In the past few years, a there has been a growing interest amongst many Americans in raising awareness and combatting the international commercial sexual exploitation of children. This is when an adult solicits or engages in a sexual act with a child in exchange for something of value. Many incredible individuals and organizations are focusing on this global horror and are beginning to make a real difference in the lives of untold numbers of vulnerable children around the world.   Only recently are our eyes beginning to open to the ugly fact that this evil also permeates in the small towns and big cities of this nation. This has been clearly evidenced in a report released this past week by SharedHope, a Christian organization that is combating sex trafficking and serving abuse survivors. The Demanding Justice Report is one of the first comprehensive studies of its kind that examines the domestic commercial sexual exploitation of children. The heartbreaking and eye-opening findings of this study are a loud call to action to every American. Especially to those of us who call ourselves Christ followers.

India Sad - photo courtesy of Anthony Kelly via Flickr

India Sad – photo courtesy of Anthony Kelly via Flickr (Image source)

Everyone should take the time to read this report. In this short post, I want to highlight just a small sample of its findings and what they mean for those of us who are a part of a faith community:

Who are the buyers?   The age of those who commit these sexual offenses against children ranged from 18-89 years of age, with the average age being 42. Ninety-nine percent of these offenders were male. In the cases where the profession of the perpetrator was available, over 65 percent were in professions of authority such as attorneys, police officers, and ministers. Fifty-six percent were identified as working in occupations that had regular access to children, including teachers, coaches, and youth service organizations.

Who are the victims?     Of the cases studied, almost 80 percent of the child victims were female. Approximately 10 percent of the victims were under the age of eleven, while almost 42 percent were between the ages of 11 and 15. The rest were between the ages of 16 and 18. In at least five of the cases reviewed during this study, children who were abused were actually charged with prostitution! Surprisingly, in only a small number of the cases were the young victims identified as being a runaway.

How do perpetrators access the child victims?   The study found that the most common way those who engage in the commercial sexual exploitation of children access their prey is through direct contact in person, via text message, email, or phone. In almost 50 percent of the studied cases, the perpetrator was given access to the child through a third party such as a parent, older sibling, or a pimp.

What happens to buyers who get caught? This report studied four large urban locations and identified 134 cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children offenses. Of those cases, 118 were officially prosecuted. Unfortunately, only 44 of those prosecuted cases resulted in convictions for offenses related to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. For example, 38 of the perpetrators arrested for paying to engage in sexual contact with a child were only convicted of a prostitution solicitation offense!   What does our society communicate to child sexual abuse offenders when they get caught and only get charged with a prostitution related offense? Even worse, what are we communicating to precious children when they learn that the adult who violated them merely got convicted of soliciting a prostitute?

Only five percent of the 118 prosecuted cases resulted in the defendant receiving a sentence that included incarceration. This means that 95 percent of the buyers who were prosecuted for some form of commercial sexual exploitation of a child never served a day behind bars!

Demanding Justice - via SharedHope

Demanding Justice – via SharedHope (Image source)

This past week, I have spent a bit of time struggling with what these extremely disturbing results mean to those of us who identify ourselves as Christians? Though I am still struggling, here are just a few of my initial thoughts that I’d like to share:

We often think of the commercial sexual exploitation of children being perpetrated by large organized trafficking rings upon children who are almost exclusively runaways. Though that is tragically true in way too many cases, this report seems to indicate that this abuse is being perpetrated by the adults in our community that we least expect upon children that we so often assume are not at risk. This report opens our eyes to the grave reality that the commercial sexual exploitation of children has no boundaries. All children are at risk.

There is little doubt that those who will pay money to sexually victimize a child are not limited to just those whom they pay to abuse. For every lawyer, doctor, coach, teacher, or pastor who is paying for sexual contact with a child, one can only wonder how many are doing so without the need to pay anything. This tells me that the prevalence of this heinous crime is far greater than we can determine. Furthermore, this study reminds us of how it is very common for perpetrators to intentionally seek out professions of trust and that most make direct contact with their victims in person, or using some form of technology. Do we truly grasp these alarming realities about dangerous adults who are members of our faith communities? If so, what if anything is the Church going to do about it?  Aren’t we the Church?

