation of minors. If a girl or boy is in their home and a parent or step-parent sexually molests them, the child is considered a victim, removed from that environment, and the perpetrator is prosecuted. For many years if a child was exploited by a pimp, the child was prosecuted and prosecution of pimps was rare. The good news is that law enforcement has been going after the traffickers and now helps children get services.  
  3. Children can still be picked up by law enforcement for temporary placement if they perceive that child is in harm's way.  And as law enforcement increasingly recognizes the environment for trafficking, they know how to rescue those victims. I've been so encouraged to meet law enforcement personnel committed to caring for these kids and protecingt them from pimps and johns. 
Everyone should be outraged about trafficking, period. It shouldn't take an erroneous news story to get people up in arms. Democrats and Republications can work together to fight the problems and solve them. Anyone who exploits the media to sensationalize the issues and put people at odds with one another should be ashamed, deeply ashamed. We need to work together to be solving problems not exacerbating them.

People of all political persuasions need to get involved because there simply aren't enough services (see the last paragraph) available for the thousands of victims who need them. That's why Every One Free is developing a resource center to help girls on one of the busiest tracks in Pomona. An easy way to make a difference to trafficking victims is to donate toward this center. (If you do that, please mark your gift as being for the Justice Center.) Or find out what's happening in your neighborhood and get involved. First and foremost learn what's going on and seek out the truth. That's disturbing enough without sensationalizing legislation.

Did I miss anything? Are there legitimate concerns that need to be discussed? Please read California SB 1322 for yourself and add to the discussion below by clicking on the "No Comments" button and posting a comment.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article124201384.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Trafficking, Trump, and the Truth

Sometimes I feel very small when it comes to the issue of human trafficking. That's one reason why it's been so long since my last post. There's been so much going on that I had to let go of something and this blog was it. Now, though, I have updates and what I think is an important message for the Church. First the updates.

Every ONE Free (EOF) has been developing the "Do ONE Thing" online guide as a resource for individuals and churches wanting to get involved in the fight against trafficking. It's an easy-to-read resource and will include additional components as time permits the writing of them. With the table of contents on the right rail, you can easily skip to the section you are most interested in. Right now I'm researching a new section addressing the problems with porn and how it increases demand. This section will also include resources for dealing with porn addictions, which puts potential victims of trafficking at high risk because the more one uses porn the more violence and the younger the children involved. And, yes, the problem with porn is as huge in the Church as it is outside of it. One of the biggest concerns for Christians is that the parents of boys need to be aware of the potential for their sons to become victimizers because addiction to porn actually changes brain chemistry just like other drugs.

In addition, partnered with CARE 18, EOF has also embarked on an effort to open a resource center on Holt Blvd just west of Gary in Pomona, CA. It's right on one of the busiest tracks in the nation. If you've followed this blog, you may remember that last January pinstripers put on an auction at the National Roadsters Show featuring their work. All the proceeds--$36,000--were donated to EOF. There's a tremendous amount of work to be done on the existing building. Funds need to be raised, programs need to be developed, and partnerships need to be built with churches, nonprofits, and businesses. This God-sized project will require His power, grace, and mercy to build the relationships necessary to make it successful. That's why I'm currently building a team to bathe every aspect of it in prayer.

Fighting human trafficking is one of the most effective ways the Church can reach out to their neighborhoods in the name of Jesus--bringing light into the darkness and truth into the lies in ways that can transform a city. My article on that topic and what we're doing in Pomona ran in Facts and Trends magazine last spring.

So what does Trump have to do with "trafficking." Well, his ongoing pattern of objectifying women is certainly not a role model for raising young boys. It also validates the current behavior patterns of men who think of women as commodities to purchase for sex. To be honest I believe Hillary did the same in a more subtle way. By not strongly denouncing that problem in conjunction with her husband's escapades and by not reaching out with compassion to those he victimized, in my opinion, she condoned the exploitation of women. Unfortunately these leaders are not alone and that's why the sexual exploitation of women and girls is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world and the fastest growing.

That's where people desiring truth on both sides of the political aisle can find unity if they'll get involved. Especially if they are Christians. This past Saturday CARE 18's Faith Initiative Against Trafficking pulled together men and women from various denominations--Catholic, Methodist, Baptist and more; various ethnicities--Asian, Hispanic, African American and White--young and old, rich and poor--more than 140 people came to learn more about how to fight trafficking within their communities. Working together we are denouncing the objectification of women and promoting respect for women and girls. Some of these quarterly events even have workshops tailored for fathers, who want to protect their daughters. The correlation between father/daughter relationships combined with a culture of materialism and sexual promiscuity contributes dramatically to the sexual exploitation of women and girls.

