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.

Q:What can the faith community do, beside pray for folks like you?
This question was asked by a pastor to Cptn. Nick Sensely, a leader in the anti- human trafficking movement, at a recent talk in Fresno on October 1.

Sensely: If you think back to the previous abolitionist movements and the claims that the church stood by idly on that issue…
You must decide that this is your mission.
The church needs to say “This is our mission. We acknowledge, realize, that human trafficking still exists in America, and in the world, and our most vulnerable populations, our children, are its greatest victims, and we have a responsibility to find out how we can be part of the solution: How we can sponsor trainings, and gather, how we can find shelter, clothing, support, create and support safe houses… We need to be part of the solution. We need to be part of the collaborative.” Believe me, there’s a role for the church. You are the community based organization.

Two weeks ago, some of the members of CVJC had the privilege to meet with and hear from Chief Nick Sensely. Sensely is the retiring Chief of Police in Truckee, leadership consultant with Pointman, and,for over a decade, a leader in the fight against human trafficking. He developed the CARE model, a methodology used worldwide in anti-human trafficking effort, helped develop the first U.S. human trafficking task force, and is currently working with the Northern and Central California Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, among other answers to his prayer to be part of the solution. He was the guest speaker for Jaron Ministries’ solemn assembly in Fresno to honor law enforcement. Later that day, he spoke about his involvement in human trafficking and answered questions. The above was the last question.

The issue of human trafficking is a community issue. It affects, in one way or another, the whole community. We need people from throughout the communities in the Central Valley to identify the root of the issues and the solutions.
We know that in order to effectively respond to human trafficking in our community, we need to collaborate and share our thoughts, whether they are questions, ideas, concerns, insights, etc.
So, we invite you to the table to join in the discussion.
One of these ways is through our online discussion board. We’ve started a couple discussions, but welcome you to start and engage in conversation and brainstorming concerning human trafficking and related topics.

We also are in the process of forming the first of our focus groups, which will allow members to collaborate together and help each other pursue the areas of human trafficking that they are called to.
We will also be scheduling open meetings in the future and will be holding a Coalition Partners Roundtable at the end of the month.
If you are interested in becoming involved, contact us at cvjusticecoalition@gmail.com or contact Brandi at 725-1865.

By B.N.

Read 1 Colossians 1:1-23, 2 Cor. 5:14-21
“For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”
Spend some time in Colossians 1:1-23. Savor all that it says. Consider the reality of Christ, creating and sustaining all things.
Jesus came to proclaim, in word and in action, the good news of the Kingdom of God. (Luke 4:43)
The good news of His superior justice. The good news that He was sent to make things right. The good news of His work of reconciliation that is currently going on.
He was sent to reconcile all things to Himself, for the glory of God. All things includes all people, creation, systems, communities, and every other created thing.
In his ministry of reconciliation, things that were broken are made new, whole, and heal, and what they were made to be.
Within the world of human trafficking is much that is not right. There is, within, brokenness in relationships with one another, with the community, with God, and a brokenness of how each person sees themselves.
We are called to that ministry of reconciliation, according to 2 Corinthians 5:14- 21.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (vs. 18-19)
We have the extraordinary opportunity to partner in Jesus’ work of reconciliation in the lives of victims/survivors, buys, sellers, and the communities that support or promote the work of oppression. We partner in His work of healing and mending the brokenness of the community, of individuals, of relationships, so that they came be healthy, thriving, and all they were made to be. We partner in His work to reconcile the church to the relationships it was made for in its community and bring His justice so that the church and its members live fully in all we are called to be. We partner with different groups in the community, including law enforcement, to make this possible, respecting their authority and roles, recognizing their part in God’s work of justice.
This is an expression of the good news and the work of ambassadors of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation.