This report confirms the horror that no age is off limits to those who sexually assault children. We are also exposed to the lesser-known horror that a large number of these child victims are being delivered into the hands of offenders by their very own family members. Do we truly grasp these dark realities about the precious child victims who are members of our faith communities? Should we not be equally concerned about the children who are outside of our faith communities? If so, what if anything is the Church going to do about it? Aren’t we the Church?

As a former prosecutor, I was extremely bothered to learn that so few offenders are sent to prison for raping children in exchange for money. What does it say about a culture when an adult who pays to sexually victimize a child is only charged with prostitution solicitation? What does it say about a culture that actually prosecutes sexually victimized children as prostitutes? Do we truly grasp these dark realities that demonstrate such little concern about those who sexually exploit children? If so, what if anything is the Church going to do about it? Aren’t we the Church?

Questions are a certainly a good starting point. However, simply asking questions isn’t enough. It’s too easy for many of us to feel like we have sufficiently responded to these dark realities by simply asking tough questions. In my experience, questions that are not followed up by actions are nothing more than indifference hiding behind a pretty mask.   As Christians, we embrace a different reality. A reality about a God who doesn’t simply respond to the dark realities with questions. He actually poured himself out to the point of death in order to bring light to that darkness. That is the beautiful redemption story. Our response to this mind-blowing truth is to follow Jesus into the dark realities as we pour our own lives out in actions that will make a difference. Actions that expose the dark deeds of offenders, protect and serve children, and help to transform a culture that all too often protects those who must be punished and punishes those who must be protected.

May each question propel us forward into action.   It’s time to get moving.

28 Comments

  1. Boz:

    Once again excellent coverage. The frustration for victims continues! I have approached numerous pastors and a few professors at Christian colleges with a plan to speak to their congregation/student body with a message with regard to hope and recovery for victims. I am fairly convinced that within the majority of churches around the country victims sit quietly listening to a message which never addresses the reality of their circumstances. I am further convinced that the Bible teaches us clearly that judgment is to begin within the house of the Lord. In light of that fact, a plan needs to be developed whereby pastors reach out to their congregation discussing this matter frankly and offering hope and help to current and prior victims. They need to address the issue with a straightforward message and incorporate the testimony of victims who have survived this crime. Further, a second component in the plan must be to obtain A system of counselors, professional/trained therapists, to work with the victims to achieve recovery. Next, I believe that churches should form a small group of individuals perhaps 4–6 to work directly with victims for the purposes of social reintegration within the church. Last, but not at all of the least importantance, victims should be encouraged to name their perpetrators and the church should take an aggressive position in exposing perpetrators who have been identified as offenders. At that point, the church, by its leadership, should work aggressively to help prosecute cases which they believe exhibit substantial probability. The results of these efforts would, in great measure, help to alleviate the suffering of victims who feel the only response to the offense is silence. Take it from someone who was silent for 30 years, the pain becomes excruciating overtime. Unfortunately, my experience has been complete and absolute shut down on the port of anyone in a leadership position within the Christian church that I have approached to try and build a platform from which to implement the above objectives. I am confident that church leadership simply does not believe that they will pay eternal consequences for their individual inaction.

  2. You repeated the questions:

    1. Do we truly grasp these alarming realities about…

    2. If so, what if anything is the Church going to do about it?

    3. Aren’t we the Church?

    So far, I think the answers are as follows:
    1. No
    2. Nothing.
    3. No.

    Jim Martin of the International Justice Mission authored the book, “The Just Church.” (2012, Tyndale). In it, Martin offers a path for a local church to follow to become a Just Church, a church that values and seeks to establish the justice that God desires.

    The first step is to examine their own body: “Is your church a safe place for victims of injustice already in your midst.” He then lists a number of action steps to address this issue before moving on to wider scope of injustice seen in various areas of the state, nation and world.

    The first is “Is your congregation knowledgeable about issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse?” and says to establish appropriate resources for those survivors.

    Then in Chapter 11, he gives 8 examples of churches—US and international—that have made a difference in the Justice Ministry.

    Not one of the examples said anything about what they had done in their own congregations.

