“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”
― William Wilberforce
Last Friday, we were made aware of an upcoming nationwide FBI and law enforcement sting operation focused on recovering children who are being sold for sex. I was excited. Operation Cross Country—the name for these raids–has brought several girls home to Courage House. The thought of welcoming girls home to Courage House always makes my mother's heart beat fast. I waited in anticipation for the news of those who would be rescued. But I also felt the weight of what was to come…
A victim’s journey from rescue to restoration is often a long, painful and expensive one.
Yesterday we got word that 105 children were rescued and 150 people arrested in 78 cities around the U.S. While the sting was a success and I was thrilled for the recovery of each and every one of those children, I had hoped for thousands more. I applaud our partners at the FBI and all the local law enforcement personnel involved in the operation. You are making a difference!
The FBI held a press conference to talk about the success of the sting operation and the issue of children being sold for sex in America.
"It is getting worse."
That quote haunts me. But what disturbs me more is the question, "Where will they go once they are rescued?" Sadly, there is still a severe lack of beds, services and funding for this vulnerable population once they are rescued. I often wonder why.
I recently read that slavery wasn't abolished in the South until everyone came to understand the true conditions and abuse the slaves endured. I wonder if that will be true with these children. I wonder, if I communicated with great skill, in greater detail the true circumstances of this form of modern day slavery, would more people get angry enough to engage in the fight to make it stop? I wonder, if you truly knew the details of the abuse and torture these children suffer, would your heart break for these kids, the same way it would if the abuse was happening to your daughter, sister, niece or friend? What would you do if the issue got that personal?
That is a question I ponder often.
I personally know the stories of over fifty children who have been trafficked for sex. I have held many of them in my arms as they sobbed through the details. They were six, ten, twelve and fourteen when the exploitation occurred. Some of them are now eighteen, twenty, twenty-three and thirty years old fighting for their future, and on some days, their lives. The minutiae of their abuse is imprinted upon my heart and my mind. Though I long to shout it out loud, to expunge it from my brain or unload it to another person I have been very intentional about not doing so. I don't want the retelling of their experiences to exploit them further. I don't want you and others to have to wrestle with the images of human behavior so depraved it must be called evil.
But if you don't know, if the world doesn't know then how will it be stopped?
This is so personal to me. So much more than a job or a calling. I call these children my daughters. I want to honor them and their pain. So I consulted them over my dilemma–tell or don't tell. Their response was quick, "tell them the truth". Thought I still believe their pain and suffering is too private, too horrific to repeat out loud or type on paper, they want you to know so other girls will be rescued like they were. They are willing to share their stories and their pain for the purpose of bringing other girls home.
I agree. Though I long to protect them as I would my own children, I don't believe this will stop until people know. I don't want to tell you, but for the sake of the ones still held captive, I must.
These children, the ones I call the daughters of my heart, have been beaten to a point where babies have died inside of them. They have been stabbed and shot, raped at gunpoint and with the point of a gun; they have been photographed while barbarian acts are done to their bodies. Their innocence has been stolen and their voices silenced. They have been left naked and bleeding on the side of the road as if they were an animal. They have been locked in cages and auctioned off to the highest bidder. They have been sold to men by their own parents. They have been photographed and videotaped so the "John" can take a piece of them home and relive the experience over and over again, sharing it with millions on the internet. They have been told this life is their destiny. They have been told they have no value and that no one cares. These are easy lies to believe when you have no evidence to the contrary.
I wonder how they will ever believe in a good God when they have not even seen good people.
Every week I hear the most ludicrous comments about why or how a child could be caught up in the world of pimping and prostitution: "They like it," and, "They are choosing to be out there." But I challenge those views. Who likes being raped–at any age? What twelve-year-would choose to be photographed having sex–under any conditions? What twelve year old SHOULD be having sex with anyone, much less an adult man? I am not exaggerating when I say this is happening to twelve year olds and children even younger. I personally know two of these twelve year olds. They live at Courage House. They call me mom. Both of them have been pregnant.
Yes, at twelve.
Are we as shocked when I say this is happening to fourteen, sixteen and eighteen year olds? Are we as sickened by the details when these vulnerable children keep having birthdays and are now twenty or twenty-two? Is it so much easier to tell ourselves they want it so then we don't have to leave our bubbles of comfort, safety and security to get our hands dirty, to enter into the darkness or sacrifice our needs and wants so theirs can be met.
I wish I could paint you a prettier picture of the conditions these children endure as captives. I wish I were exaggerating the details. But the FBI, and other law enforcement officers who courageously rescue these children, confirm the severity of this issue. So do hundreds of compassionate, yet weary social workers across this nation and now seasoned journalists who give credibility to the issue by reporting it on the nightly news. They will all tell you, far too many of our children in this country are vulnerable to men selling them a form of "love" that entraps and eventually kills them.
We must stop this evil.
We must rescue these kids and walk with them through the lengthy recovery process.
One of my daughters who has been rescued out of the life for over three years now has agreed to help me explain what is really happening to these children around the world. My daughter has agreed to begin a series of writings titled, "A day in the life of a child sex slave." I have to warn you; they will not be easy to read. But I beg you to do just that–read them. Enter into their world. Enter into their day. Let it change you. Let it anger you. Let it break your heart. Then I pray you'll use your voice as a trumpet and shout out loud, "This must stop". (The link is at the bottom of this page.)
It matters to these kids that you engage in the fight to end this evil. It matters to them that you care, that you pray and that you give. It matters deeply to them because in doing so, you are giving them an opportunity to discover their true identity and destiny. You are giving them their very life.
We at Courage Worldwide are dedicated to the rescue and restoration of these children, and to eradicating this evil from the planet. But we can't do it without you. Sex trafficking is a $32 billion dollar a year industry and it will take a substantial financial investment to fight it.
For those of you who are already engaged in the fight and have supported our efforts financially, thank you, thank you, thank you!
It has truly made a difference. If you have not financially committed to supporting the rescue and restoration of these children, we humbly ask for your consideration now. We are at a critical stage in our vision and mission. As an organization we receive 30% of our funding from government entities, but must raise the remaining 70% every single month to keep the homes open, and right now it is a challenge to make payroll and buy groceries.
We need your help.
There are now 105 children rescued from the weekend's sting operation who are being assessed for placement. We have room in our hearts and in Courage House for more children, but we need consistent monthly funding. Will you commit to being a monthly partner today so we can bring them home? Will you consider them your daughter and do everything within your power and influence to keep them safe? Will you use your voice as a trumpet and shout out loud "this must stop"? Will you help us set them free?
Thank you for your prayer consideration.