An Estimated 300,000 American Children Are in Sex Slavery: Learn the Fact through Book 'Renting Lacy
By Shannon Wolf, Ph.D., LPC-S On March 2, 2014
Feb 28th is "Shine a Light on Slavery Day." Please join us in advocating for freedom and praying for all those impacted by human trafficking.
Open your eyes. An estimated 300,000 American children are in sex slavery-being used as commodities for sale or trade across our nation. That number should disturb you. Human trafficking is an area that many Christians have turned a blind eye to, but as Christian counselors and caregivers, we dare not. Many of these children will need intensive therapy when they are rescued or escape. If they make it out alive, will we be there?
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Three years ago, I agreed to serve in an advisory capacity for the rescue and recovery efforts of American children and teens enslaved in sex trafficking. In investigating the available resources on this topic, I discovered a slender book, authored by former U.S. Representative, Linda Smith. Linda is the founder of Shared Hope International and War Against Trafficking Alliance (WATA). This small, but influential text was not written for the academician but for compassionate persons from all walks of life.
Following a conversation with her husband, Smith decided to entitle her work, Renting Lacy: A Story of American's Prostituted Children, for her husband astutely observed, "...[T]hese girls' young bodies are being rented out by the hour" (p. v). In fact, these young victims are commonly required to perform sex acts for ten to twenty men each night. Often times, basic needs such as food and shelter are withheld until quotas are satisfied. In add to the horrendous plight of these victims, violence fills their lives and escape is not an option.
The chapters offer a glimpse into the worlds of the enslaved girls, the traffickers, and those who buy these children for sexual pleasure. Smith's overall goal is to help the reader understand the world of trafficking as it is fundamental to helping these young victims. To further aid the reader, insights are offered throughout; lessons learned from decades of experience in working with trafficked individuals. Understanding that the language used in the trafficking world is unique to those involved in child prostitution, Smith includes a glossary of terms, which the reader will refer to frequently.
As the predicament of these children unfolds, it is inevitable that the reader will look for a clearly stated solution to the problem of trafficking; however, one is not offered, as it is beyond the scope of this work. The book's purpose is to raise awareness of the epidemic of the commercial sexual exploitation of American children.
As one who has reviewed the literature on domestic child trafficking, I am struck by the paucity of information on young girls enslaved in the sex trade. Indeed, in a recent search for information on treatment modalities, I could find no empirically based articles on methods of counseling for this population. It seems that our field is still defining the problem-a most necessary step in helping victims.
According to our government, human trafficking is the fastest growing international crimewith offenders grossing over $32 billion a year and will soon surpass weapons smuggling and drug trafficking in profit. The average age at which one enters into trafficking is eleven years old and once a child enters into the word of sexual slavery, their life expectancy is only seven short years, according to Traffick911.com. Thus, most never make it to adulthood.
So why highlight child sex trafficking in this blog? Christian counselors and pastors alike must take an active role in the effort to end this heinous crime against our children along with leading the way in restoring these young victims to health.
Efforts to understand the scope of domestic minor trafficking as well as the devastation it causes is the first step in helping the survivors of sexual slavery. Next, we must develop and empirically examine methods of healing.
When considering Christ's charge to care for the least of these, surely enslaved children are to be included in that group-children who desperately need our help (Matt. 25:45).
Talk Back: As a Christian counselor or caregiver, how can you actively engage with the issue of human trafficking? Take a moment to share your thoughts below.
Shannon Wolf, Ph.D., a Licensed Professional Counselor, specializes in counseling trauma survivors, both nationally and internationally, as well as victims of domestic minor sex trafficking. Dr. Wolf is a faculty member of Dallas Baptist University and a frequent contributor to The Society of Christian Psychology's online publication and AACC's daily blog.