This one is a little heavy today, friends, but I recently watched this video (also shown below), and I couldn’t not share. I know abuse exists, and I often pray for people who did not grow up as blessed and safe and loved as I did.
But, if I’m being 100% honest, that is the extent of what I know about abuse.
When I watched this sweet young woman speak, I made a few personal resolutions about things that I can do beyond prayer, and I wanted to share those with you, too:
#1: Talk about it.
Coco mentions in the video that the numbers are staggering, and that so many people believe slavery has ended, yet it is happening ALL of the time, not just in third world countries, but in our own communities. In fact, she says:
[Human trafficking] is the greatest human rights challenge of the century. We must not be blind.”Coco Berthmann
I think part of the fuel for this “blindness” that she illustrates is the fear of talking about something so hurtful, wrong, and heavy. And I understand that. I feel that. But I also believe that there are healthy ways to generate a dialogue, and that’s what really motivated me to write about this today.
I don’t want to say “I’m so thankful that this isn’t me, or someone that I love”, and move on. I’d rather ask, “What can I do?”
#2: Get educated about these issues, and teach my kids.
As Coco shares her story, she mentions that she didn’t know what was happening to her was wrong. She continues that she found the tools she needed to escape from human trafficking through an episode of Law and Order. That was the first place someone had ever explained to her what abuse looked like!
In fact, I had a friend share a story with me, once, that her younger sister had been touched inappropriately by a swim teacher at 4 years old. At around age 7, their mom was explaining to them that certain parts of the body were not for strangers’ eyes, or otherwise. Her sister told them what had happened and said, “You mean like my swim teacher?”
We must teach our kids what is and is NOT okay, that certain parts of the body are sacred, and not from a place of fear, but from a place of education.
It’s something I’m passionate about, but even more so now.
#3: Know the signs of human trafficking and abuse.
Coco also mentions that people regularly ask her how they can help, and her response is always: Share this! Know the signs, and help other people know the signs, too.
You might be in a position to help and not even recognize it: as a schoolteacher, as a neighbor, as a member of a congregation, as a passerby… If you know the signs, you will be better equipped to spot the red flags.
Because I am just now learning about this, I pulled the list below directly from the Human Trafficking Hotline Online: https://humantraffickinghotline.org/human-trafficking/recognizing-signs
“Common Work and Living Conditions: The individual(s) in question
- Is not free to leave or come and go at will
- Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
- Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
- Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
- Is living and working on site
- Experiences verbal or physical abuse by their supervisor
- Is not given proper safety equipment
- Is not paid directly
- Is forced to meet daily quotas
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
- Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
- Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement or immigration officials
- Shows signs of substance use or addiction
Poor Physical Health
- Shows signs of poor hygiene, malnourishment, and/or fatigue
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is frequently monitored
- Is not in control of their own money, financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of their own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
- Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where they are staying/address
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
- Appear to have lost sense of time
- Shares scripted, confusing, or inconsistent stories
- Protects the person who may be hurting them or minimizes abuse
This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. The red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases. Each individual indicator should be taken in context, not be considered in isolation, nor should be taken as “proof” that human trafficking is occurring. Additionally, cultural differences should also be considered.”
#4: Tell everyone and anyone I know that the victim is NOT at fault.
If you know me at all, you know I HATE shame. Shame is the opposite of everything Jesus’ Gospel teaches. It forces so many things and so many people who are hurting into the dark. It perpetuates the cycle of abuse.
Absolutely, our bodies are a sacred gift to be cherished. But I also want to make sure that I am SHOUTING FROM THE ROOFTOPS: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. EVER.
You are amazing, brave, strong, and loved. Period.
#5: Get familiar with available resources.
- U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888
- Text ‘HELP’ to 233733
- Besides these, Coco also mentions a FREE 1-hour long training on the signs of Human Trafficking that I want to take. Who’s with me?? 🙌
- And, just like Coco’s story, I hope to find more people speaking out, to hear these experiences and ask after ways that I can help from the source.
And I will keep praying, too.
Because I believe in the power of prayer. But perhaps, now, if God places someone in my path to help, I will know how.
And I recognize the gravity of this situation. These are very personal issues and resolutions, but maybe you can find a few that resonate with you.
Here’s to being a part of the solution together!