Sex trafficking exists, but not in my corner of the world. Have you ever thought that? Have you ever assumed that trafficked kids are from only broken, poverty stricken homes? Or maybe you have heard only runaways who are already on the streets are the ones most commonly targeted? And, wouldn’t it be easier to tell yourself that this is more of an international issue than a US issue? The sad reality is that the enemy is using sex trafficking to steal the identity of so many people in our world, whether it is next door or across an ocean. In this article, I am going to focus in on youth victims specifically.
You might be wondering why I am talking about sex trafficking on my blog. Well, let me be honest, I certainly didn’t have a plan to do that. But, I sat in church on Sunday and listened to a message that forced me to think about it in a new way. The numbers were overwhelming, the truth was heartbreaking, and the reality is almost too real. I knew all that. But, then God whispered in my heart…what can you do, Deb?
I’m not in a position in my life, nor have I been called, to go out to the streets and meet the evilness of sex trafficking head on. But, my desire to impact our youth also means I have a vested interest in seeing an end to sex trafficking. I can’t ignore the truth that my own children could fall prey to this evil.
And, I heard my own reply to God…build relationships with youth.
Exactly how does building relationships with youth help combat sex trafficking? To answer that question, we first need to understand a bit about basic fundamental needs.
All people need to have their emotional, social and physical needs met. These needs are a critical foundation of youth development. Predators seek out children because they tend to be a vulnerable population because they rely on others to meet the majority of their basic needs.
For example, at the beginning, predators offer attention, friendship, love or basics like food and shelter to potential victims. All of our children, our youth need these things. If these needs are not met, youth will seek to meet them through others outside of their family and friends.
When we engage youth in positive and healthy relationships, we meet some of their basic needs. We help them feel loved, valued and wanted. Additionally, when youth are in a relationship with caring adults, those adults can serve as advocates and help them attain resources like shelter and clothing if needed. These things work together to help give young people personal value and identity.
When we can close the door of unmet needs and can offer genuine, Christlike love to young people, we are also helping to place a small barrier between them and a potential predator. And, the more we can move our healthy relationships with young people into a larger community of love and support for them, the more barriers we place between them and that potential predator.
Taking Action Against Sex Trafficking
So what exactly does this mean in terms of taking an action step to help combat sex trafficking of youth? First, let me say, God calls us all differently. We have our own action steps, our own convictions related to the issue of sex trafficking. But, I still want to offer one place for all of us to begin.
Be intentional about building healthy relationships with youth. We can all do this whether it is with our children, our children’s friends, our neighbor’s children. That relationship may simply be going out of your way to connect on a regular basis, listening to them share about their own life, and building them up with kind and loving words.
And, you can also spread your circle of influence outside of your home and neighborhood. Here are a few additional ways to reach youth:
- Serve as a tutor.
- Volunteer in a youth shelter.
- Serve in an after-school program.
And my current way to connect and build relationships? Serving in youth ministry! Does your church have a youth group? Could they use adults who are just willing to show up, love and respect youth, and encourage them to be who God intends them to be? Now, you might be ready to argue that kids in a youth group are not at risk for sex trafficking. But the truth is, all youth are at risk of being preyed on for one thing or another. And, caring adult relationships are a cornerstone of keeping young people safe.
Called to Love
You may be thinking that this seems far too simple to make an impact on a $150 billion dollar industry. You might be wondering how I can be so naive. Yes, this action step to build healthy relationships with youth is simple in theory.
But what may seem simple to us, may mean the difference between life and death for a young person. Rather than being frozen from the enormity of it all, remember God called us to love one another. Building a healthy relationship with another person is love. And young people need to see what that looks like.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.Romans 12:9-10
When we see evil and can act in love, our impact is larger than we can imagine. That one relationship you build, it has the power to change lives. How will you respond if God whispers “What can you do?”