Brothels in Your Backyard

by Kati Brandt | January 12, 2015

[Editor's note: This is the second post in Kati's series on sex trafficking for our January theme of the devaluation of women. Her first post can be found here.]

This week we are talking specifically about sex trafficking. When someone says “sex trafficking” what do you think of? Southeast Asia? Amsterdam? What if I told you that sex trafficking affects every single country in the world? Women, men and children are being bought and sold at unbelievable rates everywhere from Cambodia to Minnesota. The Super Bowl, for instance, has a lot more than football and beer. There are huge prostitution rings at the Super Bowl each year because there are an equally large number of men looking for sex. For the purpose of this blog, and so this post doesn’t end up being more like a dissertation, we are going to focus mainly on the women being trafficked. This by no means is to diminish the reality that men are absolutely being held captive in the sex industry, it is simply to try and take a complex issue and look at one side of it.

Human trafficking and more specifically sex trafficking is the third largest industry in the world. Yep, you read that correctly. After drugs and weapons is the trafficking of human beings. And at the rate that the sex slavery business is growing it threatens to take over that number one spot. How? Why? Great questions. Drugs and weapons are items you have to find and buy (or steal) and then resell. You sell a gun or a pill once and then you have to find new weapons and drugs to sell. But a woman? You can sell a woman time after time after time and if by some chance you can’t sell her, there will always be more women to sell. On average, in the United States, women are being forced to have sex 20 to 48 times a day. In the eyes of a trafficker, a woman is a renewable resource. And, yes, this is actually happening everywhere.

Women are targeted for many reasons. Sometimes pimps use force, abduct women and make them become prostitutes. A pimp might also try to find what makes a woman vulnerable. This happens a lot with teenagers. Girls want to be loved. A pimp will start “dating” the girl and then once he’s in control he makes her have sex with his friends and eventually with complete strangers. And sometimes women choose to become prostitutes for a variety of reasons. They enter into prostitution by choice but once they are in they find that their pimps won’t let them go. Regardless of how they start, if a woman ever finds herself in a situation where she doesn’t feel safe and free to leave whenever she wants that woman is a victim.

So, how do we combat such a massive industry? Well, there are a few ways that I’ll outline here and I’ll be going more in depth for the last post in this series. But to start we have to combat the demand for services. Women will continue to be sold and used as long as there is a demand for sex. That’s a pretty large battle to wage. But I think it starts with the way we treat each other and how we teach those who look up to us about how to treat others. It gets a lot harder to pay someone to have sex with a girl if we see that girl as our friend or sister. This is major and it won’t happen overnight. As humans, when we want something, we can easily forget all the people involved in us getting what we want. We see a means to an end instead of a person. In the case of sex slavery we don’t see a woman or a man we see a prostitute and a pimp, a victim and a bad guy, a hooker and a business man. And instead of treating them as equals we treat them as if they were sub-human based on assumptions we make about their lives. It’s harsh but it’s true. We say things like “Why doesn’t she get a real job?” “Why doesn’t she get a degree?” “He’s too lazy to work a normal job.” and on and on and on. But I hope that this series of posts will help us open our eyes. We have to approach each other on level playing fields because in reality I am no better or worse than a prostitute or a pimp and so how dare I treat them any differently than I would treat a friend.

We have to stop seeing women as objects. We have to stop judging the hooker we see on the street because we have absolutely no idea how she got there. Criminalizing the prostitutes just furthers the gap between us and them. I think, as Christians, what is easy to see is a woman committing adultery. But what if we just saw the woman? If we start seeing people as people and connect with them on a basic human level we can bridge gaps and build relationships. And that is what freedom looks like. Women being rescued from brothels and prostitution rings all over the world need to be looked at in the eye with dignity. They need to be spoken to with respect and patience as they learn how to trust again. They need to understand that love does not equal sex and that ultimately they are loved. And as fellow humans and as Christians that’s our job. To see people first, not circumstance, and to show love.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Haya Benitez.