    I wrote to Mr. Martin and asked him about that. He responded,

    Let me say, without reservation, that I agree with you: congregations (in the US and around the world) really do struggle to find the resolve and capacity to serve survivors in their midst. Our own church took only halting steps forward in this area. And at the time of writing The Just Church, I knew of no church that could be described as a “model” for survivor care (the main reason no such model is included in chapter 11).

    Since 2005, I have been working to establish that in my church. Initially, they supported the abuse survivor groups two of us of co-led. Then they decided a man couldn’t do that ministry, so I was out. Then they shut it down altogether.

    I’m now beginning over again at another church. I think they are open to it but I will need to see how it goes.

    I think most likely my co-leader and I will have to establish a para-church ministry. But that leaves the local congregation with no concept of the 40% + survivors of various abuses in their pews.

  3. One Action that churches can take to expose the dark deeds of offenders, protect and serve children, is just ask children privately if anything bad happened to them.

    If so, the earlier adults know, the faster the healing can take place with good therapy. Most people are happy to respond and admit they’ve had bad experiences in the right setting.

    Dr. Lucy Berliner spoke on this subject a couple years ago.

    The Justice Center for Research and the Network on Child Protection and Well-Being at the Pennsylvania State University presents Dr. Lucy Berliner, MSW, Director, Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress.

    http://ed.ted.com/on/mUu9MOuJ

    (24 – 29 min.)

    • The church is not trained on how to ask those kinds of questions. If there has been abuse, precisely how such a line of questioning is conducted is critical to the criminal case.

      Asking every child would probably backfire legally. It is very close to suggesting. The questioning needs to be on a basis of observation of potential not broadcasting it. The staff and volunteers need training in observation and in being a little more skeptical of caregivers. The questioning should be left to professionals.

      The churches I’ve known are very reluctant to bring in outside resources to do that work or even do training. Big mistake. Just because a source is secular doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer the church.

      Once the church begins to understand the legal implications of those kinds of actions, they typically run the other way. Too messy. Too costly. Too scandalous. When the church says, “We don’t want to drag Christ’s reputation through all that,” they are announcing their intention to drag Christ’s reputation through the muck of “the church sacrificed the most vulnerable of our people.”

  4. “…what if anything is the Church going to do about it? Aren’t we the Church?

    I don’t know if I, personally am part of “the Church” anymore. I have tried to understand who God is, but the deepest and most painful experiences I have ever known have always been at the hands of the Church – churches, Christian schools, missions, etc.
    The recent things that have impacted me the most have been the deafening silence regarding Bob Jones University’s handling of sexual abuse, the response of the Christian world to Sovereign Grace and to Mark Driscoll / Mars Hill. I can’t get past the silence of the christian world. It is something I can’t comprehend.
    What does the church do? Nothing.
    If that is what Christianity is, I want no part of it. What I don’t know yet, is if God is real and good. Perhaps he is and Christianity is just some mostly man-centered religion that is not very much reflective of who God is. I haven’t been able to figure that out yet.
    I know a few who call themselves “Christians” who DO live differently. They show compassion and kindness that seems to be a result of their beliefs in God. I just can’t figure out why? Why would a few Christians go out of their way to actively show kindness and compassion to very broken people? They say it is because of God, yet other Christians abuse and cover abuse, also “because of God,” and the vast majority of Christians simply seem silent.
    My sexual abuse experiences were perpetrated by men of God who are still considered well respected men of God still in leadership even WITH their offenses known. They have worth to Christianity. It is a religion for offenders, not for victims.

    • I, for one, apologize to you for that “deafening silence.” As one who has known abuse at the hands of a few (including church people—though not in the context of a church facility), I am as frustrated as you are about the silence and lack of action. That’s why I’m working to introduce the survivor groups to my church.

      Of the four perpetrators in my childhood, one was an elder (for a while) with a degree in Bible from a respected university and another was a deacon who served faithfully. Neither the learning nor the faithful (honestly faithful) service were sufficient to deter their actions with regard to sexual abuse.

      Perhaps if enough of us make a loud enough noise and shine an intense light on it within the local body, a change can begin to take place.