And, here we are back to the underlying problems with human trafficking. Due to the cultural lies fostered among some of America's most visible leaders, our entertainment and media (including video games for children), women and girls have become commodities to be sold. Trying to wrap our minds around a $150 billion a year industry is mind boggling. When I first got involved in 2010, the number was $9 billion.

But there are more of us, than there are of those participating in this travesty. More of us who say we believe women and girls are precious and worthy of respect. So how long will it take before every church gets involved and starts working toward solutions? How long before every individual is doing at least one thing to make a difference? What about you?

To comment just click on the "No comments" button. I'd love to know your thoughts, what you are doing or what one thing will you do to stop the sexual exploitation of women and girls.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Fight to End Child Sex Trafficking Comes to the Big Screen, Monday May 16th--one night only

Posing as American sex tourists wanting to buy children, the Operation Underground Railroad’s (O.U.R.) jump team, led by Tim Ballard, meets with traffickers. They negotiate. Dozens of hidden cameras capture the darkness of human trafficking at a party with girls—12, 13, 14 years old—in Cartagena, Colombia; with younger girls and boys at an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

In “The Abolitionists,” the action is real. Light comes into the darkness as seven traffickers are arrested. Hope comes to the hopeless as 57 victims are rescued.

“Some people lose their faith over such evil,” said Tim Ballard, O.U.R.’s CEO. “But for me the exact opposite is true. Doors open that shouldn’t have opened. Resources come to us that shouldn’t have come. [God] wants these kids rescued more than anybody.”
Ballard had to go where few dare to tread.

Real life action heroes
Early in his career as a Homeland Security special agent, Ballard said he struggled to continue working on assignments with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and as an undercover operative for the U.S. Child Sex Tourism Jump Team. Analyzing child porn for clues on how to save victims was so disturbing he wanted to walk away. Then on July 3, 2006, during an operation in Southern California, a little five-year-old boy stood in front of him. That child had been set free from ongoing rape by a child pornographer. In that moment Ballard became determined to spend the rest of his life rescuing kids.

By 2012, Ballard said he realized he could do more to help the estimated two million children being held as sex slaves around the world by resigning from Homeland Security. Starting O.U.R., Ballard put together a jump team comprised of former CIA agents, Navy SEALs, and Special Ops operatives. They work with governments around the world to identify traffickers, rescue their victims, then provide the extensive aftercare necessary for healing.

Soon after starting O.U.R, Ballard connected with Chet Thomas (who worked on Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” “Amistad,” and “Meet the Parents”) and Darrin Fletcher (with credits on “Sandlot,” “High School Musical 3,” and “Touched By An Angel.”)
“It was a perfect fit,” said Thomas. Over time “Ballard started telling other stories—special agent—child crimes—so we’re like, those are the stories we should be telling.”

A film for this generation
Winner of an Academy Award for “Schindler’s List,” Gerald Molen signed on as executive producer. Molen explained that “The Abolitionists” is the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” or “Schindler’s List” for our generation. “Our goal was to open the world’s eyes to the epidemic of human and child sex trafficking.”

Ballard hopes “The Abolitionists” motivates Christians the way “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” did. “Slaves wouldn’t have  been emancipated, were it not for the churches, said Ballard. “That’s where the movement began. That was the core of the movement. And, it’s no different now.”

During the making of “The Abolitionists,” Thomas and Fletcher got right into the trenches with Ballard, shooting hundreds of hours of footage on those first operations. Then it had to be edited into 87 minutes. Watching traffickers sell children over and over again disturbed one young editor so much he wanted to quit. How to let go of the evil images concerned all involved.
Ballard said he could not get the images of two small children out of his mind. “We’d gotten teddy bears for those two little kids and they were just clinging to us. I had to go see the judge for a second and [when] I came back, they were gone. Child Protective Services had taken them to the place where they’d be staying. I came into the room and saw those two teddy bears sitting on those chairs and it just broke my heart.”

Later that night, Ballard said he called his wife, Kathryn, and they had “the most unusual conversation.” When asked to come to Haiti to meet those two little kids, Kathryn got right to the point. “You want to adopt these kids, don’t you?”

Already the father of six, Ballard said, “I was like, nooo. Yeeess. It’s a trick question. What’s the answer? I don’t know.”

