“I Am A Human Trafficking Survivor & Here’s What I Want To Ask Christian Activists”

“I Am A Human Trafficking Survivor & Here’s What I Want To Ask Christian Activists” July 30, 2015

street prostitute crossing legs waiting for client in the night

As perhaps many of you know, human trafficking is one of the issues I am most passionate about, and have had the chance to study it extensively over several years, both in the United States and India as part of my doctoral research. My research has largely been a phenomenology in human trafficking aftercare modalities, which will now be merged into my dissertation tentatively titled: Is Everything Okay? A Theology Of Shalom In Human Trafficking Aftercare.

Trafficking, of course, has become a front-page cause in the Evangelical Christian world (what Ruth Graham calls “Christian Cause Célèbre” in this informative piece). This has resulted in both net-positives as well as some negatives, something I hope my dissertation will speak to on both counts.

The largest deficiency of the Christian anti-trafficking movement is an all too basic one: the cause grew so quickly and became so popular, that many individuals and even Christian organizations are now trying to work within an issue they don’t fully understand, and are trying to help people they don’t understand. No mission can succeed if you don’t really listen to, and get to know the people you’re supposedly helping. And that’s what must change in the Christian anti-trafficking world. (Case in point: imagine becoming a missionary to India if you didn’t speak Hindi, never studied Indian culture, never met anyone from India, and the only information you had came from watching a couple PBS episodes on India or from listening to one, single, Indian guest speaker at a conference? That’s not how it works– but sadly is how ground-level missiology is often done by well-meaning but unprepared activists.) Not only is this unhelpful, in many cases I’ve seen it actively harming survivors.

This isn’t to broad-brush everyone. In the course of my research I found some Christian organizations who had a great philosophy and were doing an outstanding job. I also found Christian organizations that had near unlimited funding, yet had a 100% fail rate and couldn’t figure out why. Others were well intentioned, but working within a trafficking narrative derived from stereotypes about trafficking and the sex industry (they are not synonymous- voluntary work in the sex industry and work via force, fraud, or coercion are different), and hyped-up media programs, rather than listening to the real-life voices of workers from within the sex industry and trafficking victims. Too often, in my experience, many Christian anti-trafficking activists haven’t spoken or listened to a single survivor of trafficking beyond those survivors who travel speaking and selling books– and this, I believe, is the achilles heel of the movement.

In light of that, I have invited a survivor of human trafficking to dialogue here on the blog, so the larger Christian trafficking community can glean from her wisdom– and perhaps begin a new era of listening and learning. Meg Munoz is the founder of Abeni in Orange County, California. Abeni exists to “create a safe, confidential place for those working in the Orange County sex trades, as well as those being domestically sex trafficked.” Meg worked independently in the adult entertainment industry for several years before being trafficked, so her time in the industry encapsulates a wide variety of experiences.  She is also a personal friend of mine, and I’m honored that she’d take the time to sit down for some public dialogue together.

Today’s post will be part of a series I will be doing with Meg. Next week I will release a full-length interview where you’ll get to hear more of her inspiring story, and I will do a 3rd post (if there’s reader interest/participation) where I ask her your questions. Just use the contact form in the menu bar, type your subject line “Questions For Meg” and I’ll select a handful of audience questions for the third part of our discussion.

The first question I’ve posed to Meg is below. She has been kind enough to include links for further reference; if you are a Christian trafficking activist, please bookmark this post and set aside the time to read the resources she has been kind enough to compile for you.

BLC: “There seem to be a growing number of Christians, and a growing amount of Christian nonprofit organizations, focused on the issue of human trafficking. In my experience, far too many of these activists have never even sat down and had a discussion with a trafficking victim (or someone voluntarily working in the sex industry), which I find very concerning. If you could gather all of them into a single room, what would you tell them?”

Meg: Here’s what I’d like to tell them:

  • Please listen to and get to know sex workers.

(For further reading, visit here: http://titsandsass.com/category/activism)

  • Please educate yourself on the spectrum of sex work and why people enter the industry.

(For further reading, visit here: http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Sex-Workers-Christian-Response/dp/0827216629)

  • Please don’t continue to exclude us from conversations about our work, lives, and trafficking. You would never make public policy or other decisions about other groups of people without their input, so “Nothing about us without us” is incredibly reasonable.

(For further reading, visit here:    https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nadia-van-der-linde/nothing-about-us-without-us-reversing-power-dynamics-of-philanthr)

  • Please stop arresting and criminalizing us. How you treat everyone on the spectrum of sex work directly and indirectly impacts those who are being trafficked.

(For further reading, visit here: http://redumbrellaproject.org/advocate/nyhtic/ and here: http://www.vice.com/read/sex-workers-and-the-city-0000550-v22n1)

  • Please stop telling survivors things like “We’re so glad you’re better now” or “You can do better than that’ or ‘You were created for so much more.” It implies judgment about our time in the industry and if we want/need to return, we’ll already know exactly how you feel about us and our work. You’re reinforcing stigma and shame, and confirming to us you aren’t safe.
  • Please stop protesting strip clubs and porn companies. You can’t say ‘I love you, but hate what you do’, then expect people to have all the feels and trust you when things get rough.
  • Please stop telling us we don’t understand our own experiences.
  • Please stop thinking rescue is the answer.

(READ EVERY WORD OF THIS:    http://www.canadianwomen.org/blog/%E2%80%9Crescue%E2%80%9D-harmful-anti-trafficking-efforts)

  • Please stop blaming survivors for their inability to adapt to and thrive in unhealthy or unbalanced programs or services that don’t meet their holistic needs or support their long term development and success.
  • Please stop focusing on the ‘Is sex work right or wrong?’ narrative and start focusing on people. We are all entitled to rights, respect, dignity and protections. Please stop limiting human rights to those you simply agree with.
  • Please recognize that your legislative reforms, though well-intended, can actually hurt those you’re trying to help.

(For further reading, visit here: http://www.citypaper.com/news/mobtownbeat/bcp-unintended-consequences-how-making-sex-trafficking-a-felony-might-hurt-sex-slaves-20150317-story.html#page=1 )

  • Please stop using shock value campaigns and images. Please stop putting girls dressed as dolls in life-size boxes with bar codes. Please stop showing white females with dark hands over their mouths. Please stop showing girls handcuffed and crying. Please stop sharing the faces and locations of those you’ve ‘rescued.’ You’re capitalizing off of our exploitation, potentially re-traumatizing people, and reinforcing stereotypes and misconceptions.

(For further reading, visit here: https://love146.org/anti-trafficking-fail/ )

  • Please stop conflating sex work with trafficking, as there is more than one sex work/trafficking narrative. Not everyone is a victim, not everyone is a pimp.
  • Please stop pushing Jesus at every turn. Some of our greatest hurts or abuses may have come from people in the church or those in spiritual authority. For some, it’s like salt on a wound.
  • Please stop treating mental health issues like spiritual ones. Please stop making Bible Studies, prayer, church attendance, and spiritual exercises a mandatory component of your programs/services. Bible verse may be soothing, but for trauma survivors grappling with many issues, they can be a band aid on a bullet wound.
  • Please stop using the images, stories, and labor of those you’re helping. It often creates a sense of obligation, is exploitive, potentially re-traumatizing, and recreates unbalanced and unhealthy power dynamics similar to that of the pimps they may have just left.
  • Please stop watching exploitive, inaccurate, and misleading reality shows like ‘Slave Hunter”, “Sex Slaves’, and “8 Minutes” – Be a critical-thinking consumer and refuse to consume exploitation framed as education or awareness.

(For further reading, visit here: http://jezebel.com/sex-workers-project-asks-msnbc-to-pull-show-on-sex-slav-1717782506 )

  • Please start questioning numbers, narratives, and policies – There’s always more than one perspective and numbers can not only mislead, but tell many different stories.

(For further reading, visit here: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/09/is-one-of-the-most-cited-statistics-about-sex-work-wrong/379662/ )

  • Please care and do more about gender inequality, racism, LGBTQ rights, socio-economic reforms, the prison system, immigrant rights, mental health, and other social justice related realities because that’s where real anti-trafficking work is rooted and starts.
  • Please stop demonizing us and treating us like we’re to blame for trafficking.

(For further reading, visit here: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/12/alaskas-prostitution-law-isnt-working/383818/)

  • Please stop cheering for Rahab, but chastising those who are currently working in the industry in ANY capacity. Rahab was unapologetic about her work, did amazing things, didn’t leave the industry, AND was part of a pretty kick-ass family tree.
  • Please stop railing against the porn industry while shopping at *fill in the blank*, buying imported seafood, eating $1 lettuce, getting cheap manicures and massages, eating at McDonald’s, refusing to support a higher minimum wage, voting in mandatory minimums for anything, remaining silent on tuition increases, and fighting reproductive rights. If you’re going to have moral biases, please address systemic issues before attacking those trying to survive within a system they didn’t choose, but have to live and try to survive under.

(For further reading, visit here: https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/anne-elizabeth-moore/from-brothel-to-sweatshop-questions-on-labour-trafficking-in-camb)

 …

(This is part 1 of a multi-part interview. You can find part 2 (Meg’s Story) here.)


unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and holds his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Mark Schnitzer

    Thank you for beginning this conversation. The advice given here today was eye opening and much needed. I will take the time to look at every one of the links.
    Peace
    Mark Schnitzer

  • Matt Jacobs

    Ouch. Some major food for thought here…

    I don’t consider myself an activist, but I do consider human trafficking a serious issue, so it’s good to know what to look out for in what organizations are likely to be beneficial, and which aren’t.

    (Side thought: does anyone have a resource on which organizations are quite effective, and which aren’t so much?)

  • Sabrena Klausman

    I couldn’t agree more! I would also add that wounded Christians, those who are attracted to this issue because of past trauma, need to be careful not to use the trauma of others to meet their own emotional needs. Ministries need to filter and redirect individuals who have not sought and maintained treatment for their own trauma.

  • Rachel Hedin

    I hope Meg reads this, so I can thank you. You nailed it, and I honestly believe these insights are the only way we’ll be anything for each other. Really grateful for your voice.

  • I’ll co-sign this one a thousand times over.

  • mirele

    This is probably the sanest article I’ve read from a Christian perspective about the human trafficking issue. Far too many Christians do everything wrong. :(

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    The best way to end human trafficking internationally is to embrace open borders rather than trying to close labor markets in ways that create perverse incentives for less ethical persons to enter the human moving business. People would not fall for traffickers who send them into slavery if they could more easily migrate without turning to them.

    The best way to end the exploitation of sex workers domestically is to legalize prostitution where there is true informed consent, which might involve mandating both prostitutes and clients to share the results of STD screenings with each other.

    Supporting a higher minimum wage is a very bad idea, however. Price floors are not good things. They lead to deadweight losses and increases in unemployment.

    In many parts of the world, imposing higher price floors on factory work have led to steep increases in the rate of prostitution, especially of cases where poor parents force their children into prostitution.

    Some cases of local minimum wage increases may appear to show lower unemployment rates as a result, but that is only if you count those who stay in the jurisdiction rather than the individuals who lived there before the change. Minimum wage increases can have a gentrifying effect. It causes inelastic costs to rise faster, increasing the cost of housing rents and forcing the poor to move to cheaper areas.

    What would actually help the poor would be a set of Georgist policies, including Land Value Taxaton (which excludes the value of all improvements made by the labor of the owner or those from whom they were purchased, but includes the locational value created by the demand that others in the neighborhood have for the use of scarce natural resources there, especially geometrical space in crowded cities) and an unconditional Citizen’s Dividend.

  • jekylldoc

    Questions for Meg – the customers in the industry sometimes represent a threat, and not only from STDs. How much screening against hazardous customers goes on already, and how much should go on?

  • jekylldoc

    Jon-Michel- as interesting as it may be to see Henry George and libertarianism plugged in the same post, your line reads like an ideological screed rather than an approach to caring.

    I think your analysis of minimum wages is faulty on economic grounds (you have to understand efficiency-wage issues) but that is not my main concern. Your reactions are all in terms of the questions brought by free market economics, and not the ones raised by appreciating the problematic aspects of the sex trade.

  • VisionaryJax

    Shared Hope International — gets 4 stars (top rating) from Charity Navigator, 98% for financials and 100% for transparency and accountability
    http://www.sharedhope.org

  • Jeni Martin

    Also, STOP assuming all human trafficking is about SEX! A good percentage of trafficking victims were stuck in domestic servitude and it had nothing to do with sex.

  • paganheart

    I would add that said treatment must be real, psychological and mental health treatment from academically trained, professional counselors. Not “Biblical” counseling from pastors and priests and others who have absolutely no training in psychology themselves, and many of whom are openly hostile to psychology and consider it “evil” “demonic” and “anti-Christian.” Such “counseling” can, and often does, do far more harm than good.

  • Sabrena Klausman

    Agree. Successful therapy for severe trauma requires someone trained in severe trauma therapy.

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    fine! if you got the healthcare dollars to pay for it…

  • Ben. I like this because too often we think we know what’s best without actually talking to those we are trying to help.

    I think something important for her and you to say is to thank the people who are going the cause — Even if it is trendy. Because for most of these people they want to do something and they want to help. Works like this help channel the energy and the spirit into actual Productive work.

    Thanks to both of you for this great synopsis.

  • Catherine

    I am doing a Masters thesis on why evangelicals are becoming interested in social justice issues, especially human trafficking. This is a really interesting interview, thank you Benjamin.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    I agree with a lot of these, but . . . well . . . perhaps I just need someone to explain some of this stuff to me. It seems like a lot of these are saying, “Don’t have an opinion about sex work.” Is it possible to recognize the humanity of sex workers while still believing that the work itself (including porn) is exploitative and goes against God’s idea of what sex should be? This is a genuine question as opposed to a snarky argument, because it feels really weird to say; I generally consider myself pretty left of center, so in general I am a fan of living and letting live. But we do have stands on moral issues, so is there a balance between respecting the person and disapproving of the industry? (Which sounds distressingly like one of my least favorite phrases, “hate the sin but love the sinner,” but I can’t think of a better way to reword it.)

    The other one I’m not entirely sure of is all the Jesus stuff. Don’t get me wrong: God created shrinks and meds, and as someone who has heavily relied on both I find the “just pray and it’ll get better” mentality so, SO damaging. But if they’re a Christian organization, is it wrong to work from a Christian viewpoint? (Ditto for any other faith or lack thereof, of course.)

    Basically I’m wondering if anyone else is having this same struggle reading the article/comments, of not wanting to disrespect anyone’s experiences, but not knowing how to respond to some of these points. Please consider all of these questions as respectfully revealing areas where I may be ignorant, and desiring to understand better how to wrap my head around these issues.

