Sex Trafficking Heroes

By Eric Marrapodi:

Greensboro, North Carolina (CNN) —The truck-stop hooker is no Julia Roberts, the trucker in the cab with her no Richard Gere, and this truck stop off the highway could not be any farther from Beverly Hills, the staging ground for “Pretty Woman.”

The woman sports baggy shorts, a white T-shirt and frizzy hair. Her fat middle-aged pimp sits in a beat up red Honda, watching as his “lot lizard” moves from truck to truck, in broad daylight.  If this pimp has a cane it is for substance, not style.

She moves through the parking lot, occasionally opening a cab’s passenger-side door and climbing in.

The trucker and hooker disappear in the back for 10 minutes.

Danielle Mitchell watches from the other end of the parking lot and shakes her head.

“We know from talking to other victims and other agencies that girls are taken to truck stops and they’re actually traded,” she says, sitting in her car, a shiny silver sport utility vehicle, keeping a healthy 50-yard distance from the pimp.

Mitchell is North Carolina human trafficking manager for World Relief.  World Relief is a Christian nonprofit attached to the National Association of Evangelicals and is best known for its efforts to combat global hunger and respond to disasters around the world.

Mitchell is trying to tackle a disaster in her home state.   And she is not alone.

Motivated in large part by their religious traditions of protecting the vulnerable and serving “the least of these,” as Jesus instructed his followers to do in the Gospel of Matthew, World Relief and other Christian agencies like the Salvation Army are stepping up efforts and working with law enforcement to stem the flow of human trafficking, which includes sex trafficking and labor trafficking.



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  • JoeyS

    I’m all for efforts in the world of sex trafficking but I wonder why we aren’t putting more resources towards stemming the environments that encourage prostitution?

    There are systemic issues at play here and we need resources to work with the girls (and boys) who get caught up in this bondage but when are we going to realize that our entire civilization perpetuates this reality by marginalizing the poor? We create ghettos by seeking comfort and we perpetuate poverty by being lazy consumers. We support policies that perpetuate poor health and education systems. And then we have the audacity to act surprised that young women from these areas get caught up in prostitution?

    I love that Christians are finally getting interested in this slave industry, but we need to address this issue at its core even as we seek to liberate the victims.

  • Robert A

    I read this story just the other day and was greatly encouraged.

    THIS should be the public face of Christianity. This is what a lost and dying world needs to see in us. I was challenged too because where I live there are dozens and dozens of legal brothels (we don’t call them that) within the metro area. This is such a huge issue.

    Thanks for posting it, maybe this is something we can all agree is worth uniting over.

  • Joey, I completely agree with you. White flight to the suburbs didn’t cause poverty (obviously). But when Christians move out of the city to escape blight, crime and under-performing schools, they are also dodging responsibility for what their “flight” makes worse. I have pastored in both suburban and urban centers. When I was in the suburbs, I noticed that the people fleeing the city were always fear-centered. They excoriate the place they came from and tsk-tsk its problems, but rarely do more than throw a few coins at organizations who are willing to stay. In the urban center, I would see courageous young people give their all to minister to their neighbors. But as soon as they got married and had kids, fear sets in and they abandon the cities to the Enemy and his work.

    May God call us back to the cities and sacrifice our supposed “comfort zones” of the suburbs. Only then will we see sex trafficking out our backyards and individually and collectively see it changed. I currently live one minute down the road from a huge truck stop. I and the Transport for Christ chaplain walk the parking lot weekly, talking to the hookers and pimps, giving them alternatives to how they’re living. They would never listen to us if we came from the suburbs.

  • Many of these women being trafficked come from overseas, as well. Some are here legally, many are not. They are promised jobs and are then trapped as their documents are stolen and they are watched and do not have a chance to escape, and are afraid of arrest or deportation if they did turn to anyone. There are so many social problems that come together to make this happen, but many of these women live in fear not only of the pimps, but of arrest and shame if they do reach out for help.

    Thank you for posting this. I read it somewhere else online, wondered what I could do to help, and went in to something else. I’m not ignoring it this time around.

  • Susan N.

    “In North Carolina, the result of those efforts can be seen in the number of victims of human trafficking being referred to World Relief for services, up 700% in 2011, Mitchell says.

    ‘It’s not that North Carolina is all of a sudden trafficking more people,’ Mitchell says. ‘It’s that we know what to look for and we’re actually identifying and rescuing them.'”

    700%! Maybe, too, the economic times have exacerbated the human trafficking scourge?

    Either way, these kinds of stories within the Story give me great hope and make me glad for the Church as represented by Danielle Mitchell (courageous), World Relief org, the nuns from Cleveland, and many others.

    I like so much about what these individuals/groups are doing. Not pushy about their faith (conversion decisions), have done their homework to understand the problem and, consequently, meet the victims “where they are” to address immediate needs; and offer an alternative “story” (exploited condition of “being prostituted” vs. the label/identity of “prostitute.”) So smart and compassionate. Thanks for bringing this and stories like it to our attention, Scot.

  • Thanks for bringing this up Scot. I wish all American Christians would come to Southeast Asia and see trafficking at its heart – the horror that it is the poor villages from which girls are bought, sold and abused. It’s a heavy issue, one that is sadly often ignored. I see non-Christian NGO’s coming in as often as I see Christian ones and one has to wonder sometimes – does the church in the west even care? I’ve been in Asia for seven years now, and am wondering where the church is. Where are the Mother Theresas of our generation? When will we rise up? Instead the church is busy arguing about whether or not women can preach. Is it because its happening to women and not so much to men that it matters so little?

    I wish people would come and see because I believe William Wilberforce was right when he said this:
    “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

    Why is it so covered up?