Without getting on a plane, Kathryn gave her full support. Their heart for adoption prevailed and soon those two children will have a real home.

One-night theater event
“The Abolitionists” will be shown in select theaters nationwide on Monday, May 16, at 7:30 p.m. (local time). For tickets and information, visit theabolitionistsmovie.com.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Remarkable Unity in the Battle Against Modern-Day Slavery

Photo credit, Katie Martinez

Don't we all love the peace of a serene scene. Isn't that where we long to be? In a world without conflict. Yet every day the news keeps us constantly aware of a world full of violence and hatred. In America the political situation seems in constant danger of exploding or imploding, and it's not much different in the rest of the world. Besides a litany of murders and other crimes, we hear of North Korea's increasing threats of nuclear war and Secretary of State John Kerry's declaration of genocide by ISIS.

A few days ago, Kerry described how:
in 2014, ISIS trapped Yazidis, killed them, enslaved thousands of Yazidi women and girls, "selling them at auction, raping them at will and destroying the communities in which they had lived for countless generations," executed Christians "solely for their faith" and also "forced Christian women and girls into slavery."
Turning a blind eye has done nothing but make matters worse. So does justifying our hopes for a human savior by choosing Republican or Democrat nominees without integrity. Our only hope lies in  a Savior who helps us get beyond ourselves and accept a more realistic view of the world. His Holy Spirit, can then empower us to work together to value every human life within our communities. As individual lives are transformed, they will transform communities, and in turn that can transform nations.

This past month I've been in meetings with people who live life caring deeply enough about those being brutally exploited to do something about it. Together we are making headway in solving the problem of human trafficking. These Christians come from many different denominations, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, political parties--and all want to contribute to a better world. Instead of focusing on differences, we focus on what unites us--a desire for a more serene scene, where everyone--not just people of privilege--can be safe.

About ten days ago, the Wesleyan Holiness Consortium's Freedom Network met in San Diego at Point Loma University where Jamie Gates, the director of their Center for Justice and Reconciliation has worked strategically with the University of San Diego to research the extent of gang involvement in sex slavery in San Diego County. This ground-breaking work to understand the problems in San Diego will make the solutions more apparent--even in Pomona and Poughkeepsie.

This past week, CARE 18, a collaborative in Los Angeles County, gathered so people from various spheres of society could further their partnership helping each other in this battle. Nonprofits need volunteers, funds, and other resources that people from churches are eager to supply. Law enforcement needs encouragement and services as they rescue young girls from the street. We all need each other to work smarter. It's been my joy to deliver Freedom Bags and street kits from Every ONE Free to the Dream Center. Without this collaborative, we wouldn't have known what needs existed.

Now CARE 18 is exploring ways to help Every ONE Free in Pomona get an outreach center up and running on Holt Blvd, one of the most notorious tracks in the nation.

Working together--that's the good news in this battle. Many people care. Many people of all faiths are getting involved. They're willing to work together in harmony to figure out ways to bring light into the darkness and hope to those in despair. They're working to bridge gaps and bring reconciliation to our neighborhoods. The more individuals that get involved, the more we can learn from one another, and the closer we come to that serene scene--one where every girl and boy will be safe.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Trump and Trafficking--Enough Already!

"The Bridge to Nowhere," photo credit Katie Martinez
What does the current Republican front-runner have to do with modern-day slavery? Everything.

Both Trump and trafficking are a reflection of our culture. It's mainly because of moral degeneration that a candidate as vulgar, disrespectful, bigoted, and shameless as "the Donald" can garner enough support to be the top contender for the Republican nomination. It's mainly because of moral degeneration that our neighborhoods have become breeding grounds for human trafficking.

Behind traffickers and Trump, lie strategies for winners and losers. Some people win (traffickers and currently Trump), while others lose (victims and Americans committed to common decency). Some of the underlying contributors to these divisive and corrupted realities in our society are that human dignity has been buried along with all the aborted babies. Human rights have been sold (trafficked) as fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood  Yet many people (including Trump and evidently those who support him) still think Planned Parenthood "does a lot of good."

In terms of trafficking, once human life has disintegrated into body parts for sale, how can any young girl or boy believe their lives have value if they're not wanted by their parents? And tragically far too many girls and boys are not. The breakdown of the family has dramatically contributed to this problem and a Trump presidency can't offer much hope of a strong role model for family values. Little can reflect an untrustworthy character better than repeated adultery, however, Trump's supporters don't seem to care about his indiscretions. These are powerful indicators of how far our culture has fallen.

