When Children Become Sex Slaves & People Turn a Blind Eye: Reflections on God in a Brothel



NOTE: This article is part of the Patheos Book Club for God in a Brothel.  The book was provided for me to review.  Check out Patheos for ways to interact with the issues the book raises.

I noticed that many of the older girls, twelve and thirteen years old, had lost all life in their eyes.  They appeared to be in a trance or under some kind of dark magician’s spell.  They moved with a slow resignation; no amount of smiling, warmth or kindness on my part could draw them out.  The systematic and prolonged sexual abuse of children and young people is perhaps the very worst crime against humanity because, as I saw day after day, it strips them of their heart and soul.  It murders the person but leaves their bodies alive. (God in a Brothel, 89)

The above quote is one that I read more than once.  It speaks to the gradual dehumanization that system injustice leads to.  Not only does it shock me to read that the “older girls” were 12 or 13, but that such young people are walking around in a state of death.  This quote of profound truth breaks the heart of God and ought to shatter the heart of the people of God.

I recently was given a review copy of “Daniel Walker’s” (a pseudonym) book God in a Brothel – An Undercover Journey into Sex Trafficking and Rescue.  Walker, after having a moment of transformation after hearing speakers such as Tony Campolo and Ron Sider speak of a God of justice, became convinced that his calling was to apply the training he received as a police officer and as an MA in Third World Economic Development to rescuing victims of sex trafficking.

His journey took him to places that most of us don’t want to believe actually exist.  Whether it was Southeast Asia, Latin America, Las Vegas, or Atlanta, Walker walked into situations as an undercover agent to gather intelligence about pimps and slaves.  On every single page his stories open us to the blind spots of injustice, taking the reader on a journey to the darkest places in the world.

One issue that bothered me as an advocate of both justice and non-violence, was the constant references to his background and training as a police officer.  My conviction is that Christians are invited by Jesus to refuse the sword (read about my nuanced view, here).  When we refuse to take up violent weapons and can still expose evil at its heart, it seems that the power of the gospel is unleashed in profound ways.  This is why I was delighted to read the following response after being offered a “bear claw” knife:

I explained that police officers in New Zealand are unarmed and that all of the training I had received to date was focused on how to use the least possible force to defend myself… The silence that followed said it all. (55)

This book will keep you in emotional frustration and hopeful expectation all at the same time.  Walker is transparent about the struggles he faced in having such a job.  He speaks of the toll that being exposed to nude women on such a regular basis and how the danger of the job affected his marriage.  He recognizes that things often failed, sometimes because of his error and other times because of corruption.  But he also believes that Christians can make a powerful difference for not only the systemic issue of sex trafficking, but that there are names and faces attached to the victims he attempted to rescue, some under the age of 5 years old.

A final thought that I want to share.  Walker shares about the corruption of sex trafficking that is overlooked in the United States as well.  From kidnap victims to young foreign girls who are sold into slavery by impoverished parents, slavery is embodied in the dark corners of our country.  In Atlanta, after befriending key pimps and traffickers and thus gathering up all the evidence needed for local and federal officers to intervene, Walker shares a sad truth about why the operation failed:

Most alarming for me was to learn what happened during an operation set up to target some of the escort agencies involved.  When it became apparent during the investigation that some of the male clients were senior members of the Atlanta city council and U.S. Senators, the operation was quickly shut down.  The officers involved were reassigned. (107)

The powers of our world, even the ones that would masquerade as “good” are oftentimes not.  Some are dark.  Some are corrupt, even in our own nation.  There are leaders in this nation, elected officials that perpetuate child slavery as we vote them into office.  Maybe this is one example of why we are called to embody a different kind of Kingdom?  A Kingdom with a King who says to let the little children come to the safest place in the universe, in his arms of compassion and Calvary-shaped-love.  May we be those safe arms of Jesus and choose to not turn a blind eye to the evils of trafficking, both at home and abroad.

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  • Erin Thomas

    Thank you for this. As an abolitionist and desperately in love with youth, the depth of destruction slavery creates is almost paralyzing to the believer… almost. When we truly take hold of the reality that a Light has shone in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it, slavery begins to lose it’s grip. I hope I might share your post on my blog?

  • Thank you for your post. 

