Human trafficking is exploitation of vulnerability.
That is the unofficial definition articulated by Dr. Lauran Bethell, who has worked for decades with individuals trapped in modern slavery.
Dr. Bethell shared her wisdom and experience at our Lead To Freedom event on Thursday, November 3.
Modern slavery is happening in our very communities, trapping our own children and neighbors in an emotional,physical, and psychological prison of abuse and exploitation.
Traffickers prey upon vulnerabilities their victims possess.
These vulnerabilities include, but is not limited to, experience of childhood sexual abuse, poverty (which not only may include lack of material resources, but lack of support systems and other resources), lack of understanding of rights, and vulnerability to grooming.
Regarding this last point, Dr. Bethell explains that sex traffickers sometimes get their victims by posing as “loverboys” or “Romeos.” They pretend to show interest in a girl, showering the girl with attention and affection. They tend to look out for girls who display some level of low self-image, she said, in some cases by complimenting passing girls in a public place and watching their response. They play on the girl’s need to be valued, desired, and appreciated. The girl is drawn into what she perceives as a romantic relationship. When the girl is deeply emotionally invested, and the relationship becomes sexual, the “loverboy” at some point begins to coerce her to engage in sex acts for money, often, at first, assuring her that he loves her and it’s not a big deal, and eventually becoming more forceful, controlling, and more aggressive in abuse.
Regardless of her complicity at any point, the girl is a victim of human trafficking, as defined by federal law.
What we need to realize is that this could happen to a child in our neighborhood, in our church, in our family, no matter the demographics. It IS happening in our communities, and as a community these are OUR children.
The victim may not have experienced any of the other “red flags” of vulnerability. In an example in “In Our Backyard- A Christian Perspective on Human Trafficking in the United States” by Nita Belles(highly recommended), the victim was a girl in a middle- class Christian family.
As Dr. Bethell pointed out, girls commonly struggle with self-image in their teens, and she noted that if she was preyed upon in this fashion, she just as likely could have been a victim.
We want to encourage you today to seek God in how to stand for the vulnerable in our community. There are other who are being exploited in different situations, such as immigrant workers, but our call is the same. The church is send to partner in protecting the vulnerable and bringing freedom to the oppressed.
One of the first steps is awareness of what is happening in our communities and educating our youth. Also, do not underestimate the power of affirmation you can give to a child.
Contact us about how you can get involved.

CVJC wants to thank all those who attended our Lead To Freedom week. We are truly encouraged and excited about the partnerships that are continuing to build and the opportunities ahead of us.
We also want to thank Dr. Lauran Bethell for coming to the Central Valley just for our event and sharing her wisdom and experience regarding modern slavery.

If you’ve got a smart phone, iPod, or iPad, you also have access to tools that can equip you to fight human trafficking through education, through shopping, and through sharing.

Search human trafficking and you’ll see the Trafficking In Persons app. This is a handy guide/ self-education course on the U.S. Trafficking In Persons report and human trafficking. It is a great app to recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about human trafficking in the U.S. and around the world.

Free2Work: Wondering how a company or product rates regarding their involvement in slave labor? Free2work.com now has an app with grades for common products/ companies. Phone users can scan barcode on products as they are shopping to see the score on that product.
You may also access tweets from premier abolitionist, like David Batstone.

Call and Response: This abolitionist movement/ rockumentary has an app with videos, tweets, campaigns, and other information to help equip abolitionists in the fight. Use it to contact companies and ask them to be slavery free through their Blood Phone, Slave Free, and Chain Store Reaction campaigns.

International Justice Mission: IJM is an international humans rights agency that secures freedom and others right for victims of slavery and other forms of exploitation. Get news and video from their work, read blogs from Gary Haugen and others, see a map where their work is being done, send encouraging notes to those on the ground, and learn how to get involved.

R-Day: November 11, 2011 has been declared Redemption Day, a time to come together for the freedom for those who are oppressed. Learn more on the R Day app.

There are also some exciting apps coming soon designed to help people from becoming victims or to help those already victimized.
NetHope.org. in partnership with other organizations offered a “Stop Human Trafficking App Design Challenge.” The two winning designers were recently announced. The Grand Prize winner created the “Working Abroad” app. Designed to assist those seeking to work in other countries, the app includes information to warn users about signs that they are being lured into the human trafficking.
See video clips of the winners at NetHope.org