      I think I know why the church has been silent. But neither the lack of courage to step up and face the issue nor the culpability of some of the leadership is worthy of the Bride of Christ. That’s when the “church” ceases to be the church and becomes simply a bunch of people having a good time pretending they are something they are not.

      • Thank you for that. I agree wholeheartedly with you, especially your last paragraph. In my situation, what really angers me is that this church had an incident of sexual abuse of a child just months before this janitor incident! They tightened the reins on their school, but evening activities, during which this happened, appear to be a free-for-all.

        I’m doing my best to not remain silent…and not only because this happened to me, but because it could happen to someone less able to handle it. My childhood perpetrators were my dad and one of my brothers. I fully believe I am not listened to in the church because I am a woman.

        But, that’s an entirely different area of abuse within the church!

        • It is the women in the church who can school us best in the are of violence against, I think.

          I have learned much from the women in the abuse survivor groups and the 22+ years volunteering at the local sexual assault agency. I for one do not believe that women are at all “difficult to understand.” Once you see through a woman’s eyes, once you begin to see how the hashtag YesAllWomen (I won’t use the actual one here) opens up an utterly unknown to men experience of the world, men in particular, it is impossible to (for me at least) to not find their experiences perfectly rational response to the potential threats.

          I value your insight and am thankful you have found some part of healing.

    • Just me:

      No matter how long ago you were molested you aught to turn your molester(s) in to laws enforcement. To stop short of a formal written complaint is to propel you offender(s) forward. Action on your part is part of recovery.

      • “No matter how long ago you were molested you aught to turn your molester(s) in to laws enforcement. To stop short of a formal written complaint is to propel you offender(s) forward. Action on your part is part of recovery.”

        I need to reply to this from two different directions. Years ago, I would have read this statement and would have been overwhelmed with guilt and confusion at the thought that my not reporting could potentially bring about harm to others. I understand fully that your intention is from a right perspective of ending abuse, but it is a heavy weight to feel that I have perhaps caused harm to others by not initially reporting.
        As it is, I struggle with that question daily. Have I contributed to others being harmed b/c of my delay in reporting? I will always live with that question.
        I initially believed all that I was taught in the religious world. I believed then, that I would be defying God by talking about what happened, and the concept of reporting to the legal authorities was something I was sure I sure was an unforgivable sin.
        Much has happened since those years. There were many, many things that I had to unlearn and learn before I knew that it was not just permissible to tell anyone, but was actually a good and right thing to do.
        Even after learning some of this, it was terrifying process to report legally. I was sure that in reporting his crime, I was also reporting my worthlessness and my shame. It was incredibly painful.
        For me, I cannot say that it was healing or a part of recovery. It has NOT been healing. I would not change my decision because I believe it was the right thing to do, but it has not brought about healing or recovery and has done nothing to stop the offender. It has brought significant additional pain and confusion to me.
        I would always encourage a victim to report if they have the strength to do so, but I would not promise them that it will bring healing. For me, it resulted in multiple religious groups rallying around the offender to ensure that he would be protected from any consequences. This was NOT because they believed him innocent. It was simply b/c he is a man of God. God’s ministry and reputation were to be protected.
        For me, it has increased my doubt and confusion about who God really is and if he cares about these things. I have had to struggle to understand why so much of christianity sees offenders (at least religious offenders) with so much value and find it so important to make sure their crimes remain secret. What does that say about me? I have no worth to that world of christianity. I am trying to see and understand who God is outside of the context of christianity.
        Perhaps in time, I will be able to look back and say that all of this was part of recovery, but I cannot say that now. I have met Christians during this process who ARE loving, compassionate and kind. Their kindness and compassion even while knowing some of the things that happened to me has been healing. Their belief that God does not condone covering the crimes of sexual offenders has encouraged me to seek out if God might truly care. Their actions have been healing.

        • Some people have reported and found more injury in the discounting and denial of their story.

          Others have reported and found support.

          I have a friend who, as an adult, found the courage to tell her mother about the abuser that lived across the street. Her mother said, “I KNEW it!” She still has trouble with the idea that her mother suspected but took no action.