    ETA: The last one kinda makes me cringe, too. It sounds a lot like the arguments of people who oppose gun control. “You don’t want guns? Well, why don’t you outlaw knives and cars, too?” I mean, there’s a difference of course, but I’m not sure if it’s reasonable to expect one to solve all the world’s problems, or not have opinions about any of them. Did I misunderstand that last point?

  • Sabrena Klausman

    You are absolutely right. Healthcare should cover more the cost of mental health treatments. It is a change I hope to see in the next few years.

  • Stuart Blessman

    Amen. Thank you for posting this, and for all those incredibly helpful and truthful links. Hopefully more will see them and learn.

  • Stuart Blessman

    Culture war, purity culture, and patriarchy. Those three are huge.

  • Stuart Blessman

    There’s reasons why SHOT Show, the biggest gun and tactical show in America, is the exact week in the exact same location as the Adult Entertainment Expo, the biggest sex work and trade show in America.

    Same audience for starters.

    And the same arguments against banning either apply the same either way. Just depends which side you are on publicly, and which side you are on privately…there’s a significant overlap depending on the time of day.

  • Meg

    Sabrena, YES! Oh my gosh, i can’t believe I forgot to add that – it’s been one of the greatest causes of exploitation, emotional/psych/spiritual abuse, and re-traumatization we’ve seen. THANK YOU :)

  • Meg

    paganheart, again YES … More good stuff i forgot to add. We’ve seen so much psych/spiritual abuse fall under the umbrella of help. It’s devastating.

  • Meg

    Whixh brings up SO much more about what else is needed. Again, more nuanced things I forgot to add, but it highlights things like the need for less mental health stigma, more mental health care, and systemic changes that support those shifts Great stuff, thanks :)

  • Meg

    Stuart just summed it up … And i’m not being snarky or flippant. i seriously think we can trace so many issues back to this.

  • CroneEver

    Plus, I think, being interested in human trafficking can, with some, be a way to enjoy talking about kinky sex without actually going to the porn store and, thus, feeling all good about it. Because we’re helping…

  • Sabrena Klausman

    Meg,
    Tuesday I did my first law enforcement training for Arkansas for this issue.I am a trainer for a ministry, Into the Light, that builds awareness by providing trainings and Juvenile Detention facility programs for minor females. I really enjoyed your perspective on this issue!

  • Yes, but I know many who are in it for good reasons, so I would really caution against painting with such a broad brush, as it doesn’t represent everyone.

  • Yup– called Trauma Informed Care and is the industry standard for working with trauma victims.

  • DraskelClan

    I think that the reason she is saying “stop pushing Jesus” is that it sends a mixed message. Basically, another way to put it would be to ask yourself (if you are an activist working in this field) “Am I here to save the victim, or the sinner?” Only one of those really requires pushing Jesus, Allah, Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc…

  • On what are you basing your belief that sex work is exploitative? Is it exploitative if the worker enjoys their work and chooses it freely? Pushing the idea that sex work is inherently exploitative requires that you ignore the experiences of people who are doing the work and say it is not. Don’t get me wrong, people can be exploited in sex work, but why is it more inherently exploitative than any other forms of labour?

    What does “disapproving of the industry” mean to you? Does it mean trying to end it, does it mean simply not engaging with the industry yourself? Attempts to abolish sex work, through criminalization or stigma directly harms sex workers, and those harms are magnified for the most marginalized workers.

    “Goes against God’s idea of what sex should be.” Do you feel that other types of consensual sex between adults goes against God’s idea of what sex should be? Even if you personally disapprove of what other people are doing in bed, do you feel that they should not be allowed to do it, or that if they choose to do it that they should be at risk of violence or criminalization?

    An essential part of respectful and effective services for people who have been harmed is meeting them where they’re at and providing them with what they need, not what you think they need. If they need Jesus, they’ll tell you, and you can give them all the Jesus they want. However, if you’ve been a victim of sex trafficking, the last thing you need is someone who is supposed to be helping you pushing religion that you don’t want or that might exacerbate the harms you already experienced. Not everyone is a Christian, and not everyone has a good relationship with Christianity. You can either prioritize the victim or proselytizing, not both, and good service provision will always prioritize the needs of the person receiving the services.

    Yes, you misunderstood the last point. Sex trafficking is an exciting topic, but trafficking and forced labour are extremely common in the industries that produce your seafood and lettuce, and in salons. Mainstream jobs that don’t pay a living wage, minimum wages that are insufficient to support anyone, and crushing student debt create economic circumstances that often make sex work the best or only option for people to get by. Criminalization and mandatory minimums impose harsh sentences on people who are just trying to get by, and criminal records or even just sex work in your history can make mainstream employment impossible. Access to reproductive rights provides more autonomy for women, and often women do sex work because it’s the only way to support their children.

    Basically, if you care about the harms of trafficking and the harms that happen within sex work, you have to address the systemic issues that create those harms If someone does sex work because it’s the only option they have, taking away that option and not doing anything to give them more options just leaves them with nothing – worse off than if they were doing sex work. If you care about victims of trafficking you need to give you attention to other trafficked people, even if the labour they’re forced to do isn’t as shocking and titillating as sex. Even if you have to make real changes to the way you live your life in order to stop benefiting from forced labour. You have to understand the way that systemic issues around reproductive rights and criminalization limit people’s options and make sex work into a necessity for many people. You have to apply your values holistically, because sex work and trafficking don’t happen in a vacuum, and when you pretend they do, you end up harming rather than helping people involved.

  • This is entirely dependent on a variety of different factors, from the individual sex worker to how much sex work is criminalized and stigmatized.

    Criminalization impedes sex workers’ abilities to effectively screen clients. For those who are working on the street, negotiations have to be done very quickly to avoid arrest, so there is often no time to effective asses the situation. For those working indoors, clients are often unwilling to provide details like their real name, phone number or other information that can help a sex worker verify their identity, because they are afraid of police stings or their information being used to identify them to law enforcement later.

    Even when clients are not criminalized, many are unwilling to provide screening information because of fear of stigma. Because seeing a sex worker is not considered socially acceptable, they may not be willing to provide information for fear of blackmail or having the info leaked.

    In this type of climate there is of course, no way to know if a client who refuses to provide personal info is a good person who just doesn’t want to put themselves at risk, or if they want to conceal their identity because they plan to harm you.

    What “ideal” screening is depends a lot on the individual sex worker, but any sex worker should be able to get enough information from clients to ensure that they feel safe.

    People also target sex workers for violence because stigma devalues the lives of sex workers. They know that sex workers may not feel able to report violence to the police, and if they do, the police may not take it seriously. They know that society will likely dismiss a sex worker as “asking for it” or just not someone entitled to justice and safety. Criminalization and stigma both impede sex workers’ ability to screen and create an increased need for screening.

  • stevchipmunk

    YOU MEAN WELL, but… you just don’t understand. M. Pinky, et. al. KNOWS — with all his heart — exactly what God wants and doesn’t want, including what “Goes against God’s idea of what sex should be”. I bet he speaks to HIM… mayhaps, often!

  • Me

    To answer the question of why Christians care about this industry “more” is because we understand how crucial purity is for our own protection and to honor Christ. Sex is designed by God to be enjoyed in only one scenario: between a wife and her husband. That’s it. Jesus says if any man even looks at a woman he is not married to with lust in his heart he has committed adultery. If you are viewing porn you are purposely viewing someone other than your spouse for the explicit purpose of arousing lust in your heart. And adultery is a grave violation because it betrays God’s divine design for marriage: to serve as an example for the world of the covenant love relationship between Christ and his bride the church. The sex industry betrays Jesus. It spits in the face of the covenant we have with Christ. That is why it’s a serious concern for Christians.

  • I was once discussing this issue with someone and was taking the position against legalizing prostitution. I voiced my objection and it was pointed out to me that all the things that would concern me about legal sex work exist any way and are worse because it’s illegal. This is especially true of abuse of sex workers either by clients or by pimps/madams (is there a better term for that).

    I actually have a friend who did sex work for a few years. He used the money to pay down his credit card debt and student loans. There should be a better way for him to do that but in his case there wasn’t. He had been working two jobs already and none of them came close to the $250 an hour he could charge for sex work.

  • paganheart

    “But if they’re a Christian organization, is it wrong to work from a
    Christian viewpoint? (Ditto for any other faith or lack thereof, of
    course.)”

    To me, it depends on what you call a “Christian” viewpoint. If it is the viewpoint that Ben emphasizes–that the life and acts of Jesus trump all else, and we must base our actions on an ethos of love, first and foremost–then no, it is not wrong for an organization to work from a “Christian” viewpoint.

    The problem is, too many organizations call themselves “Christian” but everything they do is severely lacking in love. As Meg indicates above (and Alina further explains below): They do not listen; they have little to no empathy or compassion; they judge what they don’t understand (and they don’t even try to understand it); they focus on “rescuing” people; they blame the victims; they push religion on people; they conflate mental health with spiritual health. The last one is a huge problem for me (one I mentioned below.) I have no problem with a counselor who happens to be a Christian; probably the best therapist I ever had was a woman with a PhD in psychology who was also a Deacon in the Episcopal Church. But when someone starts talking about “Christian counseling” it takes me back to being a a teenager, depressed and anxiety-ridden to the point of cutting, when my parents sent me to the pastor of our Southern Baptist church for “counseling.” He told me I wasn’t praying and reading the Bible enough…. not helpful. At all. By the time I got the real, psychological help I needed in college, a lot of damage (physical and otherwise) was already done.

    “Is it possible to recognize the humanity of sex workers while still
    believing that the work itself (including porn) is exploitative and goes
    against God’s idea of what sex should be?”

    Yeah, I struggled with that for a long time too…growing up I was taught in no uncertain terms that the only acceptable sex was between a man and a woman who were married to each other and trying to make babies. Literally any other form of sexual expression was evil and sinful, and you were probably going to hell if you had so much as a sexual thought about anything but making babies with your husband. And people who work in the sex industry, even writers of romance novels with racy scenes…well, they were all possessed by demons (at least according to my youth pastor.) They were evil, period.

    But reality just isn’t as black-and-white and simple as that worldview. For me, the foundations started cracking when one of my high school choirmates, a boy I liked very much, told me he was gay. Then in college, I became close friends with another gay man, who told me how he lived on the streets for six months, and had to turn to prostitution to survive, after his “good Christian” parents kicked him out of their house for being gay. These were my friends, people I loved and and admired; how could they be bad people? The scales dropped from my eyes very quickly after that. Years later, a lawyer I worked for, someone I greatly respected, told me that she put herself through law school by working in a strip club. She was trained in dance, so she found it fun, and the money was excellent, far better than she could have made at any other job. She also said that she was often treated better and with more respect by her strip club customers and bosses, than she was usually treated by the senior partners and many of the clients at the law firm. (Maybe we should ask ourselves why that is?)

    I realized that real life, and real people, are very grey, complicated and messy, especially when it comes to sex. Sex work can be horribly, horribly exploiting, but not all of it is. I’ve learned that I can’t judge people who do sex work. I have to see them as human beings, not “sinners,” not behaviors, and see things from their point of view, and meet them “where they are” (as Alina and Meg say so eloquently.) That’s true in a lot of other areas of life too. And it’s really, really hard.

  • gimpi1

    Thank you, Ben for raising this issue, and Meg for giving incredibly valuable information. No solution can work without a real understanding of the problem it’s trying to solve, and well-meaning people often make things worse by jumping in with uninformed or downright false ideas.

    Also, this statement:
    “You would never make public policy or other decisions about other groups of people without their input, so “Nothing about us without us” is incredibly reasonable,” is both so important, and, sadly, so often not true.

    Think of “crisis-pregnancy” programs that give a struggling woman a crib and some diapers (along with a generous portion of shame and guilt) and walk away, assuming they’ve “helped.” Think of “Biblical counseling” that distrusts real medicine and leaves “patients” more damaged than before. Think of failed “rescue adoptions” undertaken by people with no understanding of the trauma the children they’re adopting have endured, then “re-homing” the children when that trauma becomes more than the adoptive parent expected to deal with. Think of “conversion therapy” and its failed attempt to shame and berate people into changing their fundamental nature.

    This habit of diving into a problem with no real understanding of its complexity and bringing all the problems of its own culture along for the ride is not uncommon in Evangelical attempts at aid. The thing is, I totally admire the passion, the caring, the willingness to work, to get your hands dirty in an attempt to make things better. But it’s important to take enough time, enough care to actually understand both the real situation in all its complexity and what you can actually do about it that will make things better for the people involved in it. That step sometimes gets bypassed, perhaps out of the desperate need to act, perhaps out of empathy for suffering and perhaps sometimes out of the arrogant belief that you don’t need real knowledge, all you need to do is get people to share your beliefs and, POOF, everything will be fine.

    This is a necessary start to developing a real solution to the evils of the modern slave-trade.

  • gimpi1

    One aspect I remember is when Oregon was trying to address underage prostitution. After researching it, they decriminalized it on the part of the prostitute. Pimping and patronizing an underage prostitute were still crimes. That made it possible to rescue teenage and younger girls that were involved, without winding up having to prosecute them. Without that change, the girls were more afraid of the legal system than anything else. Washington has been working towards making that change as well, but I don’t know if we’re there or not.

    In general, when you look around the world, the more restrictive a society is, the more draconian laws and punishments they have for various sex acts, the less concerned that society will be with the core issue of consent. Laws that punish people in sex-work who are there by choice wind up helping to enslave those that aren’t, because of the fear they have of legal ramifications. For that reason, I favor at least decriminalizing juvenile prostitution for the child but not for the pimp or patron. As to adult prostitution, I haven’t got enough information to decide how I feel about that yet.

  • gimpi1

    Also farm and factory work. Sadly, the modern slave-trade has many faces.

  • gimpi1

    ” If you care about victims of trafficking you need to give you attention to other trafficked people, even if the labour they’re forced to do isn’t as shocking and titillating as sex.”

    Good point. We want cheap vegetables, cheap clothing, cheap salons. Many of us turn a willfully blind eye to the use of forced labor to keep prices down. We need to be conscious of the issues of trafficking and forced labor wherever they raise their ugly heads.

  • gimpi1

    OK, Me, is that more important to you than attacking the problem of human-trafficking and abuse? Because, what Meg has told you is that you have to choose. You can’t really help the victims of trafficking if you continue to judge them for not being “pure.” Your actions will be colored by your harsh judgement, wether or not you realize it.

    Many of the people you want to help may not share your beliefs. Your first priority needs to be getting them the help they need, not trying to change their religion. If you can’t put your beliefs on the back-burner, you will do more harm than good.

    I strongly suggest you find something else to try to contribute to society. Work on food-drives. Work with disaster relief. Work on environmental issues to attempt to prevent some disasters. There’s tons of options out there. But, if you’re going to come into an attempt to help trafficking victims with an attitude that they are impure sinners who must change to be the way you think they should be, you’re not going to be helping, you will be hurting.

    I think that’s what Meg is trying to communicate. Meg? Did I read you right?