    • @facebook-771070547:disqus … thanks friend!

  • RJ

    Kurt, I come from a long line of Mennonites, most of whom claim to espouse nonviolence.  It doesn’t keep them from watching violence on television, but they are anti EVERYTHING that has made this nation what it is (for better and for worse).  Without a US military, the Mexican drug lords would have already completely invaded the Southwestern US.  Without police, it wouldn’t be safe for a woman (or anyone) to do her shopping alone.  My ancestors were kicked out of Europe for being anabaptist, and they came to a country born in a time of war.  It is unfortunate that we need police and military, but where would we be today if they weren’t here? We would again be the conquered and oppressed….

    • @46098773ac08d92efbf3d6178897b1bb:disqus … I alluded to some issues of nonviolence in this post… but the point is about children who are sold for sex.  Lets keep the focus there.  I said nothing about not having a military or police.  My distinction is always about whether or not Christians ought to be part of these pagan enterprises when Jesus commands us to never use violence… but again, you ought to read nonviolence 101 (series) if that is of interest to you 🙂 

      • Jo-Ann

        What about when Jesus got angry and flipped over all the tables with a whip in the temple??? Was that nonviolent? I am sorry, I know your focus is sex trafficking, but how do we convert a pervert??

        • @c182fd75ad77319737f8c6932207b256:disqus … I invite you to read this series on Nonviolence: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/category/nonviolence-101-series/

          Also, the incident with the whip and the tables… where is it recorded that Jesus used the whip to attack a person?  I don’t think it says anything other than he cracked the whip… he hit no one.  That, then, is not violence.  Causing intentional dehumanizing injury… that is what I mean by violence.

  • LA
    4, 2011

    WHEREAS… modern
    day slavery exists today in the form of human trafficking and sexual
    exploitation in greater numbers than at any time in our history.* 


    and the National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates hereby declare:


    * All peoples, regardless of
    race, religion, gender, age, nationality, or social group, have the right to
    live freely without fear of exploitation.


    * Due to the increased demand
    for minor victims of labor and sexual exploitation, all children are entitled
    to society’s increased protection.


    * Due to the fact that human
    trafficking is the fastest growing crime in our world today, this issue needs urgent
    attention and full collaboration among all service providers, law enforcement
    agencies, media outlets, community leaders, governmental agencies, and citizens.


    * Legislation to enhance, and
    close loopholes, in the current laws against human trafficking need to reflect
    the severity of this heinous crime.


    * Victims of human
    trafficking and sexual exploitation should be given enhanced professional rehabilitation
    and healing for the traumatic consequences of their enslavement.


    * Increased funding focused
    on programs that work should be the priority of all government organizations and
    private sector donors so as to effectively fight the demand for forced slave
    labor and commercialized sex and to help abolish slavery in our lifetime.


    * Recognizing that modern
    slavery is no longer a hidden tragedy, priority needs to given to educating the
    public, law enforcement, transportation and service industries, the media, and
    social service providers on how to help stop it.


    * All human traffickers and
    their clients (those that buy others for sex / those that force others to work
    in slave conditions) need to know society does not accept this behavior and we are
    increasing our efforts to stop this madness.


    * To today’s victims, and
    tomorrow’s survivors, please know that we are here to help – call the national
    hotline at 888-3737-888 or email us at  help@stopslavery2011.com
    or call +1-888-206-3264.


    this La Jolla Human Trafficking Accords document should be freely distributed
    and promoted throughout the world in order for all peoples to work together to
    finally end this travesty in our society.


    * 2011 U.S. State Department TIP report and the National
    Association of Attorneys General

  • Tucker M Russell

    A powerful and importnat post Kurt.  Thanks for sharing.  The phrase “emotional frustration and hopeful expectation all at the same time” struck me. Sounds a lot like living in the coming Kingdom during he present age. 

  • This is one of those places where, despite my convictions about nonviolence in most circumstances, I get ambivalent.  To me, force and even sometimes deadly force in the defense of the defenseless under immediate threat may be justified in a one-on-one, case-by-case basis.  I see a big difference between the activities of policing this sort of injustice, and the waging of war.  I may be copping out on this, but I guess as the daddy of a daughter the idea that other men’s daughters are being abused in this way kinda interferes with my perspective on deadly force…