And, oh what a vision Trump offers in terms of greed. Perhaps as bad as the traffickers who make on average $35,000 per week! Other billionaires like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett are known for their works of compassion. Yet Trump and traffickers seem to consider little besides themselves as they rake in their fortunes. Rather they fixate on their power and sexual domination and that leads us to pornography.

We were warned about the damage pornography does in society when Dr. James Dobson served on the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography in the 1980s. But media ridiculed his involvement and society refused to pay attention. Instead television shows such as The Bachelor/Bachelorette, video games and all sorts of entertainment bring this trash right into our homes where any 8-year-old can access it. And, we wonder why we increasingly hear on the nightly news about the sexual exploitation of children. Could it be because we applaud and elevate the vulgarities epitomized by the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City instead of condemn them and refuse to cry "Enough?" (Yes, I'm aware he declared bankruptcy there, refusing to pay his debts and yet he claims to be without sin. After all that's good business, the kind of business Americans have become accustomed to. Evidently Trump wants to disassociate his name from this "resort" that offers Atlantic City's first strip club in a casino, but his legacy is a powerful one.)

With Trump epitomizing the disintegration of strong biblical values in our society, are Christ-followers yet ready to start being the light in the darkness; the salt that seasons our culture with goodness and integrity instead of making it fertile ground for human trafficking? The kind of people who abhor modern-day slavery so much that they'll demand a candidate with strong family values, character-building influence on entertainment, and a role model for integrity?

Christ's love and the personal transformation of His followers can have such a powerful impact that even political candidates like Trump and those who delve into human trafficking (both buyers and sellers) can be overcome with God's goodness. In turn, numerous transformed lives will begin transforming our communities and our country. Still that requires a desire to change and I wonder--are we ready yet?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Identifying Children at Risk of Being Trafficked

Recently during Operation Reclaim and Rebuild law enforcement took into custody almost 200 trafficking suspects. This begs the question, how do that many people find their victims? 

Traffickers know how to identify vulnerable children and teens from a wide variety of backgrounds, and to fight human trafficking, we should too. Do you know kids like: 

Matt? Spending most of his free time in his room playing video games, Matt seemed depressed but his parents didn’t know how to help. They didn’t realize he’d started frequenting a video chat room. His self-esteem became dependent upon his prowess at the game, Desperate to get to the next level and completely unaware of the dangers, he asked the guild manager for help. Agreeing to take Matt to the next level, the manager requested a naked photo in exchange. Matt complied.The problems escalated from there. Within minutes the perverted manager distributed Matt’s photo to a porn ring. Blackmail involved expectations of increasing sexual content, then an actual sexual encounter. 

Brad? Hating his step-dad for unreasonable expectations and demands, fifteen-year-old Brad decided he could take care of himself and ran away from home. When he made a new friend who invited him to share his apartment, Brad eagerly accepted. He didn't realize how soon he'd be expected to pay his way. His new "friend" would show him how.
Boys like Matt and Brad are at risk for being trafficked.
Ashley? Her parents worked long hours and never had time to interact with her. When Ashley's beloved grandmother died, the girl needed a friend and a charming young man started paying attention. He listened and made Ashley feel special. She became increasingly dependent upon his approval. 

Tracey? No one cared about her feelings when her parents divorced. Though Tracey's dad often gave her money, he spent all his time with his new girlfriend. Her mom was grouchy all the time and constantly talked about money. When Tracey met a new guy online, he asked questions and genuinely seemed to care. He wanted to meet in person and suggested she bring along a friend--just to be safe. Once they got to know each other better, there would be plenty of time to be alone.
Kiera? When her dad got laid off from his job, she could no longer afford a dress for prom. When she mentioned her plight to a good-looking guy at the mall, he offered to buy it for her. She refused. But he seemed so nice, they started texting. His growing generosity led to increasing involvement.
Lori.? A college freshman looking for work, Lori’s new friend convinced her to take a modeling position. Before she realized it involved much more than she’d bargained for, Lori was in too deep.
Melissa? Providing food and shelter for her little girl, Melissa couldn’t do it alone. When she met a guy willing to help with expenses, survival sex helped pay the bills. Additional money started being offered by his friends.
Ashley, Tracey, Kiera, Lori, and Melissa are all at risk for being trafficked.
Each of these scenarios are entry points for victims of human trafficking. Girls longing for love are at risk. Boys lonely and insecure are at risk. LGBT kids kicked out of their homes are at risk. College students needing a job are at risk.Traffickers share tips on how to groom these kids to get them to comply. A "pimps' bible" also offers insights into that grooming process.
Knowledge is power and the more we understand the problems, the better we can help young people recognize the lies and avoid the dangers. After-school programs are one of the most significant ways to fight human-trafficking. Volunteering to coach sports, tutor, be involved at YWCAs/YMCAs or in Girl/Boy Scouts, church youth groups—all offer opportunities to mentor children/teens, who may need someone to listen to their hurts and dreams. When a mom offers her home as a “safe place” for children-at-risk, they may find the support and encouragement necessary to keep them from listening to a trafficker, who intends to exploit them. Many nonprofits offer volunteer opportunities to mentor kids at risk and perhaps your church does, too. 