          In another case, one person finally revealed the abuse to her sister and aunt (her aunt was the sister of the man who had molested her). Her sister then said, “You, too?” Then their aunt said, “Maybe if I’d said something, he wouldn’t have gotten to you two.”

          All that to say each of our stories have widely different circumstances. Reporting or not reporting does not necessarily have the effect we might want.

          I’m grateful, Just Me, that you are healing and reporting even now. There is a great deal of strength in what you have shared.

          • Thank you for understanding this! I do realize that for each, the results will be drastically different. From my own personal perspective, I think that much of it depends on the “church.”
            Every offender I have known well is someone tightly wrapped up in the church. The church people and leadership see the perpetrators as good people who need protection. When that happens, the victims are truly left alone and without any support.
            Even if a single church saw things differently and wanted to protect victims, what can they do in the face of an entire religious system that fights so strongly for the offenders?

          • Just Me asked, “Even if a single church saw things differently and wanted to protect victims, what can they do in the face of an entire religious system that fights so strongly for the offenders?”

            What they can do is be the first church to buck the system. Call the authorities and report the offender to the police. Have somebody contact the news people and proclaim, “Here’s the way the Body of Christ should respond to these things!”

            I don’t think the “system” can stand in the face of light.

        • Robert Newmiller

          Just me:

          The healing that I am speaking of is not necessarily only yours. When these perpetrators are tried and convicted it has a healing effect on the next generation. I’m sorry to hear that your molester has fared well in the process! But we cannot leave the door open for future offense by the act of silence. As to your question whether God really cares for you, the essential lesson to be learned is that God sent his son to be worse than molested for your individual benefit. If your desire is truly to be an over-comer , I propose, you spend your time buried in God’s word. Nothing offered by men can supply such complete healing. He has risen and so can you!

          • I do NOT regret reporting and would do it over again. I’m thankful that I had some support in doing so. In my situation, reporting legally did not result in providing safety for anyone else. If anything, it likely ensured that he knows that he can offend again, without consequence. He has been very tightly protected by the religious community.
            I am not interested in reading God’s words right now, at least not most of them. Right now, that just adds to the confusion, panic and fear I feel. Those were the words used to justify the abuse I experienced growing up. They are the words that were used to destroy my childhood and that of many of my peers. They are the words that were used to fill me with shame and hopelessness.
            With that being said, I have experienced and am experiencing some level of healing through some who are followers of Jesus AND care about broken people. That has given me a bit of a different perspective of who Jesus might be. Also, there are a few Bible passages that I hold tightly to, that give me hope.
            You mention that we “cannot leave the door open for future offense by the act of silence.” I agree in a general sense, but also feel the heavy weight of that personally. I don’t think people realize the price that victims are asked to pay. For me, I feel like the abuse itself sliced into my soul. However, the burden of feeling that the abusers’ future acts of abuse of others is something I must find a way to prevent, is something that destroys my chance of ever having a life free of them. I accept that in a sense. I know that I will never truly be free and I would do just about anything to protect others from the offenders I know, however, I am one person. The church / religious world mostly seems to protect its own. Who am I to stand against such powerful groups who network together to ensure that the crimes of specific offenders remain hidden?? I am no one to stand up against them. It is a hopeless feeling to realize that I can do just about nothing to stop those who offended against me from offending against others.
            And while I try to think through how to protect others, there is an outcry around me of church people with accusations of not forgiving, of perhaps being bitter, of not just letting God take care of it, etc.

          • Just one more thought. Sometimes reporting is not safe. It is easy to think that if there is a danger, the police will protect, but that isn’t the case. They can’t provide protection to everyone who reports a crime.
            Perhaps a victim can make that choice for herself, but what if she has children and needs to keep them safe? How does a victim make that kind of choice?
            Imagine a victim who was stalked after being raped. Imagine the terror of knowing that her perpetrator is watching her, watching her house, etc. How safe will that victim feel when and if she reports him to the police. Will the religion that didn’t stop him from rape and did not stop him from stalking now protect the victim and her children?

          • I’m not sure that a person who rapes and stalks his victims will be stopped by any religion.

          • As I thought a little more about that, I think that—if a church is aware of the situation—shouldn’t they provide safe house accommodation or at least help her get into a shelter of some sort?

