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Alabama not immune to worldwide commercial sex slavery, abusecomment (0)

January 10, 2013

By Kristen Padilla

Alabama not immune to worldwide commercial sex slavery, abuse

Chong Kim, a Korean-American, thought she had found love. She was 18 and was excited to find a man who could potentially be the one of her dreams. But once he gained her trust, Kim’s dream became her worst nightmare.

Her nightmare began when this man, who had pretended to be her boyfriend but was actually a recruiter for sex traffickers, abducted her and took her out of state to an abandoned warehouse where she was imprisoned. 

Kim was in shock and thought she had been taken to another country. 

“Even I was naïve to believe that this was (not) happening on our own soil, in the U.S.,” Kim said in a podcast interview with New Hope Digital, a branch of national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU). “They would break us into submission, and by doing that we would go through tortures, beatings, being raped and sodomized not only by ourselves but also in front of the other girls. … It was a way to break us into submission. If we did not comply, then either we or someone we cared about would be harmed.”

Sex trafficking is the most lucrative form of human trafficking, boasting a $34 billion industry, which includes pornography, strip clubs, brothels and prostitution. 

“Today, sex trafficking is a high-tech, globalized, electronic market, and predators are involved at all levels,” according to Prostitution Research and Education, a nonprofit organization that does research and provides information to researchers, survivors, the public and policymakers.

Approximately 12.3 million women and children worldwide are abducted, coerced or forced to serve as sex victims annually, catering to men of all walks of life. In the United States, this is becoming a growing problem as well, with anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 people trafficked in and out of the U.S. annually, according to the Polaris Project. 

To bring this number home, the National Human Trafficking hotline received 106 calls from Alabama between December 2007 and October 2010, according to “Invisibility: A study of commercial sexual exploitation in Jefferson County, Alabama.”

In 2004, the U.S. Department of State released a report called Trafficking in Persons, which indicated that 600,000 to 800,000 individuals are trafficked across international borders each year. Eighty percent are women and young girls, and almost 50 percent were under the age of 18. The majority of this number was trafficked for sexual exploitation. 

“Just because you’re seeing a face of a girl smiling doesn’t mean she’s really smiling. She may be a little child, and she may be even related to you and you don’t even know it,” Kim said. “She may be abducted; she may be the little girl that you saw two, three years ago on the missing report on the news or at Wal-Mart.” 

Since opening its doors on Jan. 28, 2011, The Well House, a Birmingham shelter for trafficked women, has rescued between 33 and 50 women. Six of these were from out of state, one was a foreigner and the rest were from Alabama. 

“[Sex trafficking] is so prevalent and profitable because of pornography,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Pornography creates the demand, which sex trafficking fills.”

In a petition on www.change.org to close the adult section on backpage.com, a pornography website, it gives three examples of sex trafficking cases that were linked to backpage.com. In 2010, a Georgia man was arrested outside the Nashville area for pimping two 17-year-old girls, engaging them in online pornography on backpage.com. Four days prior to this arrest, four people in Denver were arrested for forcing a teenage girl into prostitution, advertising her services on this site. In 2009, a South Dakota couple was arrested for selling underage girls for sex on backpage.com.

Most victims of sex trafficking are women and girls, although some are men and young boys. Victims are usually runaways or throwaway teens, teenage girls who are coerced by a boyfriend into meeting his friends who then gang rape her repeatedly, women who are given a date rape drug and raped, immigrant women and/or children and teens who disappear from neighborhoods, according to the WMU’s “Release and Restore” CD. Victims are forced into prostitution, pornography, sex acts with individuals, brothels and/or strip clubs.

“The largest misconception I see is that prostitution is a choice,” said Tajuan Lewis, founder and director of The Well House. “No woman in her right mind chooses to prostitute herself.”

And if anyone should know, it’s Lewis. 

“I am a former prostitute and drug addict,” she said. “It took me 25 years to realize I was a victim.”

Lisa Thompson serves as a liaison for the Salvation Army’s Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking and has witnessed this same misconception.

“[I]n the eyes of many, victims of sexual trafficking are ‘just prostitutes,’” she said in an interview published on New Hope Digital. “In the past, such attitudes meant that many victims of sex trafficking were never identified as such.”

Those attitudes have kept many Christians in recent days at arm’s length from prostitutes and other women performing sex acts, Thompson said.

But Lewis said these are exactly the women to whom Jesus ministered during His ministry.

“Somebody told me not too long ago … ‘Have you read the Bible? … Jesus was friends with prostitutes. His great, great, great … grandmother [Tamar] was a prostitute,’” she said. “How can we turn our backs on them any longer?”

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