rachel lloyd

Ending the Demand for Sex Trafficking

by Shelbe Gibson Isn’t it cool when school projects are relevant? When they become something you WANT to do, rather than something you HAVE to do? I was blessed with a project like that this semester. It all came together today, leaving me feeling accomplished, productive, and ready to shout what I’ve learned to the world!

For my Senior Seminar 2 class, my partner and I were assigned to put together a men’s training event for End Slavery Tennessee. We had to coordinate the speaker’s travels to Nashville from Chicago, find, invite, and take care of the male attendees, and get everything for the daylong seminar in order. The event was intended to equip men with the knowledge to present to young boys about the dangers of trafficking, exploiting women, and what it really means to be a “man.” The curriculum was written by Caleb Probst from the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. (CAASE). I was told beforehand that Caleb’s presentation was impressive, but he blew me away with how engaging and interactive he was while getting across his very powerful message.

My favorite exercise was simple, but impactful. Caleb asked the men to shout out words that would describe a man who has a lot of women, a man who sleeps around a lot. Words like “pimp", "player", "stud", and "lucky” were put on the list. Next, he asked them to list what words society uses to describe women who display the same behavior. The words didn’t seem to have the same positive connotation—words like “whore", "slut", "skank", and "tramp” were written on that piece of paper. It was much longer than the males' list, too. Seeing the differences in the two was eye-opening. They were partaking in the SAME acts, but one gender is praised while the other is given the scarlet letter.

This demonstration started engaging and vibrant conversation that lasted the whole day. Caleb defined sexual exploitation, human trafficking, pimping, and gender-based violence. Through popular advertisements and Top 40 song lyrics (YouTube the lyrics to Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke), he showed how much the media is contributing to the sexual exploitation of women and how warped our view of “manliness” has become. Why is it manly to objectify women? To consider them an ends to a selfish means? Sex outside of marriage, especially sex with random women for money, may provide instant gratification, but it just adds to the awful cycle of brokenness and loneliness in the lives of both parties.

No little girl dreams of growing up to be a prostitute. In a HUGE majority of the cases, prostitution is NOT a choice. That widely used excuse needs to be thrown into the trash. Girls become prostitutes because they are forced, coerced, or lured. They have been told over and over by society that they aren’t good enough; they start to believe it. Sometimes, they feel too inadequate or under-educated to have any job besides prostitution. It is an act of desperation, but still not a happily made choice. When women are failed to be shown real, true love, they are easily manipulated by pimps. If WE (the church, society…) don’t start showing them love, then you better believe that plenty of pimps out there will step up and take our place!

The Church is a body of broken people made whole by Christ. We are all broken and messy and not good enough. There are no “pretty” sins and there is not “sin scale” that makes some better than others. As the body of Christ, we need to welcome and love prostitutes and even pimps. It’s not okay to be scared of words like sex, prostitution, porn, or trafficking in the church. If we aren’t equipping our young people, the world will do that for us.

I, then, sat back and listened as these professional, Christian men talked about their struggles with pornography—how the porn industry has hindered their own relationships and how they see it destroying the lives of youth. They conversed about the unrealistic standards set by society for both men and women. What does it REALLY mean to be a man?? Are men controlling, dominating, and forceful? Is that what you want your son to grow up to be?

When fighting human trafficking and forced prostitution, it’s vital to include men in the conversation. Those conversations don’t always have to be stories of victims or hard-to-grasp statistics, either. This is a huge problem that can seem daunting and overwhelming. Where do you even start to “fix” this worldwide epidemic? Well, you start with trainings like these. You open the lines of communication, raising awareness and brainstorming ideas to help.

Fighting the culture of sex in our society will help halt human trafficking. It’s basic business—with no demand, you don’t need a supply! If we watch our language, are pro-active about not consuming songs, movies, or books that feed this industry, and share what we know with others, then we are active in this fight!! I’m positive that the men present at the training today will impact the lives of many young boys. They will prevent future johns and pimps. These volunteers will be mentors, role models, and safe places for teens who need just that.

For a more personal look into the lives of girls who are lured into prostitution, watch the video below. The narrator, Rachel Lloyd, is the founder of GEMS Girls, an organization helping girls leave the industry in New York City. Rachel, a survivor herself, is one tough cookie. I can only hope that one day I can be as impactful and bold as she is in this crucial fight against human trafficking.


Girls Are Not for Sale

by Shelbe Gibson (originally posted January 13, 2013 at TreveccaLive.com) This semester I am interning at End Slavery TN which is a non-profit organization that actually has an office right here on campus. End Slavery TN has a mission that I believe in very deeply. They work to provide victims and their advocates a single point of contact to services and service providers that can restore victims to wholeness in all aspects—spiritually, emotionally, physically, etc. So, End Slavery really is attacking the issue from all angles; working with the survivors, but also striving to make much needed policy changes, as they continue bringing awareness of this issue to local communities.

I feel the need to fight for justice for these young girls because I don’t think that most people even understand what the issue is. How can it be solved if the average person has the wrong idea of what human trafficking looks like? We have all heard about human trafficking from an international standpoint. We know about the impoverished foreign girls who are kidnapped and sold into sex slavery, and a good chunk of us have seen the movie Taken. But, human trafficking in America is very different from those pictures. And, unfortunately, escape and healing isn't as simple as it is in the movies—if only Liam Neeson was every girl’s father. In America, the words human trafficking are too often swapped with prostitution. It’s easy to have compassion towards a helpless foreign girl lost in America, but I have seen how quickly attitudes switch from compassion to almost disgust when a girl is seen as a prostitute. Prostitutes are there by choice, right? Wrong.

The truth is that a majority of prostitutes are NOT being paid for sex by their own personal choice—actually; they aren't being paid at all. The girls, who are many times under 18, are forced to hand over all of their earnings to their pimps. The pimps, aka traffickers, control every aspect of these young girls’ lives. With the average prostitute starting between the ages of 12 and 14, it’s super easy for the older men to manipulate and brainwash these innocent children. They are beaten, starved, humiliated and sold over and over. Eighty percent of child runaways will be exploited by a pimp, and this usually occurs within the first 48 hours after they leave home. Without exposing these ugly truths of the $32 billion a year sex industry in the US, how will we ever stop them? It’s time to stop glamorizing words like “pimps and pimping,” and it’s never okay to call a female a “whore, slut, or any other derogatory term.” Those are simple things we can and should do to alter this culture of wrongful sex.

It’s so important to care and love the victims of sex trafficking around the world, but it’s an injustice to ignore the ones living in our own backyards. The justice system in America cannot treat these sexually exploited children FORCED into prostitution as criminals as it often does. They are victims (more like survivors!!), and should be treated as such. These innocent babies are often times not even old enough to legally consent to sex, but can be thrown in jail for being paid for it. These contradictory laws need to be seen as such and then changed. Girls are not for sale. They deserve services, not sentences. John 3:18 says “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

End Slavery TN is a beautiful light in the dark world of human trafficking. They can only function with volunteer help, though! I encourage anyone who feels called to get involved without any delay. The organization can definitely utilize your goals and passions to fit into ESTN. Executive Director Derri Smith was so welcoming and great to me—intertwining my interests and talents into an awesome way to serve these wonderful ladies! To get on board with ESTN, visitwww.endslaverytn.org, “like” the Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or feel free to contact me with anything at all!

For a more up close and personal look into today’s sex industry & the trafficking that takes place, I highly recommend Rachel Lloyd’s Girls Like Us.