Central Valley Justice Coalition has been moving forward to address an issue that has been on our hearts and minds and drawing boards for sometime- human trafficking hidden behind the doors of illegitimate massage parlors.
Within our community are many legitimate, skilled massage practitioners offering important beneficial therapeutic services. We want these businesses to thrive in their part in bringing wellness.
However, there are also businesses under the name “massage,” whose aim is not wellness, but profit through exploitation of their workers. These businesses entice the women, who come from other countries under false pretenses of promises of a job in the U.S.
Most often, a girl arrives from a foreign country with little, aside from a work visa, hope for a better future, and poor understanding of the English language. She may immediately apply for amnesty, but the process to attain this is a relatively slow one and requires an amount of money she is unlikely to possess (in the thousands.) This makes her an easy target for sex-traffickers who advertise in publications that are distributed in U.S. cities. These ads give the promise of easy work and comfy accomodations which lure the unsuspecting girls to cities such as Fresno. (of course, transportation is provided by the ‘do-gooders’.)
Then the exploitation, humiliation, threats of shame and violence begins.
Once they are brought to the massage parlors, they are compelled to work, and for the most part, the work includes providing sexual services for their customers in addition to forced labor doing massage. The women are either directly or indirectly demanded to perform sexual acts for their customers. Even among those given an option to decline, they may comply in in order to make enough money in hopes of survival outside the walls of their prison one day.
The women are paid very little money and are refused the option to leave their job. This refusal, and the demand to work, is backed up by withheld identification documents and visas, threats that law enforcement would arrest and mistreatment them, threats that they will be harmed, threats that their family would be shamed and/or their families would be harmed, the actual use of force, and physical, emotional, and mental harm. They also face the fact they are in a strange country with little or no English language skills, no resources, no understanding of the laws, no one to go to for help and to start a new life. They are required to pay for their housing and meals out of their meager pay. They eat, sleep, and work in the same building and are not allowed to leave the premises.

This is not just a “possible” situation in Fresno. There are already numerous documented cases by the Fresno Police Department, who have been actively working on effective law enforcement.

Here are some “Statistic Snapshots” from the forefront human trafficking organization, Polaris Project:
* “Johns” who frequent brothels disguised as massage parlor make it a “hobby” to buy sex and to track all massage parlors nationwide. There are more than 5,000 brothels disguised as massage parlors nationwide.
* Standard pricing structure: Johns pay a house fee of $60 – $90 per half hour or hour plus they occasionally pay tips; the women are pressured to “please the customer” in order to receive tips. These unpredictable tips are the women’s sole source of income to pay the numerous fees and interest rates they are charged by the network.
* Standard day for a woman in a brothel disguised as a massage parlor: 10am – 2 or 3am, 7 days a week
* Estimated average number of men a woman must have sex with daily: 6 -10

As bad as all this is, this is not the extent of the injustice done to the women, as well as to all those affected. For one, everyday in these businesses means that each woman’s identity, giftings, potential, and dreams are be suppressed.
On top of that, almost always the women do not realize that they are human trafficking victims (see “What Is Human Trafficking?”). This adds difficulty to the task of helping them, because police officers cannot respond to them as victim, if the women do not report themselves as victims, and the police cannot tell the women that they are victims. As victims of human trafficking, victims are not culpable for the activities they have been compelled to do by force, fraud, or coercion. Often, if women do not report themselves as victims, however, police have little choice but to arrest or cite them for the apparent crimes they see.

So what are we doing? We have been helping bring the issue to light. We know that there has been a growing concern from the community and we are partnering with law enforcement to educate the community.
We have also been working with local authorities to get an ordinance developed, approved, and implemented in the City of Fresno. The ordinance will serve to strengthen laws for businesses that provide massage services, in order to provide deterrents and legal ramifications for sex and labor trafficking in illegitimate massage parlors.
Actually, that’s one of the areas where we need your help.

What You Can Do
The Central Valley Justice Coalition is holding informational meeting concerning human trafficking in massage parlors on August 4 and August 13.
Our informational meetings will provide information about human trafficking in the massage parlors, and proposed actions to provide deterrents and greater legal action against this activity.ommunity. FPD Sergeant Chastaine from the Central Valley Human Trafficking Task Force will be giving a presentation along with representatives form the Central Valley Coalition.

Information on the meetings are as follows:
Thursday, August 4, 12:00 p.m., Fresno First Baptist Church parlor room, 1400 E Saginaw Way, Fresno 93704.
Saturday, August 13, 9:00 a.m. Fresno Pacific University BC Lounge.
(These meetings are identical in content, so it is only necessary to attend one meeting.)
Please RVSP with the date you intend to attend at cvjusticecoalition@gmail.com.
We would also appreciate your help in spreading the word to others and inviting people to attend one of the meetings.

We also need support in prayer. We ask you to intercede for the work to end human trafficking in massage parlors, those being oppressed, which includes both the women and those involved in the trade, our law enforcement, our local leaders, including our councilmen and mayor, our community, and the Central Valley Justice Coalition. See our prayer guide for some tips.
Contact us if you would like to support the work of CVJC at 725-1865 or cvjusticecoalition@gmail.com.
More information by Polaris Project on Asian Massage Parlors.