  • At least some folks are being honest that their concern for the trafficking issue isn’t really about trafficking or exploitation at all, but about policing their views on purity onto the rest of society. This is precisely why non-religious NGO’s are so skeptical about working with Christian NGO’s on this issue.

  • SamHamilton

    I had a very similar reaction to this blog post. In some ways it was very helpful and made great points. In other ways, it left me scratching my head and wondering “So am I supposed to affirm prostitution and the porn industry if the people involved enjoy it?” How is that the Christ-like response? Lots of people enjoying being in street gangs too.

  • Nikolaus1111

    “Is it possible to recognize the humanity of sex workers while still believing that the work itself (including porn) is exploitative and goes against God’s idea of what sex should be? ”

    The short answer is no. If you have the wrong beliefs, your actions will be tainted, and the outcomes will be hurting, rather than helping, those you want to help.

    Because you don’t really want to help the sex workers – you want to help your own belief, your own ego, of sex work being exploitative. It goes against everything you believe. You want to project your belief onto the reality of those you think you are helping, all the while thinking yourself to be the good samaritan. The phrase “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” comes to mind here.

    The entire phrase “God’s idea of what sex should be” is wrong from beginning to end. It is so wrong that I can’t even begin to discuss it – what God? Your God? Somebody else’s? What or who is God? And are there rules of sex, made by said God? That is all a bunch of egoic nonsense. You have to realize that all this comes from your own thoughts, from thoughts that were put in there by your experiences, by others’ experiences, by your family history, and by the history of humankind – these thoughts have no reality. Not what you judge as bad is the problem, only your judgement is the problem. Jesus said as much but none of the faithful are there to listen…

  • SamHamilton

    Same audience for starters

    Men.

  • Nikolaus1111

    Unfortunately, Christians never leave it at how important something is to them in their own lives – they want to project, and even force others to believe the same. For whatever reason.

    Jesus has nothing to do with any of this. Jesus said judge not, lest you be judged. And yet, Christians are running around judging everyone left right and center, and are doing it in his name.

    Jesus was teaching love. Yet Christians are loving their old book more than the neighbor next door.

    Jesus was teaching forgiveness. Christians can’t forgive themselves, or anyone else.

  • SamHamilton

    I understand the sentiment, and think often times Christians are too quick to judge or judge using the wrong methods and words, but how can Christians speak out against injustice without judging others’ behavior?

    In another blog post, Benjamin Corey spoke out against Franklin Graham, in effect, judging him. Is that a problem?

  • Nikolaus1111

    Fully agree. It was driving me nuts how large organizations sprung up to “combat trafficking” and yet, quite obviously, nobody in this organization had ever even talked to a trafficking victim, or sex worker for that matter.

    Normally, sane people try to understand the problem before coming up with solutions – this was the exception. Nobody made any effort to understand anything about it. They’ll try to quickly forget this article, too.

  • I didn’t hear her asking for affirmation, but a request to stop protesting outside the places they work. It’s good insight because she’s telling us what doesn’t work– saying, “if you want to help me when I need it, here’s what would work and what wouldn’t.”

  • Nikolaus1111

    Why, yes, yes it is a problem.

    In your judgement, you’re really creating a divide between you and others. It’s “us” against “them”. It’s war.

    A person with war in their heart cannot create peace.

  • SamHamilton

    Thanks for the clarification. If that’s what she’s saying, then I get it. Perhaps I was filtering Meg’s comments through some of the things commenters have said about her comments.

  • SamHamilton

    So how do Christians speak out against injustice without judging? How does anyone, not just Christians, say “This is wrong” without engaging in judgement?

  • Nikolaus1111

    Speak out against injustice, but do not judge. The injustice is the problem, not any one person.
    You do not have to kill a man, you only have to kill the ignorance within the man. So who are you judging?

    Jesus said, about those who murdered him: Forgive them for they know not what they do. He did not judge!

  • Meg

    Now if we could just encourage some paradigm shifts and the policy changes that come with them … :)

  • Meg

    Oh my, yes and thank you. If you can’t support, meet, and help us where we’re at, without agenda (wherever that may be), then we would prefer you to step out of the way. The damage that can be done when you serve or try to ‘help’ with a framework that’s skewed or biased can do far more damage and cause far more pain than most people realize. So many of those we serve have already had interactions with christian groups and orgs that have reinforced shame, guilt, shame, trauma, and self-hatred. It’s incredibly painful to see.

  • gimpi1

    And thank you for giving such clear and straightforward information about how to really help. That’s an incredibly valuable thing, and if people will take the time to listen and learn, perhaps your input will make their efforts truly helpful.

  • paganheart

    Excellent point. The emphasis on sex trafficking means that other, less salacious forms of human trafficking involving forced and exploited labor get conveniently ignored. I used to go to a nail salon staffed mainly by Vietnamese immigrants (in fact, they seem to dominate the nail industry where I live), but after reading an article which detailed how poorly paid and badly exploited most of the workers in these nail salons are, I decided I could no longer in good conscience patronize that business. I do my own pedicures now (and I’m horrid at it, but I digress…)

  • Meg

    Anlina’s response nails it. Our screening, support systems, resources, and networks are our lifeline. Two great examples are the Redbook shutdown last year and MC/Visa’s refusal to process payments for ads related to SW. It reinforced stigma, stripped the community of valuable information and support, and sent those on the lower socio-economic end of the industry scrambling to figure out how to make their rent. Things like this push people to the street and into far more dangerous working conditions. When we can freely share information about dangerous clientele and bad dates, you’re allowing to practice harm reduction techniques that are utilized in theory by most other industries as acceptable and mandatory.

  • gimpi1

    It’s a bitch, because real wages in the U.S. have been stagnant or losing ground for over 30 years. Many changes, from two-income households becoming standard to multiple-mortgages to obsessive bargain hunting are how we’ve adapted to the reality that our work doesn’t pay the way it did in the middle of the last century. I can’t fault someone for buying ultra-cheap clothes for their kids if they can’t afford anything else.

    However, for me, slave-labor has to be a deal-breaker. I do my own nails (what little I bother with). I grow as much of my own vegetables as I can manage. I shop at farmer’s markets when I can. I generally avoid ultra-cheap clothing, and linens. I do whatever I can think of to avoid contributing to human-trafficking.

    And, yet, I’m sure I own things made by slave-labor. It’s damn hard not to. I guess all we can do is try…

  • R Vogel

    I guess the pseudonym was well chosen, eh?

  • Herm

    Me, it is not your fault that you have been subjugated to spread mankind’s self-serving, most unChristlike segregationist poison of sexual impurity, but you are and it is your responsibility to consult directly with the Counselor to stop the bleeding.

    In the Bible that you have obviously been told to hold more dear than in everything do to others (without exception) as you would have others do to you this is what Jesus is quoted as to have said:

    “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25-27

    “That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

    Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” Matthew 22:23-40

    ““Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:9-12

    Me, IF Jesus is correct why is sex such a singular hang up for human beings? Did God make sexual attraction and union dirty? Is it possible that sexual attraction and union have been around long before Mankind’s need to propagate our species on Earth? I mean, is not our one mankind created in the image of our one God, male and female? … and yet there is no hard fast contract of marriage or giving in marriage among the angels in heaven between male and female.

    Our logic tells us that if people play around with their sexuality to satisfy their insatiable lust all hell will break loose within the ranks of mankind so we must reign in all of mankind’s desires through legislating according to our common sense ethics and morals. Our logic tells us the same regarding drugs. We might reconsider the validity of our logic for after over 6,000 years of subjugating the evil masses to such chronicled legislation we haven’t reigned in the hell of usury from addiction to drugs, sex and profiting … all at the cost, too often demise, of others equally all of value together as one Man in the image of our one creator God. We haven’t yet managed to surely plant the seed that sums up the Law and the Prophets in the hearts and minds of our children. It is our children who follow us to maintain the spirit of Man to survive. It is Albert Einstein’s definition that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity. Would you agree?

    For children of God having the Holy Spirit as their sole (soul) Guide eternally in their heart and mind there is no chaos, there is peace without enforced legislation. The only thing that is pure about the children of God is their Father and their Lord Brother. We are little infant children who test everything put before us in our crib by our loving relatives who believe we are ready to coordinate and learn from our mistakes. What we children of God don’t do that sets us apart from the spirit of the children of Man is subjugate and enslave others through intimidation and manipulation. We let our Father fight our battles while we spread the “Good News” that our Lord of Peace and Love lives and has been given all authority over all we know by our Father who loves us all. Our Father in Heaven is perfectly capable of protecting us from evil and does often without our knowledge or help.

    Me, you are spouting the common sense logic of the christian church’s intimidating, manipulating and subjugating leaders, (including father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life) and not the simple facts teachable by our Rabbi directly available in each of our hearts and minds. If this were not so, your fruits would obviously be in everything you do to all others of Man and God would be gauged by as you would have all others of Man and God do to you, including the impoverished, meek, ignorant, stupid, childish, enslaved and enemy (such as the intimidators, manipulators, profiteers, addiction dealers and subjugators inside and outside the spiritual temples of Man) all of Man and some of God. God is inclusive and asks only that Man realizes they are one, none pure for all are learning. Jesus was 33 and still related to himself as a Son of Man and still considered perfect in the nature of our Father.

    I truly love you, no less or more than myself, and am doing to you no more than what I would have you do to me. We are both beloved infant children with the potential of an eternity’s worth of learning and growing ahead of us.

    Thank you for caring enough to speak out as you honestly feel and think!

  • Herm

    By example!!!

  • Matt Jacobs

    Personally, I disagree. Some do it for those reasons, but there are other Christians who do it because human trafficking takes advantage of the poor, and the foreigners, two groups that Jesus specifically called for Christians to care for. (As stated, sex work and human trafficking are far from synonymous, as many are trafficked for slave labor.)

    On the other hand, Jesus didn’t say a whole lot about protecting others’ purity.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    Wow, first I’d like to thank everyone for sharing their thoughts; this has been a really enlightening conversation, and I appreciate how much reflection has gone into these answers. I’m gonna try to answer everyone, but this got a lot more response than I’d ever expected.

    But orthorim, I’m a little confused by what you’re saying. Are you saying that there is no sex work that we should dub as “wrong”? If so, then who are we trying to help? Or is that what you’re saying — that we’re wrong to see a problem where there is none, and helping at all is only hurting? I can see what you mean about egoism, but it seems like you believe that there is no right or wrong anywhere at all; the only sin is judging that other actions are sinful. That’s fine — I don’t entirely share your beliefs, but I definitely understand them — but I want to make sure I understand what you’re saying instead of making assumptions based on my interpretation of your words.

    Because it seems to me like everyone acts based on their own moral compass. We can argue until we’re blue in the face about where that compass comes from, whether it’s God, or society, or (more likely, imo) a combination of these and other factors, but I guess I don’t understand how we’re supposed to distance ourselves from that. Is it even possible?

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    That makes sense, and I appreciate the clarification. Thank you!

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    I’m glad I’m not alone. I understand why people disagree with me, but I appreciate not being the only one confused. :)

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    This is such a beautiful comment, and I think I understand what Meg was saying a bit more. I agree about the difficulty of the grayness — for me I guess I draw the line at an industry that seems to promote bodies over people, but I’ll try to define that a little more in my response to Anlina, where it’s more appropriate — and I’m glad you shared that story about your friend who worked as a stripper. I guess dehumanization is easier to recognize in sex (whatever side of the debate you’re on, because I’m not going to pretend “prudes,” for lack of a better word, don’t reduce people to what they do with their bodies ALL THE TIME) and other hot-button issues than in day-to-day life.

    Also agree about your definitions of a “Christian” viewpoint, and especially about counseling. I’ve had some pretty atrocious “Christian” counselors, so anyone who says “Just read the Bible” instead of offering real help is . . . well, very, very unhelpful.

    I guess everything you’ve said, if I’m interpreting it right, is that all this stuff is complicated. And I can’t argue with that, because it IS complicated and messy. I think I originally read Meg’s comments in a black-or-white way as well, thinking it meant “Just tell me I’m right.” But I’m seeing from your comment and others’ that this was perhaps too simplistic a reading, so thank you for your insight and politeness. :)

  • SamHamilton

    Yes, and I think part of the difference in the way others are looking at this and how you and I are looking at this is that they’re not looking at it with a Christian worldview (understandably, if they’re not Christians).

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    There’s a lot to get into here, so I’m going to break it up into bulleted questions; if that causes me to misread or simplify something you’re saying, please let me know.

    1. As I mentioned a bit above to paganheart, my issue with the industry of sex work in general is that it seems to put people’s bodies above their . . . minds? Hearts? Souls? Whatever you’d like to call it. I guess it seems to me that the consumers of things like porn and prostitution are focusing on getting what they want (gratification) by using other people’s bodies, which strikes me as exploitative. Obviously this isn’t a problem to everyone, including those in the industry — and perhaps it shouldn’t be — but it bothers me. Of course, I could also be interpreting how people generally use these services incorrectly and would appreciate input about that; I’ll admit it’s not something I’ve done as much research into as I should. But yeah, it seems like reducing people to their physical form, or even particular body parts, and that’s what I struggle with “approving” for lack of a better word.

    2. I guess in MY personal idea of a perfect world, there wouldn’t be a need for sex work, but I don’t feel the need to protest or try to destroy the industry; I don’t think criminalizing it would be ideal, either, for the reason you said. Making this stuff illegal won’t keep it from happening, but since it’s going to, I’d advocate for making it as safe as possible. So perhaps it sounds like a cheap or wishy-washy answer, but “disapproving” for me basically means not wanting to encourage it with a big grin and a thumbs-up, but not wanting to cause harm based on my own ideas of morality, you know?

    3. “Do you feel that other types of consensual sex between adults goes against God’s idea of what sex should be?”
    If they are respecting one another for more than physical attraction — which is why I’m a big fan of waiting til marriage, because ideally there’s no better sign of total respect and love for an entire person _ then no. That being said, in response to your following questions, I don’t agree in criminalizing any of it unless it’s actively harming people (which is itself a nebulous concept, so for the sake of discussion I’ll define “harming” as “making people do something they don’t want to,” including in the definition of “wanting to” people who are doing it because they have no other financial options. as much as I’d like to create a world where they only people in the sex industry are those who believe in and enjoy what they do, I don’t think it’s fair to punish people who are, say, prostitutes because they have families to feed or whatever.

    4. Thank you for explaining where, if anywhere, you think religion belongs in these services. I agree with everything you said in this paragraph . . . with the possible issue of different people having different ideas of what “pushing” it means. It’s hard, because I might think I’m just letting you know that I’m free to talk about it if you’d like, but you might interpret that as a guilt-trip . . . and I don’t know who’d be right, because everyone has had different experiences. So drawing that line seems very difficult, and I’m curious where you’d put it.