            You can’t stop the stalker/rapist. But that isn’t the only action available to us.

          • Just me:

            These church people you mentioned who accuse you of being unforgiving……GET AWAY FROM THEM. Doesn’t matter if they are family or close friends……they are not on your side, regardless of them telling you otherwise in their well-versed passive-aggresiveness.

            As far as being fearful of reporting, I think a necessary step for any victim to take before going to police about it is becoming knowledgable about the laws regarding witness/victim protection in the state where the crime occurred. Most state laws are very clear about how those who tamper with and harass crime victims are dealt with. Witness tampering is a prosecutable crime. Someone who reports a violent crime and names the perpetrator is supposed to be protected by the law. If that tends to not be the case, then the law enforcement agency where the crime was reported should themselves be reported to the state attorney generals office.

            Have someone help you look at all the reasons you have for not reporting a crime committed against you to the police. Then look at each reason individually and change it into an obstacle, which is a thing rather than an idea. It will make figuring out how to hurdle these obstacles one at a time less difficult.

            I’m speaking from personal experience. Myself and a small group of others helped a survivor of alleged unspeakable ritual sexual abuse, perpetrated on her and many others by a well known IFB preacher in La., overcome each individual obstacle so she could make her statement to police. One point that the authorities made very clear is that that are bound to protect witnesses, of which a victim most certainly is. Good luck to you.

          • With regard to the need to be familiar with the legal process when one reports: The local sexual assault agency can lay that out for you very well.

            They may even have legal advocates, people who are skilled in helping a survivor/witness navigate the system.

  5. The church as a whole mostly does nothing. My brief story: A janitor walked in on me in the ladies’ room at my church. I was thoroughly embarrassed and I asked him to leave. He would not leave, but became belligerent instead and I ended up leaving him alone in there. I went to the building supervisor, told them what happened, and they said, “Oh, that doesn’t sound like him.” I expressed my concern about the possibility of him walking in on a little girl and they dismissed my concern. The senior pastor was very sympathetic in word, but no action was taken to correct the problem……and the following week, it happened again. I was livid!

    All I’ve gotten from church leadership is, “That doesn’t sound like him…” and they’ve let it go. You want to know what that janitor does every time he sees me? He smirks. He told the church leadership he apologized to me and everything was ok….but that’s a lie….he did not apologize at all. But, he smirks.

    So…..this church is cultivating a culture of abuse by not even taking an adult victim seriously. We’re searching for a new church. We are between ministries as my husband is a pastor. He’s been a pastor more than 30 years and has never once supported a culture of abuse.

    We see this all the time when visiting churches…..the church won’t do anything about abuse in the world when the same abuse is happening within the actual church! That’s too close for comfort….if they were going to take action, they might have to take action within and the price of that is too high for most.

    I know exactly what these churches need to do, but no one will listen.

    • Will it take a major financial loss (lawsuit?) to get the church to listen? It’s taken that and huge negative publicity to get the Roman Catholic Church to even begin to pay attention.

      The average protestant church doesn’t have that unified structure that allows the local body to feel the pressure. The most I’ve seen is for the church to establish some rules on background checks and a couple of safety rules. There is no concept that there are perpetrators in their pews sitting next to their victims every Sunday.

      Somehow the magnitude of the problem escapes the leadership of the local churches (“surely not here”, “surely not him/her”). When you add up the various kinds of abuses, the numbers in the church are overwhelming.

      I wonder what would happen if people started telling their stories? I was 50 when I told the man who had been my adult mentor when I was in high school of what had happened to me as a child.

      I asked him how he felt about learning that. He said that it brought to mind the time he was molested in a park as a child.

      What would have happened in the early 1960s (I at 16, he at 35) if we had shared our stories?

      What would have happened if I had told the elder board that one of their members had molested me and 3 other children and raped an adult woman?

      Perhaps my mentor could have helped me convince them.

  6. I believe we have no hope in quelling this hellish, but highly-organized network of pedophelia that has successfully infiltrated our churches and Christian organizations until we concentrate more on WHY it’s happening, alongside studying who the perpetrators are and how they get away with it. It is a cowardly move on the part of people who know better to attribute nothing of substance being done to mere ignorance.