The more the community meets the needs of at-risk kids, the fewer victims there will be. For now, they live among us and it's up to us to care enough to be there for them.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Anyone Can Fight Human Trafficking

Last weekend, pinstripers came from all over the country to participate in raising funds for Every ONE Free, an anti-trafficking group in Pomona, California. Over three days, at the 2016 Grand National Roadsters Show. they raised $35,000.

These guys might not have known much about modern-day slavery, but they knew enough to want to contribute. So they flew in at their own expense and used their talents painting art objects of all kinds--a surfboard, signs, skateboards, a megaphone, a bike and on and on. Then Richard Westlake and his wife, Janice from Westlake Auction Services auctioned off the items to the highest bidder. Not only did the audience win pieces from notable pinstripers, they put their money to work to fight modern-day slavery.
Every ONE Free is grateful. The pinstripers raised enough money to make a tremendous difference, a difference that will change lives. The artists demonstrated how any one can use their profession in a way that matters. Health care workers and teachers are often the first line of defense in identifying victims. YWCA/YMCA and Boys and Girls Club volunteers can help lower the risk for those kids most apt to be groomed by traffickers. Business people of all types can supply goods and services. The businessman who owns the Grand National Roadsters Show chose Every ONE Free to be the recipient of this charity auction.

And now Every ONE Free can develop a strategy to renovate a building located on Holt Blvd just west of Garey Avenue. The goal is for this care center to be used for victims who need services and help to leave "the life." Once construction crews, landscapers, and many others get to work, this property will become a safe place for law enforcement to bring victims to interview them and refer them to appropriate services. Most of all this community center will be a place where people care. Isn't that really what this fight is all about? To tell girls and boys that they are valuable and not to be sold in a way that uses them up and puts them in mortal danger.

There are an endless number of creative ways to get involved--and it can even be fun. Our team had a blast. Even better we know our efforts will improve our community and save those young people being brutalized. With efforts like these, everyone wins.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Civil Rights Movement for Modern-Day Slaves

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  Martin Luther King, Jr., said that, and it's as timely today as when he led the civil rights movement from 1950 until he was assassinated in 1968. .

  Last Saturday a lot of people did not stay silent. At the L.A. Freedom Walk co-sponsored by CAST and CARE 18 on Wilshire Blvd., hundreds made noise about the reality that no human being should be for sale. The sexual exploitation of children is as abhorrent as any form of slavery ever has been and it must stop. The only way to decrease the number of victims is to decrease the demand. And that is going to take more than a morning's effort. More than a day commemorating a great civil rights leader. And more than a month raising awareness about human trafficking. 

It's going to take men, women, and children living lifestyles that do everything possible to fight modern-day slavery, every day. We're starting to see that happen with men and women teaching their sons respect for girls. And their daughters how to respect themselves. It's building desire among young adults for genuine intimacy rather than promoting casual sex without meaning. It's people adopting throw-away kids out of our foster care system and treating them as the precious children they are. (How proud I am to know families and single people actually doing this.) Together we can make enough noise to abolish human trafficking and restore dignity and human rights to its survivors. Some of these courageous women led the way for those of us who care about their dignity and future.

Numerous men came and took a stand against trafficking demonstrating to young boys and guys on the street that they have a responsibility to value girls and do what they can to keep them from being victimized.

Children are never to young to start caring about what's happening in their community.

Let's keep the momentum going. In the coming weeks these blog posts will include basic information that will help you get educated as to how to identify those at risk and those already ensnared by traffickers. It will include simple ways for you to make a difference. Please help us keep making noise all year long.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A classic example of human trafficking, in Pomona

A few days ago, a trafficking victim escaped her captors. This story is a dramatic depiction of what's happening right in our own cities. A girl is kidnapped in another state, held against her will, forced into prostitution, and threatened with physical harm if she doesn't do what she's told. Her ID taken away, she's moved to a place where she knows no one. The amazing thing this time, however, is that this young woman had the courage to escape. Forced to work on East Holt Avenue, while her captors waited at a nearby Claremont hotel, this courageous girl flagged down the first Pomona police car she saw.