    5. You’re absolutely right that I misunderstood the last point. I don’t have anything really to say except that I agree with everything you’ve said in those last 2 paragraphs, I’m sorry for misinterpreting it and perhaps spreading a false viewpoint, and thank you so much for explaining it in a way I can grasp.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    “And, yet, I’m sure I own things made by slave-labor. It’s damn hard not to. I guess all we can do is try…”

    I find that really discouraging, too. I made myself crazy trying not to buy anything that had exploited anyone in any way, then I just said “fuck it” and didn’t bother looking into it. I’m still working on finding a middle ground, and especially overcoming my own personal sense of laziness and desire for convenience . . . hearing you and everyone else in this thread explain how you try to reconcile these issues is so useful and inspiring, so thank you. :)

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    I appreciate your support very much, but I just wanted to correct a few things. One, I’m actually female; there’s no way you could’ve known that, but I might as well clarify. Two, I don’t think I know what God wants exactly . . . I’m a bit of a natural doubter. I like hearing people with different convictions, because it challenges me to reconsider my interpretations of the Bible and my own conscience, to see if God has something else to teach me. I mean, I’m pretty confident in my beliefs on certain things, including this one, but I’ve been wrong before and will be again! XD

    Anyway, thank you for commenting and standing up for me. Even if we’re not entirely on the same page, it was nice nonetheless.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    Hmm, I hadn’t looked at it like that. It’s hard, because I think most Christians (and people of any belief system or lack thereof) are genuinely convinced that their particular deity, deities, or whatever will make the person’s life better, and therefore are convinced they’re being kind and beneficial. Of course, they might not be, and I’m slowly learning that backing off is usually a better option, because you’re right that it can easily turn people into projects that need to be fixed.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    Interesting . . . hadn’t thought of it in those terms before.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    Well, the other thing is that there are so many different KINDS of Christian world-views, almost as many as there are Christians. It’s difficult to determine which, if any, are more “right” than the others . . .

  • Here’s another way to look at it: it’s possible to help and support people without passing a moral judgement on them- in fact, that kind of help can actually be more effective and doesn’t remove one’s ability to still hold personal conviction.

    Case in point: in studying the Indian context among the brothels of Mumbai, the best practice I saw was by a Christian organization who I’m assuming would have moral objections to sex outside of a male/female marriage. However, they realized that protesting outside of the brothels or shaming people probably would have the opposite impact they ultimately desired. So, they did two things: they opened an office inside the brothels, and opened a daycare across the street.

    The kids from the brothels get to spend their days getting good food and an education, without the mom’s being shamed or rebuked each day when they come to pick them up. At the drop in center actually inside the brothels, the women could come and just hang out, get HIV testing, have a safe place to just be, etc. This allowed authentic relationships to form, and the women who wanted or needed to get out of the brothels (some were trafficking victims, some voluntary) they felt safe to ask the Christians for help- without the shame and judgement. Some would leave permanently, some never leave at all, and some come in-and-out. Regardless, these women know they have some safe people to rely on no matter what: the Christians in the brothel.

    Did the Christians ever affirm sex work? No. But they also didn’t pass judgement because it doesn’t actually get you where you want to go. Judgement is the enemy of love because it prevents you from loving fully.

  • whollyfool

    I would be very sad to hear that there is nothing someone can do to be helpful in stopping trafficking if you don’t agree with sex work.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    From what I’m getting from other commenters, it’s less that there’s nothing you can do if you don’t agree, but you can’t be helpful if you’re not willing to separate a) yourself from your own personal opinions about the industry, and b) the person you’re talking to from your personal opinions about the industry. I guess in all it just keeps coming back to listening and trying to understand other people’s points of view, even if you don’t agree.

  • ^^ YES ^^

  • SamHamilton

    Thanks for the example. This is helpful and inspirational.

  • SamHamilton

    Good point.

  • 1. When it comes to sex work, I think the trope of “selling your body” is really pervasive and tends to inform, in subtle ways, the way that people think about sex workers and sex work, in problematic ways.

    I would take two approaches to looking at this – most of the interactions we have in day to day and with media are about engaging and appreciating what people can do for us, not their hearts, minds, souls. For the most part, we don’t get to know (intimately and authentically) mainstream actors, our cab driver, the models in ads, the person who rings up our groceries, professional athletes, the nurse who provides us medical care etc. I realize that sex is different for many people, but sex is not on a pedestal for everyone.

    Secondly, interactions and relationships between sex workers and clients/consumers can be pretty complex and a lot deeper than strictly physical. Clients often fall in love with sex workers they’re seeing, and for many sex workers, a large part of their interactions with clients is talking, listening and providing a sense of human connection. Some people see sex workers just to get off, but some are just deprived of physical touch or someone who will focus on them for a while. In cultures where physical contact is only supposed to happen in sexual or romantic relationships (particularly for men), and by extension, all physical contact is assumed to be sexual, people can get pretty starved for touch and intimacy. seeing a sex worker is a common way to meet this need, even if sex is not the main goal.

    I also know many porn performers who interact with their fan base through social media, and their humanity and personality are an essential part of what makes them interesting and attractive to people.

    Sexual objectification can definitely be harmful, but I think when it happens within a context that is consensual, and the person doing the objectifying is able to recognize that the person being objectified is a whole, complex human being, it can be just fine.

    2/3. I think it’s okay to have feelings about sex work, as long as you can be conscientious about the way your negative feelings might colour your words and interactions to perpetuate stigma against sex workers.

    I don’t really think there is a perfect world where sex work wouldn’t exist. Even if you did away with poverty, racism, capitalism, stigma, etc, even if every person had all their needs met, I think people would still exchange sex for consideration. There will always be people who want sex, and there will always be people who want something else that they don’t have. Even if every person had the opportunity to have a relationship and get married (which is not something that can be guaranteed, even if all social ills were fixed), not everyone will want that.

    4. So, for me, a respectful interaction with a religious organization (in the context of trafficking support) would start off by making sure that my most basic needs are met – do I have a safe place to stay, if I have children are they safe and taken care of, do I have food and medical care, if I’m at risk of being deported am I getting support for that, if I need to go to the police do I have a lawyer and an advocate – are all the really urgent, essential things being addressed?

    Then, I would want to be asked if I have any spiritual or religious needs, in a very open ended way. (And if the organization is very overtly Christian, perhaps be explicit about being open and respectful of all answers.) If the answer is yes, then ideally any organization would help me get my religious needs met, regardless of my faith (so helping with referrals for someone who is not a Christian.)

    If the answer is no, then I think it’s appropriate to respectfully feel out a person’s boundaries and comfort around religious stuff, and offering services without pressure or expectation. So church or religious services could be offered as one option among many other services. Or for someone to talk to, offer that there is both a pastor and a therapist available and articulate the differences.

    Ultimately, it seems to me that Christian organizations should be more focused on embodying the best values espoused by Christ, rather than promoting Christianity to its clients.

    I’m glad my previous post was helpful.

  • whollyfool

    That makes sense. I don’t push my beliefs on those I’m trying to help…. It’s counterproductive and not very kind either. I thought decriminalization was mentioned, but maybe I was looking at a comment.

    My fault! :) Thanks for your response.

  • Nicole

    O.K. I have read the article and most of the comments. I am left puzzled and scratching my head. I work with a anti sex trafficking ministry and I also was an adult entertainer ( dancer) on and off for 7 years. While for me fortunately my work experience did not lead me down a road to more hard core things like prostitution and I was also fortunate not to ever have fallen into a situation to be sex trafficked, it had a very negative effect on my life. I am not sure how anyone even if they are willing at first would not come away from working in the sex industry in any fashion and not bear lifelong scars from that. I would have to say my motivation was being a single mom and needing the money. I was able to spend more time at home and only work 2-3 days a week to support my kids and myself. I left it behind after meeting my husband of over 17 years now. I did not grow up having a relationship with Christ. My mom was an atheist and told me growing up there was no God and no devil. Turns out she is wrong on both accounts. I praise God that 5 years ago He found me at my lowest point and received me in as His child. Through prayer and deliverance I have found peace and reconciled that part of my life and much more. Now to the ministry I take part in. To me the problem with taking Jesus out of the picture when trying to help these people is this. He is the only one who can reconcile the pain and destruction that has happened to them. I have talked with prostitutes, spa workers, dancers. Not a single one has not had a violent thing happen to them at some point. I look at this problem from all sides. It’s not only the women trapped but the men too. Many do not really want to be doing what they are doing. I can agree there are probably many well meaning Christian groups who do tackle this the wrong way by shoving Jesus down someones throat. I haven’t experienced that with any of the 3-4 groups I work with. I have only experienced a genuine concern that anyone male or female that no longer wants to be shackled by the sex industry has a way out and a way of healing. One survivor I know said she had years of traditional and Christian counseling. None of it really helped until she addressed the issue from the spiritual side and realize it is only through being set free from the demonic spirits that are in control of the sex industry and everyone in it, voluntary or not, and turning the spiritual side of yourself over to God to heal that there is not real healing. So should Jesus be shoved down anyone throat, no. But I do believe for anyone in the situation of wanting and needing to be free of the pain and shame associated with being involved in any part of this than Jesus is the only answer to have true freedom.

  • “If you have the wrong beliefs, your actions will be tainted, and the outcomes will be hurting, rather than helping, those you want to help.

    Because you don’t really want to help the sex workers – you want to help your own belief, your own ego, of sex work being exploitative.”

    My reading of this is that if you assume that sex work is exploitative for everyone, then that means you’re not listening to people’s lived experiences when they say that they aren’t being exploited.

    If you don’t listen to their lived experiences, then you can’t possible provide help in a way that is both compassionate and appropriate. For some sex workers, maybe “help” means assistance in getting out of the industry. But for many sex workers, “help” would look like respecting their work and advocating against stigma and criminalization, or fighting for labour rights for sex workers.

    When you try to serve someone based on your assumptions about who they are or what they need, you are actually just serving yourself and may be actually doing them more harm than good.

  • Shiphrah99

    Model the behavior your deity wants and the love of that deity could follow. Ramming down our throats? Not so much – just another form of rape.

  • Shiphrah99

    Viz the front page of the NY TImes the last several days.

  • Cat Parkay

    This is an outstanding piece, thank you! I’ve noticed the humble bragging of “rescuers” – one who even describes herself as a “saint” – and sensed that the power dynamic created was remarkably similar to that between a pimp and a trafficking victim. Even if a person or organization believes they have good intentions, it is never OK to use the suffering of another for self-promotion. I’ve also noticed that it’s the victims and survivors who protect their privacy and are focused on the difficult work of recovery whose stories we need the public to hear the most, not those on the speaking circuit (although there are many brave survivors who share powerful stories).

    Having never been trafficked myself, I’ve been told I “have no right to speak about the issue,” but I disagree. Provided I do so from an informed and sensitive place that seeks to understand and convey the nuance of the situation, that kind of attitude is part of what perpetuates the problem. We have an obligation to speak up and shouldn’t place that burden on the victims and survivors trying to piece together their lives. We need to invite regular, everyday people to become part of the solution without shaming, alienating, or traumatizing them. We need to make everyone the heroes of the story by equipping regular people with safe, responsible ways to help stop human trafficking.

    I’m working to design an inclusive awareness campaign for my community, one that invites the sex industry, strip club customers, and Christians alike, to agree that we are never OK with modern day slavery or the rape of children for money. We can make our own decisions about sexuality and its expression and embrace the diversity of perspectives and choices in our city but we can all agree on slavery and set aside other debates. I would love to hear from Meg what an inclusive and effective awareness campaign would look like. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

  • Herm

    Nicole, I am a male who knows first hand from which you speak. You’ll just have to trust me on that from both sides of the questions and observations that you so graciously raise, thank you.

    I have one question from reading your obviously honest, heartfelt and caring observations. Did your husband of 17 years draw you out of the sex entertainment industry by explaining to you that Jesus is the only way to real healing, so as to find true freedom, or did your Way begin anonymously through your heart? Love you!

  • Cat Parkay

    Start by sticking to speaking about injustice, not morality. In this case, the injustice is slavery, exploitation, rape. Sex is not the injustice so don’t attack sex or sexuality itself because then you alienate those who could become your most effective allies in fighting injustice.

  • Herm

    Cat, no one who volunteers from the ranks of humanity is perfect and that is a beginning. I believe, and have many years of personal undeserved proof, that I am trained to a task necessary to the survival of my fellow Man before I must perform adequately. You are a greater person in my mind and heart if you dive in to aid without that to trust in.

    In well over a half century of honest activist efforts on behalf of our species I have not found a better gauge to determine how I might perform first aid than in everything do to others as you would have others do to you. Do no harm is not by accident taught to all healthcare students in school. If you actually get the ability and opportunity to empathize to know a person of any age now/once imprisoned, subjugated, enslaved and raped you will know they are you but by the grace of God. You might even realize that you are right now slaving under destructive misconceptions impressed on you by self-serving members of our species.

    Love your questions, efforts and especially you! Thank you!

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    That all makes a lot of sense. I don’t really have anything to say except thank you for your patience and answers (once again), and I think I better understand where you and Meg were coming from. It’s hard to throw away some preconceptions, especially about objectification, but I agree with a lot of what you’ve written here and have so, so much to think about. :)

  • I’m sorry your experience was a bad one, but can you accept that not everyone has the same experience as you? That everyone is different and your experiences and feelings are not universal?

    The way you talk about sex workers and their experiences is genuinely disturbing to me.

    “The pain and destruction that has happened to them.”

    “Shackled by the sex industry”

    “The demonic spirits that are in control of the sex industry and everyone in it”

    “Pain and shame associated with being involved in any part of this”

    These kind of statements are shaming and make wild assumptions about sex workers. The vast majority of sex workers I know are not the victims of “pain and destruction.” They are not “shackled by the sex industry.” They are not controlled by “demonic spirits.” They do not feel “pain and shame” about their work.

    And none of them would want to have anything to do with an organization that condescends to sex workers like that. Good service organizations and providers ask what people’s needs and experiences are, they don’t assume or tell them.

    If you are working with trafficking victims, I think you need to take a long, hard look at the way your choice of language creates shame and exacerbates the harms they have already experienced.

  • Nicole

    Hi Herm,
    Actually the truth is I met my husband as a customer. I had yet again found myself in a financial situation. I had just landed a sales job but hadn’t gotten paid. I was going to work just 2 more times to meet my bills. My husband was not a follower of Christ nor did he grow up in a Christian household. I accepted Christ 8 years ago but had no relationship. 5 years ago July 1st I surrendered my life. I believe God pursued me, and me being quite suborn forced him to bring my life to the point that all I could do was die or surrender. I praise God now that all of my children know the Lord and I am working on my mom and sister. My husband followed me 6 months after and we are both now loving and serving the Lord with all of our heart.

  • Thanks for being open to listening and learning. :) This is a tough topic.

