Have you ever heard a story so profound that it changed the way you viewed the world? I was attending a Ministry School in California the first time I heard Rebecca Bender’s story. There I sat in the audience, hungry to make a change in our broken world, with very little idea how or where to start. I was bewildered as she shared her story of being tricked into sex trafficking by a boyfriend she thought had loved her. I couldn’t believe it! Sex trafficking was not just some wild plot in the latest action movie. It was real and happening on a scale I never could have imagined. I applied for an internship at her organization, sure that my odds of being accepted were similar to winning the lottery. Like many people, I questioned what I had to offer the world of Social Justice. I had never been abused or sold for sex. I grew up in a middle-class American home with two parents who loved me. I felt about as far away from the nightmare of sex trafficking as anyone could get. I only knew my eyes had been opened and doing nothing was no longer an option.
I was accepted for the internship at RBI and little did I know my safe Christian bubble was about to snap. I would be awakened to a sinister world of psychological torment, brainwashing, and slavery. I would learn about tactics of darkness that would make me sick to my stomach and through it be inspired to fight back. I found hope in the strength and resiliency of survivors. Layer by layer, ignorance, and misconception was peeled back from my eyes until I could see the issue with startling clarity.
- It could have been me.
Rebecca shared her story of falling in love with the most amazing guy. She had grown up in your average American home and yet as a single mother of eighteen, she was hungry to feel that she belonged, that she was special, and most of all that she was loved.
The longings and vulnerabilities she described were so real that I began to cry. As a teenager, I was so tangled in self-hatred and depression that I wondered if I would ever feel the peace and love I was desperate for. It was at that age that I too met the most amazing guy. He was kind and respectful and made me feel special. But it occurred to me…
What if he hadn’t been?
What if during every intimate conversation we had he was plotting ways to use my hopes, dreams, and fears against me. What if he had exploited my vulnerabilities and slowly pushed my boundaries until I found myself saying “yes” when everything inside of me was screaming “NO!” I knew that if my boyfriend had been a trafficker, saying all the right things, it could have been me who was tricked. Many of us assume that women become prostitutes because of bad choices they have made when in reality it is due to a lack of choices. No one dreams of becoming a prostitute. If you have ever felt confused, broken, or desperate for love, the truth is that it could have been you too.
- Prostitution is not a choice.
Of all the lies I have ever believed in my life this may be one of the worst.
Prostitutes have pimps to protect them from being hurt or taken advantage of by buyers.
Looking back at everything I learned I wince knowing I thought this was true. When I started hearing the real stories of women who had been trafficked I was shocked. I learned that pimps employ the same coercive tactics used by slave owners in the 1800s and cult leaders. They start by grooming a vulnerable young woman by dating her and make her feel special in a way that no one ever has. They will buy her gifts, listen to her stories, tell her that she is special. Over 85 percent of victims of sexual exploitation experienced sexual abuse before being trafficked. Traffickers spot the girls whose boundaries have already been expanded by pain and abuse. By choosing the vulnerable, it makes their job quicker and easier. From there, traffickers will use any degrading tactic necessary to keep her confused and compliant. These tactics include brainwashing, threats, and dehumanizing her by tattooing a brand onto her body such as “Daddy’s Little Money Maker” as though she were a piece of cattle.
Yet somehow pimps have become glamorized in our culture. Celebrities like Snoop Dog win awards for being “America’s Most Lovable Pimp.” and Halloween stores are full of pimp clothing. Pimps make money by taking a girl who’s never known a pure and unselfish love and profit from selling her body. If we knew the lengths that pimps go to in order to torture young women I don’t think we would find ‘pimpin’ so entertaining.
- Pornography is fueling the Sex Industry.
According to a study done by The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, 64% of young people, ages 13–24, actively seek out pornography weekly. Most people view pornography as a victimless crime. And why not? Even the name ‘Porn Star’ sounds like a celebrity title. The truth is that pornography does not satisfy a sexual appetite, it creates one. Child pornography is one of the fastest growing online businesses. The Sex Industry is supply and demand. According to Fight The New Drug, frequent porn consumption tends to escalate. Because of porn’s addictive nature, porn consumers need an ever-increasing dosage over time in order to feel the same level of enjoyment, and they have to seek out more extreme and hard-core forms of porn. Porn consumers can reach a point where they enjoy porn less and less but, want it more and more. At a certain point, porn is no longer enough and a viewer will need to physically act out his fantasies. The same way no woman dreams of becoming a prostitute, very few men dream of exploiting women. Yet these young viewers will one day have a desire to buy porn with skin on.
Until we switch on the light about the harmfulness of pornography it will continue as fuel to the fire of the Sex Industry.
- Slavery is a weed that grows in the dark.
If Human Trafficking is a $150 billion dollar industry annually worldwide how could I have gone most of my life without knowing the truth? According to a study done by Thorn, an agency that studies technology’s role in sex trafficking, 70 percent of child sex trafficking survivors were at some point sold online. When we don’t see trafficked women lining the street corners of our hometown we assume it must not be happening here.
Sex trafficking looks different in the United States than it does in Cambodia or Amsterdam. In the U.S., less than five percent of sex trafficking victims are a result of kidnapping. I love the movie Taken just as much as anyone else. I will pay $10 to watch Liam Neeson beat up the bad guys any day. If we are allowing movies like this to tell us what Sex Trafficking looks like then we are letting down the most vulnerable and victimized people in our society.
- Sex-Trafficking can be beaten.
When I started this journey I wanted so badly to make a difference but I felt inadequate and uneducated. Learning that sex trafficking is prolific was hard enough but learning that I could have contributed to the problem in my ignorance was just as hard.
William Wilberforce said. “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”
If there is one thing I have learned working at a company that is led by survivors of sex trafficking it’s that these women are strong. There’s a reason that they survived. There is so much hope that when we partner together and empower one another that we can win the fight against Sex Trafficking.
It is my hope that as your eyes are opened to the truth you will be inspired to fight back. Our culture is beginning to realize just how far sex for sale has gone. You are more than capable of using your unique gifts to help create a world where sexual slavery no longer exists. Get educated, get involved and join the movement!
By Christa McCormick
Christa McCormick works as an intern and office administrator at the Rebecca Bender Initiative. She is a current student at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and an advocate for empowering women from all walks of life. She hopes to one day publish novels that will shift culture and show men and women their immeasurable worth in the eyes of God through her own testimony.
“Human trafficking is 150 billion dollar business annually” https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/human-trafficking-numbers
“America’s Most Lovable Pimp.”
“Less than 5 percent of Sex trafficking victims are kidnapped.”
“Child sex trafficking statistics from Thorn.”
“Pornography statistics from Fight The New Drug.”