    The high-profile and popular men in the evangelical, catholic and non-denominational hierarchy (which in reality, all appear to belong to the same evil, elitist club) are most definitely not ignorant. They’ve been a part of this power and control structure for a long time. They are the insiders who have been successful at playing the game. They know from where their orders come, and they obey them without question. These are the same chess pieces in the game who never see their evil deeds exposed, because the tentacles of this evil not only shelter them from exposure, but it also connects them to the very WORLDLY people they stand in their pulpits and preach against. Those in the upper echelons of the so-called Christian faith know full well that they are working on the same side of those they publicly speak against.

    Only when one who is trying to climb the ladder of success decides they don’t have to follow orders from the hierarchy, or else the scales fall from their eyes and they realize what they have really involved themselves in, and make the effort to get out of it, do we see them under the public microscope of scrutiny. Or to break it down further, when a man of God gets too big for his britches and erroneously thinks he has gained enough power on his own to break away and ignore his instructions from those at the top of the heap, or else still has a remnant of conscience enough to realize that what he has been promoting from the pulpit is actually supporting the agenda of what he’s publicly preaching against, do we see them fall from their perch and either get convicted of a crime, have their reputations ruined for life or unexpectedly die.

    The pattern seen by some, and discussed by even fewer, is a permanent scouting for low-level, power-hungry deviants who can be molded through a tried and true process, motivated by promises of protection from exposure/prosecution, power, money and an endless supply of whatever gives them physical pleasure.

    It should then make sense to anyone with a measure of intelligence to see that recruits who decide that after years of blind obedience, they have accumulated enough of their own power to not have to follow orders anymore, or else are given instructions or tasks to complete that will move them further up the pecking order that stirs their sense of horror, fear and disgust so much that they refuse to comply, are those we see culled from the elite and are no longer protected. Only these pawns, those proving to be, or suspected of being a liability in the game are who we see fall under public scrutiny. As long as those in a position to actually do something about this stay content in running the hamster wheel, we will never see the light shined on those who willfully keep themselves entangled in this evil web of deceit, money, power and fleshly pleasures.

  7. I appreciated the focus on who the perpetrators are – those who are are selling and buying our youth. Focusing on demand reduction is an important aspect of defending our children. But I’m actually more optimistic about how churches are responding. I had the opportunity to serve as the Administrator of our county human trafficking task force and approached the issue through the lens of the Federal model of 4Ps – Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, and Partnership. We engaged our local churches in awareness and prevention and they continue to be a strong arm of the task force. Local churches are often already involved in prevention. Sometime, I worry that new nonprofits without a solid footprint in the community will start something they either can’t sustain or are not credentialed to do. I’m also concerned when churches abandon strong models of foster care, after school tutoring programs, and volunteering as CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates) that are key to protecting children, in order to learn how to do their own investigation and rescue or start a shelter. Without the proper qualifications, part of counting the cost, we risk promising something we can’t deliver. The literature indicates that one authentic adult relationship is a proven prevention strategy to protect a youth from being lured into a life of sexual exploitation. If we evaluate what we are already doing and what we are really good at, we might be able to partner with others in our community to strengthen the safety net. Churches are on the frontline of defending our children’s freedom.

    Thank you for your attention to such an important issue. We need more questions!

    • Very nicely put, Dr. Morgan! I think the church needs training, but those who are qualified to do the training will emphasize the necessity of letting the professionals handle the bulk of the matter. Awareness, knowing what not to do, willingness to report, how to take a crisis call, who the referrals are (including secular agencies) are all needed.

      In my 22 years volunteering at the local agency, I spent a few years on the crisis lines and hospital advocacy. For the last 15 years, my job has mostly been training the new advocates for the crisis lines and as hospital advocates. The legal advocates and child interviewers are professionals.

      One large church here locally is deeply involved in the human trafficking issue but they don’t try to put “boots on the ground” in the battle. They are doing awareness training (look for “The Sold Experience” on line) and assisting in cleaning up after the pros take down a child brothel (mostly in Cambodia—Svy Pak for example—but some local efforts as well).

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