  • Nicole

    Anilia,
    I probably would have had the same response as you 10 years ago. Most people until they are out don’t realize the long term effects. At the time I would have told you my life was great, there was nothing wrong with what I was doing. As a matter of fact as I answered Herm I met my husband while working as a stripper. I quit the next week not because of him but because I was going to quit anyway. I don’t expect non Christians or even Christians that don’t understand spiritual warfare to understand anything I said. Just know that whether you believe it or not we are all in a spiritual war that started long before we were created. There are 2 sides and there is no grey area.
    Every survivors story is different and I don’t assume anything. The stories I have heard would make most people throw up. I saw firsthand the lives of many women that were dancers. Not one of them I would describe as a healthy or functional life nor was there any real joy.( not that they would have admitted that and neither would I have) The I have seen those who are in the life and contemplating leaving and those who left and received healing and restoration and those who chose to leave and then go back. I love them all. Since you seem to have so much experience I urge you to get involved. There is so much that can be done to combat what is the fastest growing epidemic.

  • Stuart Blessman

    It’s not that simple, but broadly speaking, yes.

  • Stuart Blessman

    Absolutely. I can really only speak about my peers and the bandwagon types. But even with those who are in it for good reasons, there’s a lot of misconceptions and preassumptions about what some things are. And reality has a tendency of often proving them wrong.

  • Your spiritual war is not my war, and I want nothing to do with it.

    Maybe the dancers you worked with were all unhealthy and unhappy. The dancers I know are diverse, strong, smart women who are making an economic choice to work in the sex industry. They are raising families, buying homes, travelling the world, getting graduate degrees and doing many other things with their lives, while being sex workers. They don’t need to get out and receive healing, because their work is not a sickness and it is not hurting them.

    You say you are not making assumptions, but you’re painting all sex workers with a broad brush of sadness and victimhood. You are doing a disservice to sex workers who do not fit that narrative, and that kind of attitude is alienating to people who might wish to access the services of your organization. Sex workers (and trafficking survivors) need you to listen to them, not to pity them.

    I am involved – in advocating for sex workers’ rights and self determination. In working to ensure that sex workers get to tell their own stories and are meaningfully involved in developing policy and programmes that impact sex workers. In trying to change the narrative around sex work as exploitation.

  • Herm

    Blessed are we with an eternal Lord who pursues our honest and humble hearts and minds purely out of love. You have helped greatly by sharing exactly as you are aware and reflective. You even added to my conjecture by witnessing that your husband was a customer and now buys in to the teachings of our Rabbi Jesus.

    I asked because you were not raised in the traditions and rituals of the Christian faith and now profess a very real and direct knowledge of a positive and constructive relationship with Christ Jesus. You simultaneously separate supporting your children in the sex entertainment industry from your relationship with Christ.

    You wrote, “I praise God that 5 years ago He found me at my lowest point and received me in as His child.”

    I humbly submit that he found you at least 17 years ago and gave you a way out of further “scars” through the healing salve of your husband’s relationship. You did not need a Bible or recognizing the voice of our Lord to accept a better deal in life.

    This article is predominately regarding human trafficking and what it takes to heal the scars of enslavement with no choice, of which you had all along. Anyone never so subjugated who is from the Christian community is ill prepared to know hopelessness as do the victims of human trafficking. The Jesus you know still pursues to heal all who humbly ask, seek and knock, even subconsciously as did you. In fact, your enslavement was to ignorance which you subconsciously took the offered way out by a fellow human being equally ignorant of what he did and was equally forgiven on the cross.

    Jesus is still a Son of Man and knows first hand the reality of inner workings of the human heart and mind. He could minister to people’s needs by throwing out the money changers in His Father’s house, healing publicly, healing anonymously, carpentering a better yoke to till a field, or producing the best wine at a wedding party (that He didn’t want to be at in the first place but His mother asked). My Christian mother asked from eight years old that I keep my hands above the blankets (I was long an adult before I knew why).

    We need to meet people where they are as Jesus does for us before they can begin to heal. Jesus can heal and needs no publicity to be hailed in the next edition of the Bible. Jesus needs no ritual, ceremony or special name to love His lost sheep. He has even asked His students to do good, in His example, without any fanfare and anonymously if possible. The only time we need to invoke His name is to rightfully place the source of our light and power. Never are we to use His name to intimidate or manipulate anyone to do good for themselves, mankind and God, in that order.

    I am intentionally silent on how I have been called on to offer a way to healing and freedom, especially so in the prisons and sex industries. One first hand occurrence comes to mind that I can use as an example without divulging who was healed but demonstrates how God works in reality. An inmate came into the chaplain’s office when I was, to his eyesight, alone and stood toe to toe, eye to eye, and in full spirit of intimidation said, “I killed five men!” All of me said silently, “Oh, God how do I respond?” From my mouth came the words,” So what?” A peaceful dialog gave him a way to heal his life long scars without invoking Jesus’ name.

    The Holy Spirit works through our hearts and minds anonymously in most of our day to day chores as is how Jesus grew and prospered through His childhood of Man. Jesus was honored as the only begotten Son of God when the Holy Spirit alighted upon Him at His baptism administered by John the Baptist. Trust the Spirit to unite your heart and mind to the rule and lessons of Jesus as you need them in your very real life to do good (productive and constructive) rather than do evil (destructive), knowingly or ignorantly.

    You have done good for you, your children, your husband and your God, in that order. The scars you carry are honorable and no worse than when you tear your muscles though exercise. We all carry scars and from most we are stronger by surviving what they represent. So it can be for victims of abuse inflicted by fellow human beings. That is the hope, refuge and healing we can offer by simply extending our heart and mind felt hand of relationship in the example set by your husband and Christ Jesus on Earth.

    Love you and pray that your, your husband’s and your children’s relationship with God continues to grow productively and constructively all the way to the end of eternity. We are divinely blessed! Thank you for responding so well!

  • I.N.

    Hi Nicole,

    I spent 4+ years working in prostitution, and have now been out for 4+ years as well. Some aspects of my experience were difficult and degrading, some were touching and fulfilling. I never thought there was nothing wrong with what I was doing, and I have indeed re-evaluated a number of things since getting out, but my perception overall – that my participation in the sex industry was born out of limited options yet made sense at the time and was NOT, by and large, traumatic. I had a lot of dysfunction but also some adaptive function and some real joy. I have interacted with multiple sex workers over the years, mostly in prostitution as well, and they were similar to me. Only a couple have experienced the sex work itself as inherently traumatic, and they have all now found their way out.

    I am terribly sorry for the pain you and they went through, and I hope they can find healing as well. And this is why people like Meg and other advocates do the work they do: To provide options and help to people who want out of the sex trade! And to reduce systemic vulnerabilities that push people into sex trade in the first place. But also to provide support to people for whom being in sex work remains a limited but preferable option.

    I would never presume to speak for you. I cannot understand your pain or your war, but I can respect that they are real to you. I also respect that they are real to many people and I think an important part of the work is to build supports and systems to help. But please, do not impose your war and your presumption of unavoidable damage on others who tell you that they – and many others – do not experience it!

  • Maine_Skeptic

    “…You would never make public policy or other decisions about other groups of people without their input, so “Nothing about us without us” is incredibly reasonable…”

    Actually, that’s all the Evangelical Movement does is try to shape public policy for everyone else. Furthermore, they always do it with arrogance and ignorance, assuming no one else can be trusted to know what everyone needs, least of all the people they say they’re trying to “help.” When human trafficking became a Christian meme and started showing up in all the usual suspect media, I assumed it was a cynical cover story for some other agenda that involves robbing other people of rights or human dignity.

    I’m glad for this article, which may shed some light on what’s actually going on and where actual needs exist.

  • Mark Weigel

    my wife and I are hoping to open a safe house for women in Northern Kentucky next year. We don’t want to judge anyone. We just want to save some lives.

  • Mark Weigel

    It is a spiritual battle and the Word of God tells us we can’t argue with fools. They don’t get it.

  • Mark Weigel

    you are 100% right.

  • Cindy

    Your short, concise philosophy is spot on. No three page mandate needed.

  • Cindy

    As long as the priority is “saving souls”, their help is meaningless and futile.

  • Ellen Polzien

    Well, that was respectful, now, wasn’t it?

  • That is actually one of the best job descriptions for Christian Social Justice workers that I have ever heard. Thanks for putting it like that Cat! That statement is actually very helpful to me in discerning what I could do to help.

  • Matthew

    Why are we, as the church, spending so much time attempting to change the kingdom of empire by trying to legislate morality on the entire secular world? Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world.

    As such, Jesus´ kingdom, represented by the church, should be in the business of doing what Jesus would do … and I don´t think Jesus is about imposing “purity laws” on people before he offers them genuine help or before they, by a work of the Spirit (without coersion), accept Him as their own.

  • That actually makes a lot of sense. Thanks for clarifying that Ben…

  • If someone does sex work because it’s the only option they have, taking away that option and not doing anything to give them more options just leaves them with nothing – worse off than if they were doing sex work.

    Thank you for sharing that. I see where your logic is coming from and where it is going to. I guess there is a lot for me to relearn and rethink things. Like Pinky, I disapproved of the sex industry, but not because of the sexual impurity manure that I keep hearing from the religiously right. One thing I’ve never been accused of yet is being a prude.

    My objection comes from personal observation and experiences. I’ve seen a lot of men get addicted to porn and when that happens, they start seeing women as objects made for their own gratification than actual human beings deserving of dignity and respect. In other words, I don’t like the exploitation side-effects that appear to be coming from that industry.

    Instead of criminalizing the industry, because I know that won’t ever work (my grandfather told me about the good old prohibition years — and how his pa made a lot of money bootleggin’) I have been taking this on the other side. Instead of attacking the industry directly, I go after the pocketbooks (i.e. the customers) and warn them of the perils of addiction.

    However, the more I read and think about these things, I realize that this issue is far more complicated than the simplistic approach I was apparently taking, so I would like to learn more about this. It didn’t occur to me that so many people may actually enjoy working in the sex industry while being able to support themselves and their families. Hmmm… perhaps we should regulate and tax it. The objection I quoted you on is a very valid objection and it has opened my eyes to something I didn’t see before. I must remain consistent… Too bad. I guess I’ll have to cross shrimp off my diet after all . Thank you!

  • I suspected you were female because of the PinkyAndNoBrain handle, but wasn’t for sure, so the comment I made yesterday on another great Ben’s blog, I refrained from pronouns and simply called you Pinky. LOL

  • SamHamilton

    I understand that. I was asking in more general terms. If I speak out against slavery or rape, I’m judging those that commit those sins/crimes.

  • I would really recommend Greg Boyd’s book, Repenting of Religion, which is all about the theology of judging and is super helpful for sorting these things out. In short, the biblical prohibition on judgement isn’t about refraining to acknowledge right from wrong, but is about judging the heart of a person– essentially, when one pronounces the person’s level of culpability in the sin.

  • Stuart Blessman

    amen

  • Stuart Blessman

    For some sex workers, maybe “help” means assistance in getting out of the industry. But for many sex workers, “help” would look like respecting their work and advocating against stigma and criminalization, or fighting for labour rights for sex workers.

    When you try to serve someone based on your assumptions about who they are or what they need, you are actually just serving yourself and may be actually doing them more harm than good.

    amen

  • Stuart Blessman

    Utterly and completely false.

  • Stuart Blessman

    He wouldn’t get that.

  • jekylldoc

    Anlina – thank you for a very thoughtful and respectful reply. Some good things to think about here.

  • jekylldoc

    Pinky –
    Your questions are good, partly because they lead us into thoughtful territory. You are probably right that most sex work is not part of the approach to sexuality that will lead us to being who we can be and are meant to be. But Anlina’s response is right on target that if we only care enough to “inform” them that they are falling short of an ideal, and not enough to help them meet other needs that are just as real and more urgent, then we are really dealing with our own problems, not being Jesus to someone.

  • Deborah West

    The lesson is not ‘judge not’. The lesson is remove the log from your eye before you remove the splinter from another’s. Christian are suppose to and can ‘judge’, we just need to be careful how we go about it. There are some things that are simply wrong. Period. Male and female prostitution is wrong. Adultery is wrong. Murder is wrong. And those things do need to be ‘judged’. That’s not saying that the person who did those things doesn’t also need to be loved.

  • Well, Jesus did say “judge not” so to say that’s not the lesson isn’t entirely accurate. However, Paul followed up on this and said that we have no business judging anyone outside the church- only within the church. So, if you consider these individuals to be outside the church, the prohibition against judging still stands.

  • peridotdragon

    This article puts me off. I found it after posting the Human Trafficking Resource Center’s # on FB (which is 1-888-373-7888). Granted I am not involved in the Christian anti-trafficking issue. I just heard while traveling recently about this issue from a sign in an airport. I know from first hand experience that groups that want to help can really muck things up for various reasons like ego, not being interested in really helping, etc. And that needs to be spoken to. But this write up is one big “Please stop…” I think there were three things in the whole list that didn’t start with “Please stop…” and even those three were “please start…” or something insinuating that the groups are not doing those things. As I am now done reading these tips my head is spinning. This tip sheet reads like one big warning that if you try to get involved in a helping manner with someone in the sex industry you will probably surly offend them. Not everyone is going to help in the same way and even if people remove ego as best they can and try to help “right” they will not always get it right. This piece seems to be advocating that the Christian helpers need to help Meg’s way. Isn’t she already doing that with her organization? To me everyone including helpers and the helped need to come at any situation with generosity and forgiveness for infractions.

  • paganheart

    Thank you. I think another point I was ultimately trying to get at is that we need to remember we’re dealing with human beings, first and foremost. Too often, especially when trying to help people, some Christians seem to forget they are dealing with complex human beings and not just actions and behaviors. (i.e., “sins.”) When it comes to issues of sex in particular (including sex trafficking), they act as if sexuality is separate from our humanity and our spirituality, when sexuality is a key part of what makes us messy, complicated humans in a messy, complicated world.

    (For what it’s worth, a book that helped me reconcile sexuality/humanity/spirituality issues in my own life is Thomas Moore’s “The Soul Of Sex.” I recommend it.)

  • paganheart

    I need to add that to my reading list.

  • paganheart

    This. Exactly this.

    Too often, the “help” provided by “faith-based” organizations comes with lots of strings attached. Either you have to agree to “accept Jesus as Lord and Savior” before any help is given to you, or at the very least you have to agree to be subjected to some heavy (and possibly unwelcome and unhelpful) proselytizing before help is given. Other times, well-meaning Christians seem to think that the only assistance they need to provide is “bring people to Christ” to be “born again,” and somehow, all of the person’s problems (addiction, poverty, homelessness, mental illness, lack of education, etc.) will magically take care of themselves, once the person “accepts Christ” and “just stops sinning.” (Um, It’s not that simple. Sorry.)

