by Connie Kee
“Freedom!” has been the battle cry for many throughout the course of history. Truly, it is the cry of every human heart. We were designed with the desire to be free – from oppression, bondage, slavery, and tyranny of every kind. This desire has caused many over the course of time to rebel and fight those that enslave them. Nevertheless, there have always been, and continues to be, those who seek to control and enslave others.
Human bondage is cruel, horrific, and unbelievable. For humans to enslave others is unimaginable to me. It’s evil and wicked at its very core, and it’s hard to imagine that in this modern day, human bondage is alive and growing through human trafficking. Within the last nine months, I’ve become involved with the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative (VBJI) http://www.vbji.org. This is a nonprofit ministry that’s involved with human trafficking through prevention, awareness, education, advocacy, restoration and prayer. VBJI works directly with the victims, providing services and care, as well as advocating for legislation to be changed that will reduce the incidence of human trafficking in our area and the state. Through their efforts in conjunction with other groups, 17 human trafficking bills have been passed in the State of Virginia in recent years. Human trafficking is defined by the VBJI as “a form of modern day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others.”
When I was first introduced to the VBJI at their inception in 2011, I didn’t want to even hear about this issue. It was too painful and I just couldn’t deal with the thought. And then this past December, I asked God, “What do you want me to do?” Then He answered my prayer. A few weeks later I was sitting in an informational meeting, and a few months later I was a student in their advocate training.
The reality is that human trafficking is a modern day problem, and it’s not a small problem. Women, men and children of all ages are trafficked all over the world. What shocked me is that it’s going on right here in my area – Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Newport News – all over Hampton Roads. It’s in your backyard, too. I knew it was a problem in other countries, but to learn that it’s in my backyard was shocking, to say the least. Awareness is growing and many are becoming involved. This month, a home for victims is opening up in an area near me, and there are others in the works. ( http://homesteadranch.org)
There is sex trafficking (prostitution), and there is slave labor trafficking. Some of the victims are kidnapped, but others are recruited into bondage through deception and seduction. Bottom line: these victims lose all choice, freedom, and control over their lives. They no longer have their own identity or free will as they are exploited, abused and used for money.
The perpetrators are everywhere, looking for those who are vulnerable. They are in your malls, schools, churches, coffee shops, grocery stores, and on the internet. They are everywhere we go. One scenario goes like this: a young girl and her friends are in the mall. A very handsome older guy (older teen or 20-something) is also in the mall looking for potential victims. He’s really cool and knows how to make a girl feel pretty and special. He’s been trained in the art and technique of manipulation, enticing others to do what he wants. As he observes the girls, he makes his move and introduces himself to one of them. These girls can be any age, but often it seems the perpetrators prey upon young, vulnerable girls. Often, but not always, these girls come from dysfunctional homes, have low self esteem, and have never really had love or care. At first, the friendship appears innocent, and the young girl becomes his girlfriend. He buys her expensive gifts and flatters her with words. She falls in love with him and the entrapment ensues, moving quickly into a life of bondage and slavery.
I‘m not trying to evoke fear in this post, but rather, to bring awareness leading to prevention and saved lives. So what can you do to make a difference? First – pray! Pray for the victims and potential victims, the law enforcement agencies and the legislatures. Pray for the ministries and organizations involved in trafficking. And then, take action. Find that one thing you can do to make a difference. Let freedom reign!
“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream” Amos 5:24.