Having been involved with Every ONE Free (formerly Traffick Free Pomona) from its beginning through Purpose Church in Pomona , I can't help but think of how far we've all come. No longer are girls on the street considered criminals, but the police recognize them as victims and demonstrate tremendous compassion. Officers go after the perpetrators--and this time they caught the bad guy and girl! And whenever possible, instead of taking the victims to jail, the police do what they can to get them the services they need. This time they connected the young woman to L.A.'s Dream Center.

Right now I have street kits ready to give to Dream Center representatives tomorrow at the L.A. Freedom Walk. Put together by a team of ONE volunteers, these small gifts demonstrate to girls in the life how much someone cares.

Another thing we're working on at Every ONE Free is an online guide to help people learn more about human trafficking and how they can get involved. It's release will coincide with an article published in Facts and Trends magazine's Spring issue that will educate Christian leaders about the problems connected with human trafficking and encourage them to get involved. Pomona's Every ONE Free is featured in the article because of all the great work happening in that community. CARE 18, one of the sponsors of the Freedom Walk, is also mentioned because without collaboration we can't make nearly the strides forward that we can with it.

Won't you join us in this significant effort to fight a heart-wrenching travesty? At the very least, please keep informed. In the next few weeks I'll be posting excerpts from the guide as they are written. By subscribing to this blog, you can find out what's happening right in our own neighborhoods. And we'd sure appreciate your feedback, What's helpful? What's not? What do you want to know?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Changing the Cultural Landscape

Getting back to work on this anti-trafficking blog after spending a couple of months on turf removal project hasn't been easy. But that "groundbreaking" project  taught me a few lessons which are motivating me to write yet another post.

It would have been easier not to. My abolitionist efforts seem minuscule compared to the overwhelming nature of the problems. Roots of poverty, abandoned kids, runaways, gangs, pornography, the breakdown of the family, and human rights are far worse than those dug out of my yard. Ensnarled in dirt, they ran deep below the surface and were almost impossible to remove. But persistence mattered, and now they are gone.

Seeing the shovel in my hand and sweat on my face, a young man stopped to talk one day. Noticing that the task facing me was overwhelming, he said, "you need help." It wasn't an offer, just an observation. And, he was right.

It was the hardest physical labor I've ever done. But the days my sister, Janet, came made everything seem easier. And we accomplished at least twice as much as I could alone. Teamwork matters. With enough people involved, the work is easier, and the project reflects the combined efforts of those with different skills. My project certainly wouldn't have been successful without help. It took a man strong and skilled enough to use a sod cutter and rototiller. It took a designer who helped talk me through my plan. Others at Sunshine Growers (an awesome wholesale nursery) guided me to the right plants.

On a far grander scale, it takes a multitude of skills and people to change our cultural landscape. Children aren't so easily tantalized by traffickers when their needs for family and belonging are already being met. Teens with a strong work ethic and moral values are far more likely to refuse "easy money" through sex with strangers. Young adults with a vibrant support system aren't nearly as likely to be enticed by survival sex or a "boyfriend" who claims he'll put food on the table or a roof over their heads. And, there are ways to be involved in all these types of efforts.

So that's why I'm starting to write again--with the hope that others will get involved in changing our cultural landscape. January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month and there are many opportunities to make a difference. A good way to find out about various options is to join the Facebook group Stop Slavery Together, Not only do posts suggest upcoming events and simple things you can do to make a difference, they also offer articles that will extend your awareness of what's happening in our own communities and around the world. Knowledge is power and the more you know, the more you can make choices that inhibit the slave trade. There's no better way to start off the new year.

Two events I'm involved with are especially easy to participate in. One is the 5th Annual National Conference Call Prayer Summit on January 9th--this coming Saturday. You don't even have to talk but can agree silently in prayer for the end of human trafficking. 

The other is the L.A. Freedom Walk January 16th. It's a great way to connect with others who are fighting this travesty and raise awareness. (Details are on the links provided.)

What will you choose to do? It can be as simple as reading some articles to become more aware. Maybe what you learn will make a major difference in a loved one's life. Or maybe you'll decide to do more. Whatever this post cultivates in your life, I'd love to know. That's why I write.