  • Meg

    Thanks for chiming in! .I’m reading the comments and am reminding myself that not everyone will get where I’m coming from or where I’m at now … And that’s ok. Misunderstanding or misinterpretations (which may be my partly mine, as well) bum me out given how much elaboration is necessary for some of my thoughts. In a blog post, there’s simply not enough room or time for that kind of nuanced discussion. My hope is that I don’t come off abrupt, definitive, and without understanding … Because that would not be representative of my heart or how I (try to) function. And sigh … Writers are forever editing and re-writing their finished work, wishing they could go back and re-frame or re-word something they expressed. that being said, despite the limitations of what i shared, I do think that the notion that ‘all help is good help’ and ‘it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission’ schools of thought can actually do more harm than good. For people who are already suffering or bearing the weight of stigma, marginalization, criminalization, trauma, abuse, and much more, this is essentially asking them to bear the brunt of potentially harmful actions of uninformed people who are well-intended. It’s like saying I shouldn’t hold the dentist responsible who used illegal and dangerous materials on my root canal (true story) because he meant well and decided to skip that week of dental school. There were consequences to his actions, but i(and hundreds of others) bore the brunt of the consequences … I had to re-do thousands of dollars in dental work and experienced a great deal of pain. No free dental exam makes up for that. I get where you’re coming from, but being well informed and educated by EVERYONE you’re serving isn’t just an option, it’s critical best practices. We have to stop pushing the idea that what we’re offering should be good enough because we mean well.

  • Meg

    And one more thing … I think we’ve gotten really accustomed to tone-policing and using that as an excuse to dismiss the message and messenger. Respectability politics can be very damaging and silence many people under the guise of requiring to others to ‘play nice’ … I think we need to be careful about that, given it’s been used a s such an oppressive tool of silence in the past.

  • Matthew

    The problems don´t always go away post conversion. You are right about that paganheart.

  • That doesn’t really answer his question…it’s helpful to know, but he’s asking Meg which ministries, in terms of the problems she talked about in the article, are most effective at combating the issues.

  • I’m not sure if SHI is one of the most effective, though – I thought I saw it mentioned up above in one of the ‘what not to do’ examples. I could be wrong, though.

  • Based on your comments elsewhere, what you really mean is you want to save souls. Not the same thing at all.

  • eh05

    I really see a disconnect in your line of work & the overall purpose of this article. No matter what your experience, you’re advocating for the demand that’s being fulfilled in various ways, including sex trafficking.. Faith aside, to not see the connection & instead insist this is a line of work that the majority of women involved feel they have personal rights, and are truly respected in etc is greatly disturbing. high end strip clubs aren’t the majority, nor is this women-friendly sentiment you speak of.

  • This list isn’t for organizations that are already doing everything from a compassionate, rights-based framework. There are orgs out there that are doing a fantastic job. But many are not, and are actively hurting people that they want to help, and that is not okay.

    You can distill Meg’s points to: Respect the rights, experiences and diversity of the people you want to help. Let them tell you what they need and how they want to live their lives, don’t guess or assume or think you know better. Educate yourself and understand the context and nuances before you take action or speak.

    If this is “Meg’s way” then I actually *do* think that Christian helpers (and anyone else who wants to help) need to be doing it “Meg’s way’, because failing to do these things inevitably harms people. There are many different ways you can provide services within this framework, but service providers must put the people they want to help first. If they can’t do that, they should find something else to do.

  • peridotdragon

    Meg, Thank you for your words, all of them. Yes it does take so much elaboration to share our thoughts it seems, and energy and time too. And those who are in it for the good do the best we can at any given moment. I appreciate what you’re saying and I agree that not all help is good help. There are so many hurting people in the world. God help us. From what your saying about helping, it seems like the modern Hippocratic oath would aid the situation if folks used it or something like it to put themselves in a good way to be of help. Peace and strength for your work, and thanks for elaborating.

    Modern Hippocratic Oath (thanks wiki):

    I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

    I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

    I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

    I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

    I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

    I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know.

    Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty.
    Above all, I must not play at God.

    I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

    I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

    I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

    If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

    Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and used in many medical schools today.

  • Meg

    Oh my goodness, you made me tear up … Seriously, thank you for receiving, hearing me, and responding. I’m also i agreement … We often talk about Best Practices and ‘Do NO Harm’, but I’m going to go over this and see how we can better apply it to our work and philosophy – Thank you! Don’t look now, but I may have new hope for internet conversations ;)

  • peridotdragon

    Snap! Me too!!! I was moved by your response. Peace Sister!!! And all good things!

  • Another “Christians need to shut up and ignore sin and pretend that anyone can do whatever they want at any time” piece. A pure insult to those who are doing what they can to help women in need AND don’t want to stay silent about an industry that is destroying lives.

  • I do have to wonder how many people have an unhealthy relationship with pornography and sexuality because they have no framework for how to have a healthy relationship with it.

    I can’t speak to the people you’ve known, but I think that a cycle of self-denial, shame, consumption and guilt can create some very unhealthy behaviours that at the end of the day are not ultimately about pornography, but about understanding and accepting ones own sexuality and having safe, compassionate space and partners to explore that with. If you can’t reconcile what you want with what you’re told you should want, or if you’ve been taught that all lust, desire and functions of your body are shameful and bad, that’s going to come out in some pretty bad ways.

    I think that there are really healthy and ethical ways to consume porn – at appropriate times and places; if you’re in a relationship, in ways that it enhances or at the very least is neutral to your sexuality with your partner; looking for feminist porn that is made by the people in it and that humanizes the actors (a lot of ethical porn as interviews before and after, where the actors talk about their motivations and interests and review how they felt about the scene.)

    There is a lot of not great, not very ethical porn out there, but again, I don’t think those issues are inherent to the industry, but arise from broader social and systemic issues.

    With regards to regulating and taxing sex work, the porn industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries out there, both internally and externally. For escorts, body rub attendants and other sex workers who see clients in person, paying taxes is already a requirement (governments don’t care too much how you got your money, as long as they get their share.) Regulation can replicate many of the issues that come with criminalization – some sex workers will be able to comply with regulations, be able to afford licenses, will have necessary documents. The ones who can’t will still be criminalized and pushed to the margins, and they tend to be the people who are most marginalized (undocumented immigrants, homeless, living in extreme poverty, trans women etc.) I think for regulation of individual sex workers to be effective, beyond the broad regulations that apply to all businesses (labour rights etc), there first needs to be a major shift towards addressing poverty, lack of access to health care and affordable housing, protections for immigrants – basically addressing the social issues that will continue to cause harm.

  • No, Christians (everyone really) need to decide if they want to prioritize helping people or advocating for a specific moral position, and then be honest about it, because those things are often incompatible.

    You can’t offer genuine help to someone if you don’t listen to their needs and experiences. You can’t claim to be helping someone while you systematically stigmatize them, try to destroy their livelihood or actively make their work more dangerous.

    You can choose to advocate against the sex industry, but don’t pretend you’re doing it for the good of sex workers.

    You can advocate against trafficking with strategies that harm trafficking victims, but be honest about the fact that the ideology comes before the needs and reality of survivors.

  • I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at, so if I misinterpreted, please rephrase.

    Human trafficking and forced labour is abhorrent in all circumstances. But it is only the sex industry where people think that the solution to the problem of trafficking is doing away with the industry entirely.

    Trafficking and forced labour is a common issue in many industries – agriculture, clothing manufacture, hospitality, salons, domestic work – but we don’t need to get rid of farming, manufactured clothing, hotels, salons or house keeping to address trafficking and forced labour in these industries.

    Rather than trying to end sex work (it can’t be done), it is more productive and compassionate to fight for safer working conditions and more access to rights for people who are doing it now, and to work to address the issues that push people into sex work when they would prefer not to – poverty, immigration, lack of social programmes etc.

    We will never get rid of sex work, but a world where the only people who do sex work are the ones who freely chose it from a multitude of options, and who do it in safety is attainable.

  • Eris, elder daughter of Nyx

    I’ve been thinking long and hard about what to say about this subject and I’ve finally decided on what to say.

    I have nothing to say about the morality of sex work until such a time as everyone, whether they are in sex work or not, have the ability to provide for themselves in livable conditions that don’t include being in sex work. Until such a time exists (and such a time shows no hint of coming into being), I have no right to judge anyone who uses sex work to support themselves. I have no inclination to be involved in the sex work industry and haven’t been forced to because I’ve been able to support myself through other means; I’m fortunate that way. I loathe this “purity” narrative that presents me as somehow being less “tainted” somehow because I have been privileged enough to have been well fed, housed, and clothed so that I didn’t ever feel pressured to “sell my body” for the necessities of life. It angers me.

  • Meg

    Jason, I’m sorry it wasn’t framed in a way that helped you better understand what we go through and need. It bums me out that you missed the greater points, but I can’t expect everyone to receive it the way in which it was intended. My hope is that you’ll take the time to follow the next installments for more context and a broader narrative. Be well and take care.

  • Regulation can replicate many of the issues that come with criminalization – some sex workers will be able to comply with regulations, be able to afford licenses, will have necessary documents. The ones who can’t will still be criminalized and pushed to the margins, and they tend to be the people who are most marginalized (undocumented immigrants, homeless, living in extreme poverty, trans women etc.)

    I find that statement ^^ very unfortunate, because I see this in every field. One must pretty much be trained and licensed in everything before practicing for insurance and legal purposes. That only leaves the ones that come from a background that has the means or qualities to get the means and a lot of folks that you mentioned are left out. I agree. The social issues have to be addressed. If we could get this issue corrected, it would solve a lot of problems all across the board.

    I can’t speak to the people you’ve known, but I think that a cycle of self-denial, shame, consumption and guilt can create some very unhealthy behaviours that at the end of the day are not ultimately about pornography, but about understanding and accepting ones own sexuality and having safe, compassionate space and partners to explore that with.

    That has been my experience and observation. Some of these — but certainly not all — were sexually abused when they were children. What I find so ironic about that is through (despite or in spite of) the trauma of that, the only way they can relate to others is through sex. Perhaps it is because the only way they felt love and acceptance was through that act. It was a while back (a couple of decades ago) when I realized that for a typical pedophile, they actually think and feel that by making sexual contact with children, they are showing they love and accept that child for the very reason mentioned above. I came to that realization when I stopped judging and listened in, wanting to help a person work through problems such as this.

    Speaking of unhealthy relationships with porn and sex, it is also like a drug in which when one climaxes it gives a release of endorphin that is a lot like a rush. It is a euphoric high that a few people can’t seem to control or manage. In effect, it consumes them in a similar manner that alcohol consumes the alcoholic. Many people say that alcoholics are problem drinkers. I find that a bit odd. The drinking part they have down to an art and science. It is the quitting part that they haven’t got a hold of. They are more like problem quitters.

    So I wonder about the folks that have unhealthy relationships with porn and sexuality. I do suspect that it is one of the main ingredients (if not the greatest common factor) to the motivation of sexual malevolent behavior and violent criminal activity, such as rape and explains why sex offenders are often times repeat offenders. Though I do want to avoid making general blanket statements and then regarding them as fact, because if life has taught me one thing, it would be this: there are always exceptions to the rule.

    Thank you Anlina for your patience. I’ve actually learned a lot from you and I will always be grateful for that.

  • Shouldn’t a person who does wrong experience guilt and shame?

    It’s not other people’s job to judge others in a superior and condescending way.

    But such actions as prostitution are unethical and immoral.

    It would seen that there is “false” guilt and shame, but when individuals choose to live immorally,
    then shame and guilt are genuine, are they not?

  • Please, please don’t do it unless you’re doing it in a submissive/supporting role under the leadership of trauma informed care specialists who know and understand this population, and who have studied actual aftercare modalities. I’m sure your heart is in the right place, but aftercare isn’t a church project. There are many other ways you can contribute, but this is exactly how people are being re-injured by well intentioned people.

  • How is sex work “unethical” or “wrong”?

    If sex work would violate your own moral code then by all means, you should not do it. But as long as a person is not causing harm to others, there are many different ways to live morally. While this may not include sex work for you, that is not true for everyone.

    What is unethical and wrong to me is perpetuating shame around sex work. People who are able to choose it freely and consensually shouldn’t be shamed because it conflicts with your personal beliefs, and those who decide to do sex work from a very limited range of options will not be helped, but further harmed by shaming – if you have to choose between doing something you don’t want to in order to feed your kids, or letting them go hungry, how does shame or guilt improve anything?

  • Nikolaus1111

    I want you christians to consider something first and foremost:
    “Judge not, lest you be judged”

    DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT JESUS SAID THIS LIGHTLY?

    He didn’t say judge not, except when yo see something that’s clearly wrong. He said, judge not. You need to think about this. Are you Jesus’ follower? Then why do you not heed the advice of your own prophet? Why do you fail to listen here?

    I get it – it’s hard to understand. And in fact, it may be a rule that is impossible to follow without revelation. Without actual insight as to why he said this, and what he meant by it. But that is your duty, to inquire into it, to find out why. It’s not something that can be debated, it is something each one needs to find out for himself or herself.

    Your judgement is not somehow “punishing” those who are begin judged – instead it is poisoning your own mind. It is creating barriers, and it is creating hate. It’s nice you throw in the “they need to be loved” phrase but you wont’t be able to do that with your heart and mind clouded by judgement.

  • Nikolaus1111

    You have no business judging anyone within the church either – but that is the whole problem with the church. Christians are more confused about Jesus than anyone else.

  • Herm

    Seoc, an addiction to porn where the consumer fantasizes a dominant subjugating role that demeans another is a symptom of much more serious physical, mental, social and spiritual problems than can be healed by denying the porn. It is equally true that fantasizing a submissive and masochistic role through porn is a symptom of equally serious problems that are as destructive as the sadistic former. Until we can be sympathetic and empathetic to the real cause of their addiction we can’t be a part of their kicking the destructive parts of their habit especially by just forcibly denying them the symptom. I’ve met and worked with people who wrote their own when unable to get porn by any other means. Fantasy is good when it directs us to grow to support each other. Fantasy is evil when it directs us to destroy even just one of us.

    Sex, porn, drugs, socialism and capitalism are not unhealthy when shared constructively and in moderation for the good of all. Anything is unhealthy when it obsessively separates us of mankind from sharing constructively and productively for the good of our whole being as one. Worse than the results from obsessive porn for the whole of mankind is when we assume there is a part of Man that is us and the rest is the unrighteous them. It is a deadly fantasy that has us pitting us against them. If I can’t love my fellows of Man whom I can see and touch how can I be expected to love God whom I can’t see or touch as I know for sure. We are one and we need to deal with all that might destroy us by treating the body of Man as we would the body of Me, using the symptoms to root out the causes.

    Sorry for not getting this thought/feeling out as well as I believe I know it. I, with all my heart, believe that as long as any of us demeans, intimidates, manipulates, subjugates, enslaves, demoralizes, “ethnically cleanses”, segregates and/or ignores any one of our own of Man none of us are healthy. We just can’t remove the obsessive symptoms without first healing the cause.

    Everything Jesus spoke to was uniting one with another by the bond of compassionate and empathetic love. He never once said I will die on the cross for you if you do this for me. He forgave our ignorance rather than insisting we learn our lesson to earn His love. What about that example can’t we learn from to apply to our own, our whole own?

    Oops, just got worked up and strayed a bit off topic. I will leave it as I wrote it in hopes that it something makes some sense.

    Love you for all your care and your love extended to the whole as yourself. Thanks.

  • Herm

    orthorim, please forgive me for this bit of observational humor. I do not mean it to demean or belittle you. I happen to understand and agree with much of your apparent sensibility.

    Your first sentence was posed as a direct and certain judgment not to judge.

    As I read the New Testament I, you and Paul clearly ain’t Jesus.

    “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.” John 8:15-16

    The there is an exhortation in Matthew 18 of Jesus describing a process requiring judgment by the church to resolve transgressions amongst themselves.

    Paul was a more pragmatic organizer and leaned more toward human logic than the divine organization of Jesus that leaned more toward love.

    I do agree that most of we Christians are more confused about Jesus than, say, that beloved Hindu Ghandi? Jesus’ disciples today love as He teaches them directly in their hearts and minds bound together as one by the Holy Spirit. To try to explain that without experiencing it is too confusing for most Christians.

    I know that I truly do love all my fellows of Man as a whole. Based on what I know of us all on Earth today none of us have good enough vision to be judging beyond, “what can we/I do to help”, even then I depend on the Spirit’s vision to guide me.

    Thanks for your strong emotions!

  • Noah

    Thanks. I’m generally on point with Corey, but the longer I read this the more it didn’t sit well with me. Until I saw comments from women like yourself.

  • Noah

    Elaborate?

  • Meg is actually the one that wrote it- I just introduced the series and the first question. The rest is her thoughts in her own words.

  • Cindy

    If their primary focus and energy is on “bringing lost souls to Christ” then they overlook the complex social emotional and psychological needs of the victims. There are many dedicated effective selfless people involved yet there are also those who are altruistic for self-serving reasons.

  • ccws

    I’m reminded of the scene from the movie “Hawaii” (not in the book, just the movie), in which missionaries Rev. & Mrs. Hale are standing over the grave of a baby who’s just died in a measles epidemic, and the conversation goes something like this:

    He: I wish we could have saved it.
    She: So do I…
    He: I meant its soul.
    She: I meant the BABY!

    All who have ears to hear, listen up already!

  • ccws

    Two things:

    First of all, THANK YOU, MEG for your thoughts “from the inside” on this incredibly complex issue.

    Second, trafficking isn’t always for sex. The case I’m most familiar with is a woman who came to the US legally from South America, had her passport & visa taken away as soon as she arrived, and spent the next several years as an unpaid housekeeper and nanny before escaping & marrying a man my stepdad knows. They have several kids now and she’s been fighting deportation for years.

  • Noah

    Disclosure: I’ve had one too many.

    That you didn’t write it might explain why it came across as different to me, just speaking format wise. A lot of ‘here’s my statement, now go read a 5 minute article that actually explains it’. And a lot of statements without any clarification, for instance:


    Please care and do more about gender inequality, racism, LGBTQ rights, socio-economic reforms, the prison system, immigrant rights, mental health, and other social justice related realities because that’s where real anti-trafficking work is rooted and starts.”

    Not that I disagree, but it does seem a bit of verbal spew that has no connection to how it’s actually started?

    And this just seems weird to me:


    Please stop railing against the porn industry while shopping at *fill in the blank*, buying imported seafood, eating $1 lettuce, getting cheap manicures and massages, eating at McDonald’s, refusing to support a higher minimum wage, voting in mandatory minimums for anything, remaining silent on tuition increases, and fighting reproductive rights. If you’re going to have moral biases, please address systemic issues before attacking those trying to survive within a system they didn’t choose, but have to live and try to survive under.”

    What is the comparison here?

    Comparing the sale of paid recorded sexual acts to imported seafood? Non imported seafood is good, but imported is bad?

    How are paid pornographic participants not choosing to do it? They’re choosing to do it over jobs at the referenced McDonald’s, no?

    I haven’t seen anything about guys in the porn industry not choosing it.

    I’m fully willing to learn how women are forced into the porn/sex industry, but keep in mind it’s -generally- physically attractive young women. Making money that way is not an option other women really have.

    I really don’t get the text I last quoted. I don’t mean it negatively, and I may be trying to think of another word, but it’s incredibly convoluted.

    Some of this post comes across as saying ‘you should not think that selling sex/porn/your body/buying it is not a good thing.

  • Noah

    I support Amirah (minimally), I imagine this is the kind of group this post is not meant for?

    Knowing what they do, the protector in me wants to be the doorman/bouncer. Knowing it’s not what’s needed or desired.

  • ccws

    Purity culture is rape culture turned inside out. Both distort the relationship between the genders to be “all about sex,” and both are equally harmful, especially to women and girls. ‘Nuff said.

  • Noah

    Fair enough, I either meant this on another comment, or only know about trafficking from folks who know it firsthand.

  • Noah

    I didn’t get this at first, but Cindy’s reply to me made it clear. Here’s my response to her (I don’t think you get notification of that post?):

    “Fair enough, I either meant this on another comment, or only know about trafficking from folks who know it firsthand.”

  • Prostitution, and other forms of wrong, etc. have been recognized as immoral for hundreds of years, at least a several thousand.

    That, of course, doesn’t make it so.

    But I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel;-) when it comes to universal ethics, but constantly improve on what is true and untrue, encouraging every human toward deeper and deeper insight

    to what is true, what is good, what is right, what is compassionate, what is just.

    Prostitution and other forms distort human relationships, are degrading. Sexual intimacy is a way for a couple who are committed to each other to express deep caring.

    To instead charge money and turn sexuality into a superficial physical action is one of the more serious violations of ethics.

    Also, I spent my life working with young people, in a mental hospital working with emotionally disturbed children and teens, as a teacher for many years, and in other places including in juvenile hall.

    Sexual expression outside of committed relationship between two individuals almost always causes harm.

    Maybe there are a few who manage to avoid the bad results of immoral relationships.

    Lastly, you wrote, “if you have to choose between doing something you don’t want to in order to feed your kids, or letting them go hungry, how does shame or guilt improve anything?”

    I admit I am not familiar with any where that a family will starve, or even suffer malnutrition if their parent doesn’t prostitute themselves.

    Usually, there are other ways.
    However, I will take your word for this. There are some places on the globe where many children go to bed hungry, where some parents are severely limited in their options. My wife and I have read about such dire straits and support outreaches such as Mennonite Central Committee, World Vision, Habitat for Humanity, etc.

    Besides, I don’t think it is our place to heap “shame and guilt” on anyone who is doing something to keep their children from going to bed hungry.

    My original point was meant to emphasize that prostituting oneself ought to bring shame and guilt to the person from within.

    Our job–especially those of us who live in the western lap of luxury– isn’t to personally shame anyone caught in such a bind, but continue to lobby, petition,
    government leaders to change the way economics world, especially in impoverished countries, and to continue to support organizations which work to help parents there through micro-loans and many other means.

  • immortalwombat10 .

    If those two things are incompatible to you, then you are doing neither.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    I’ll have to check that out, thank you! And yeah, it’s so tragically easy to reduce people to a single, nonhuman aspect . . . which, ironically, is what I was accusing the sex industry of doing. Learn something new every day, huh? :P

  • ccws

    And verily I say unto thee, fair enough. My bad for not paying as much attention to notifications as I shoud (being an egregious email ignorer). Peace! B-)

  • Thank you my brother…

  • Enoch

    I would prefer that anti-sex trafficking advocates read Carl Sagan’s “The Demon Haunted World” particularly as it relates to moral panics, and begin asking very hard questions about the statistics used to justify all of the attention paid to this topic. While I have no doubt it exists (unlike the imagined world of Satanic ritual abuse), it seems to be a field of interest that attracts hacks and charlatans just the same. Public policy requires sober statistics and reasonable inquiry, not a flavor of the month moral outrage.

  • David SoyLatino Dillon

    This person says “Please stop….” “Please stop….” “Please stop….” What would this person like to see the church do?

  • Eris, elder daughter of Nyx

    I think/hope that’s going to be answered in part two of the series (bold by me):

    And that’s what Meg would like to ask today’s anti-trafficking activists. Be sure to come back next week when we cover Meg’s personal story, and see how she answers the question, “What can we do to reduce human trafficking?”

  • Herm

    Gsaseeker, your preferences are duly noted, thank you for taking the time to voice them. On this particular blog it is well noted that no human misery is ever a “flavor of the month”. If you have evidence that says human trafficking is not a problem then we need to be aware of such or many of us will continue on to waste our valuable time considering how best each of us can alleviate what we might be privileged to be able to. Please, that we not waste our limited time and love for all others of our body of Man, provide those sources that trivialize our pursuit for our considered evaluation. If you do not or cannot then your preferences remain just self-justified reasons for you not to feel alarmed to action. Below is a very short list of verifiable documentation that says Meg is not alone. We don’t want you or any of US to be alone, devalued, and/or subjugated against their will ever. Does this make any sense why Ben and Meg would offer space, time and first hand observations to public consideration, even if it goes no further than a month of flavorful interest? What if only one reader of this series goes on to develop, from just this new inspirational article, a successful cure for the single most destructive cancer to the body of mankind, greed/self-indulgence? Project on that, please.

    https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/civilrights/human_trafficking

    http://www.traffickingresourcecenter.org/material-type/statistics

    http://www.equalitynow.org/node/1010

    https://www.wearethorn.org/child-trafficking-statistics/

    http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/10-surprising-and-counterintuitive-facts-about-child-sex-trafficking

  • Enoch
  • Enoch

    The overwhelming majority of people who are trafficked are in fact used for non-sexual labor.

  • Meg

    Hi, I’m Meg, aka ‘This person” :) If you’re able to re-read it, there are several suggestions that don’t include the word ‘stop’ … I would also offer that critically thinking about the consequences and effects of what i shared would be great jumping off points for better approaches, philosophy, and action. I also hope that the next installment will offer more context and examples of how well-intended actions can hurt people in the sex trade. as always, blogs are limited on time, so i’ll do my best to answer any lingering questions if they come up. thanks for reading!

  • Meg

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read and respond :) So, I’ve got lots of thoughts on this but will try to keep them brief. This is where I’m going to catch shit from people, but it’s relevant and important to address if we want to do things well. I think the anti-trafficking movement has a long history of overt and subtle racism, misinformation, and inability to focus on more than just it’s moral outrage (see The Mann Act). I’m not a fan of current trafficking stats for many reasons – They’re not uniformly collected, different states/agencies have different criteria, and there is an incredible amount of conflation of SW and prostitution. this leads to people who are not victims being categorized as such, thus inflating trafficking numbers, public outrage, and impacting legislation and funding. This is why getting SW to the table where these conversations is critical, because there’s just far too much nuance and complexity for black and white statements and actions regarding SW/Trafficking
    And to be clear, many of the survivors I’ve worked with have experienced horrific ritual abuse. Believing that is up to you, but I’m not comfortable letting that go without acknowledging and validating the beyond-fucked up things they have had to endure.

  • Jennifer Darling

    No, I will not stop fighting Porn or strip clubs. No I will not stop supporting rescuers. No, I will not stop talking about the healing power of Jesus. NO

  • Jennifer Darling

    Basically they are saying that being a conservative Christian is a bad thing and I do not will not accept that premise. I will never stop fighting porn, I will support rescuers and I will NEVER stop talking about the healing power of Jesus…NEVER

  • Herm

    “Crunching these percentages into estimates of the number of foreign women in the various forms of sex work, they came up with an estimate of 3,812 women working against their will in the UK sex trade.

    Margin of error

    The researchers ringed this figure with warnings. The data, they said, was “very poor” and quantifying the subject was “extremely difficult”. Their final estimate was “very approximate”, “subject to a very large margin of error” and “should be treated with great caution” and the figure of 3,812 “should be regarded as an upper bound”.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/oct/20/trafficking-numbers-women-exaggerated

    “Despite plenty of evidence of the harm caused by criminalization, there’s still a tremendous amount of money in representing it as the “cure” for a situation it actually exacerbates. In an interview last May, Michael Horowitz, a fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute who led efforts to pass the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that the anti-trafficking movement has become more about securing grants for research than protecting victims. “Now it’s just one big federal entitlement program,” he said, “and everybody is more worried about where they’re going to get their next grant.””

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/03/27/lies-damned-lies-and-sex-work-statistics/

    “Despite the apparent confusion, human trafficking is quite clearly defined, at least by the United Nations. It is the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” It is distinct from debt bondage, forced labor and modern slavery, and the ILO is careful to warn against slippage between these terms. However, most organizations in this study use these terms interchangeably, even occasionally substituting “trafficking” with “sexual exploitation,” “prostitution,” “porn” or similar terms. It would be difficult to charge that such confusion is always a deliberate act of deception, but if we consider the comparative implications of actual trafficking and legal pornography (say, Playgirl – legal porn so mild this reporter might share it with her grandmother), we can see that the lack of clarity most organizations create serves to clump a wide range of very different activities together, many of which may raise moral questions but do not raise legal ones.”

    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28763-special-report-money-and-lies-in-anti-human-trafficking-ngos

    Thank you for the references! Above you will see excerpts taken from your references that I prefer you understand as corroborated by this above installment regarding human trafficking. The outrage alluded to in the article you are commenting your preferences on is directed at the NGO types who do blow everything out of character to the point of doing great damage to the victims. The outrage is that the victims are not met where they are at. The outrage is to activists who hold moral and ethical values that damage the victim rather than heal.

    I would prefer you read the article above with all its references before you assign it to the moral outrage flavor of the month. If anything “anti-sex trafficking advocates” are only a piece of the “anti-human trafficking” alluded to within the title of this installment.

    You wrote, “It is a question of the nature and extent, including dubious statistics.”

    I would submit that even if in the United Kingdom, in 2003, the high estimate for women sex trade workers, doing so against their will, is 3,812 (from your references) a little moral outrage might not be such a bad thing if it gets even a little more attention … just one of ours victimized would be too high … selfishly, especially, if she were my daughter or granddaughter.

    This article is not in any way attempting to capitalize off of our indignation beyond reforming our misguided destructive efforts toward the healing of the victims. This article clearly asks that we not use those groups, especially NGO’s, with ulterior motives who do seek to capitalize as our expert guides (my words and takeaway).

    Though your advice would be beneficial to combat prejudicially misleading numbers I don’t really see those numbers here, except as are in both lists of references you and I submitted to each other.

    It is always smart to be wary of numbers presented to commit the resources under our control to someone else’s cause. It is, also, smart to get involved enough to evaluate the numbers for yourself as being the one who is ultimately responsible for where your resources are invested. To not get involved because offered “hard and fast numbers” are really skewed to meet someone else’s greed/self-indulgence will end with no resources ever invested in or by our fellow Man. I would prefer that the resources I am responsible to, on this Earth, be squandered in an effort to help all of mankind survive than never to have risked what is mine because I’m just too ignorant of all the hard facts. If I do nothing people suffer and die simply because I didn’t try to help. If I don’t learn to do better every time I try to do something people will suffer and die because of my ignorance. That is only what this article is about. There is no soliciting my money, just my attention.

    I am in disagreement with your advice that there is something destructive when inspired to action by the “flavor of the month”. I am especially so when you append “flavor of the month” to this particular article written predominately in the first person that is not of some vague random number highlighting those other poor helpless victims we have yet to meet.

    Maybe, I’m wrong. Maybe, I’m just reading you wrong. I’m open to learning where you intend to go with this warning of “dubious statistics”. Thank you for offering your list of “dubious statistics” to balance mine. Apparently we both agree that there are victims of human trafficking. Speaking purely for myself, I need and welcome all articles such as in this series that I learned to do less harm and more healing for those victims we both agree exist. Love you!

  • Herm

    I’m stepping into it this time. In my mind and heart you are talking like the problem and not the solution. How do you fight Porn and strip clubs, at the root cause creating the demand or are you purely demanding legislation to stamp out the symptom? How do you determine that the rescuers you support are healing or exacerbating the wounds if your hands are not covered in the blood of the victims? Are you going to keep talking about the healing power of Jesus rather than being breathlessly too busy carrying your cross to buy time for mankind to heal by following your and Jesus’ example? Do you ask your Father in Heaven for forgiveness for all who injure and kill mankind in His name because they know not what they do? Might you be one of those ignorant because to you all the rest of us are those evil others to be stopped? Do you in everything do to others as you would have others do to you? Jesus healed the wounds on this Earth but did not stop nor even attempt to legislate against the causes. He only shows us the Way by healing. Can we say the same in His likeness? Love the Lord your God, neighbor, self and enemy to inherit eternal life as a child of God.

    You speak like the Pharisees and Sadducee who knew not the Son of God, and not like a child of God who loves all mankind. Not your fault but that of your teachers. It still is your responsibility that you will be held accountable to. Love you and pray your wounds may be healed when you accept the Rabbi into your heart and mind.

  • Maine_Skeptic

    I don’t think the author is saying there’s anything wrong with being a conservative Christian. I think she’s saying there are times when it’s appropriate to share your faith and times when it’s not.

    “…I will… I will… I will…”

    Good for you, but when did the conversation become about you?

  • Hilary

    No, it’s another “shut and FOR FUCKS SAKE LISTEN!!!!!!!!!! TO THE PEOPLE YOU THINK YOU ARE HELPING!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
    Because of course without actually listening to them, you know everything there is to thier stories and what they really need // full frontal sarcasm //

  • Hilary

    Thanks for posting this. Not that I’ve had any connection with any part of sex work, industry, or trafficking, but you just nailed down everything that made me uneasy about Christian involvement regarding it. If I ever do donate money to an organization I’ll run it by your criteria first. “Nothing about us, without us” 10^100

    The Jewish version of the Golden rule is “what is hateful to yourself, do not do to others. Everything else is commentary, go and study.” It’s the “go and study” part that is the most important to me, because without studying what your trying to accomplist its easy to do more harm than good.

  • Meg

    It’s the “go and study” part that is the most important to me … I love this! I’m so glad you jumped in!

  • otrotierra

    Or, rather than serving your own desires, you could find out what sex worker communities are asking of you. Today is a great day for you to start.

  • Moral positions that rail against behaviour or beliefs that some consider sinful, but that fail to recognize the humanity and needs of people involved *are* incompatible with helping those people.

    If your moral position is not informed by the needs and context of the most marginalized people, then you will inevitably harm them when you take action. I see it happening over and over again.

  • Agreed. So much anti-trafficking legislation and enforcement is, when you look closer, strictly a veil for anti-immigrant policy and xenophobia. Far too much “rescue” from trafficking situations beings with the trauma of being arrested and detained, and ends with deportation. It’s easy and popular to say that we care about victims of trafficking, but that is often not borne out in actions.

    While trafficking is real and very horrible, it also has become the flavour of the month – there is lots of anti-trafficking funding out there, and too much goes to groups that are at best doing nothing and at worst actively harming survivors.

    It’s very frustrating to me that so much misinformation and conflated (or sometimes just plain fabricated) statistics are regularly used in anti-trafficking advocacy. Effectively addressing the problem requires understanding the reality of the situation, and the reality is quite horrible enough to not need embellishment.

    I find it utterly repugnant that some groups and individuals use the narratives of trafficking and the experiences and images of survivors as a prop to attack consensual sex workers or to advocate against women’s bodily agency. It harms everyone – sex workers, trafficking survivors, organizations who are actually doing good work – and it’s manipulative and disingenuous.

  • Nikolaus1111

    Thanks for your comment Herm

    If you love all your fellow humans then you are already on your path, then you have discovered that this is all that matters.

    Those that judge put a block on their love – you cannot love and judge simultaneously.

    I think a common misconception on judgement and forgiveness exists: A judgement is not a negative on the person or people you are judging. Forgiveness is not a boon to those who you are forgiving. Judgement is a negative ONLY and solely on YOU, the judger. And forgiveness is only for your own benefit, the forgiver.

    So by judging you are separating yourself from the other, from your fellow man, from God.

    I get emotional with Christians specifically because they are so obviously trying, and so obviously failing. They’re looking for spiritual insight but they get stuck in a quagmire of outdated beliefs and misunderstood lessons. And some aren’t even aware of it – they think it’s OK to divide the world in good and bad, and they cause more harm than good. I’d also judge them if I gave up hope or if I asked them to change their ways in order for me to love them. I will continue to challenge their ignorance. I can’t judge anyone, really, for I know that any action taken is a direct result of their state of mind. No man can act beyond their level of awareness.

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much for this example. Very helpful.

  • Matthew

    My question is just how are you fighting, supporting, and ultimately healing? What do you do practically speaking? Can you offer at least one example? Thanks.

  • Mark

    I’m wondering if you even know what a “rescuer” is? Have you read anything about the porn industry and sex trade? So far, you seem to be only interested in repeating your Bible thumping, anti porn stance.

  • Falken

    I think the author’s saying being a conservative Christian is only a bad thing when the “conservative” part overtakes the “Christian” part. I’m glad you won’t stop fighting porn and will support rescuers, as long as they’re actual rescuers and not conditional rescuers. Also, I’d be happy if you joined with me and others to do something about gun violence, starving children, the homeless, and the various other bits of cruelty that are pervading the world and not just the bullet points that are easy to target.

  • Falken

    Sometimes a bit of humanity needs to be injected into people’s morality.

  • Do you understand that the antipathy towards conservative Christianity isn’t a knee jerk reaction nor is it a mere matter of opinion. I don’t have a problem with conservatives per se and liberals have their own issues which sometimes bother me. But conservatives do tend to moralise and be sticklers for doing what’s right. They also often reduce complex situations to unrealistic simplicity. I’ve seen Jesus’ healing power but rarely in worship sessions, healing meetings or by the laying on of hands. The greatest healing gift is love and more often than not the giver is less aware of it than the receiver.

    Unfortunately, fighting the peddlers of porn is more often than not a self-righteous crusade and is seen as such by those most hurt by it. When confronted with the woman caught in adultery Jesus went after the accusers, not because they were judgemental or sinners but because they were plain wrong, just like a judge would throw out a case of entrapment. A mission to close down the porn industry is certain to fail.

    If you have a heart to rescue people you must allow them not to be rescued, to reject you and carry on regardless without judgement. The prodigal son returned because his stomach was empty, his money was gone and the one safe place he knew was his father’s house.

  • Deborah West

    orthorim,
    I believe you are the one who is judging. Your own words “YOU christians” as if somehow that is a bad thing, in your judgement. You judge me as a person, I judge the sin. I am not poisoning my mind, but you are trying to poison other peoples minds against Christians. My heart and mind can love the people, but hate the sin. I can separate the two. God loves the person, but yet still hates sin. Sure, there are Christians who are hypocrites, but far fewer than the hypocrites of the secular world. I did not judge you, but yet you did me.

  • Deborah West

    Paul also called all Cretians liars. So Paul judged people outside the church. In the Gospel of Matthew the order is given for a sinning brother. First go to them privately, then take a few others, then go the church. I think you are right in that we shouldn’t judge people outside the church. But then, we shouldn’t judge the person, only the sin. And Paul did say ‘be not of this world’ even though we do have to live in it. Again, that in itself is a judgement. Paul also states that we are to comply with government authority. That would include the judicial system. A court passes judgement – which needs to be complied with. Again, judging the sin. There’s a huge difference is saying ‘you are a bad person’ and saying ‘what you did was wrong’. Be trying to say not to judge a sin is like saying that there are no consequences for sin.

  • Meg, I’ve been working with groups to help women from the sex trade for over a decade. I know full well what they need to be helped because I’ve been heavily involved with it. Your post is little more than telling conservative Christians to shut up about the industry and that is in no way helpful.

    To put this another way, if someone was an alcoholic and drinking to excess every day, you wouldn’t say they’re engaging in a healthy activity. When you’re helping them recover, it’s absurd to pretend that choosing to follow that action wasn’t contributing to their problems. If they choose to go back to it, it’s equally absurd to pretend that they’re not going to back to a situation that contributes to their problems and pain.

    The true nature of your posting here is clearly shown in this part of your post:

    Please stop focusing on the ‘Is sex work right or wrong?’ narrative and start focusing on people. We are all entitled to rights, respect, dignity and protections. Please stop limiting human rights to those you simply agree with.

    That says that sex work is a human right. It is entirely impossible to say you’re a Christian and think sex work is a human right. It goes directly against Scripture, directly against God and directly against Jesus. And you want Christians to shut up about that if we want to help people?

    I don’t disagree that everyone deserves dignity and respect. But sex work is NOT a human right.

    This just re-iterates your purpose here is to tell conservative Christians to shut up.

    Perhaps that wasn’t really your point. (Personally, I HIGHLY doubt that, but benefit of the doubt for a moment.) If that wasn’t your point, you really need to re-examine your writing method.

  • gimpi1

    Me, too.

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    I send a big hug to Meg. And thank you, brother Corey, for sharing her insights.

  • gimpi1

    Well, right off the bat, you listed prostitution and murder in the same breath. You understand that there’s a difference, right? One has a decided victim. The other – perhaps, perhaps not. That matters.

    Also, the whole point that Meg was trying to make is that many Christians who, with the best of intentions, attempt to “do something” about trafficking for sexual purposes wind up making the situation for the people they are trying to help, because their judgement affects how they see those people, what sort of help they offer, how they treat them. She’s pretty clear on this; if you can’t set your desire to condemn actions that you believe are immoral, don’t get involved. You’ll do more harm than good.

    Look up-thread at Ben’s information about a group setting up aid and daycare in and around brothels. There’s a huge effort not to judge, to meet people where they are and give what they need. The organization doing that is providing kids with safety and education, providing the women in the brothels with help and information, and a doorway out, if they want it. It works. It helps.

    Could you do that, feeling the way you do?

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    St Francis said: Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words… If someone who is marginalized has not first felt the love of Jesus through your RESPECT for her/him, they will never hear it no matter how much talking you do.

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Well spoken

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Simplemente, hay que escucharles tantito ?no?

  • gimpi1

    I believe there’s some evidence that the majority of people trafficked are not used in sex-work. People being trafficked are used as factory and farm labor, in nail-salons, in domestic service and as nannies, along with other forms of forced labor.

    I don’t know if one can logically say that all sex-work is exploitative because human-trafficking is a part of it – and not condemn farm-work or beauty-salons, since trafficking is part of those fields as well.

  • gimpi1

    And thank you for presenting such a sterling example of why some people simply shouldn’t be involved in any kind of outreach.

    If you can’t be civil and reasonable on a blog, I shudder to think of what message you might bring to a person you were “trying to help” in person.

    You don’t. To truly help someone, you have to respect them, to get them the help they can use. You need to see them as an individual, not a cartoon-character in some “spiritual war” that you are waging. You need to care about them as a person, not some “soul” to “win.”

    The “fools” here understand all this fine. It appears that you don’t.

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    I’m with you, brother- I’ve got as many issues with the Christian left as with the Christian right, lol. What you have done here is what l long to do: get the focus back on Jesus – and you’ve done it beautifully.

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    You are articulate, courageous, and compassionate. Thanks for helping us better understand a situation that we are highly ignorant about.

  • gimpi1

    Did you read the part about how you’re driving the very people you want to help away, worse off than before you started? That pretty much means that those, ““who are doing what they can to help women in need,” are not helping at all. They’re actively hurting the people they want to help.

    I think this is very simple. What do you want to do? Do you want to provide help for people caught up in human-trafficking? Or do you want to attack the sex-industry because it’s sinful? Because Meg is telling you can’t do both at the same time.

    You have to choose. Which is more important to you? What do you choose?

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Satanic ritual abuse most certainly does exist. But if it comforts you to believe it doesn’t, go ahead on.

  • gimpi1

    Perhaps you aren’t aware of it, but everything Meg referenced was about the use of slave labor. That’s the major issue with human trafficking, not just sex-abuse.

    The imported seafood industry is notorious for using slave-labor on fishing boats and in factories. Slave labor is used for farm-work, even in the U.S. (A farm in Florida was busted for using slaves not too long ago. They brought in people, confiscated their passports, locked them up and beat them if they didn’t achieve quotas or tried to escape.) Some clothing factories in Asia have been caught using slave labor, as have some South American cattle ranches. Nail salons in the U.S have been caught using slave-labor, again by confiscating passports and keeping “employees” locked up and refusing to pay them until a laundry-list of ever-growing”fees” are paid.

    All of this is done to keep costs down and profits for a few high. So, when we get cheap seafood, vegetables or services, we may be unknowingly involved with exploitation. Personally, I think a good rule of thumb is the old, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” If something is so cheap that no one could have been paid reasonably to make it or do it, it may be part of an exploitative practice.

    Everything Meg mentioned is a an industry with problems with trafficking and forced labor. That’s why she mentioned these things.

  • Part 2 of the interview is here– I highly recommend folks reading Meg’s full story:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/i-am-a-human-trafficking-survivor-and-this-is-my-story/

  • gimpi1

    “It is entirely impossible to say you’re a Christian and think sex work is a human right. It goes directly against Scripture, directly against God and directly against Jesus. And you want Christians to shut up about that if we want to help people?”

    What I read Meg as saying is that if you come into this work with that belief, you may well do more harm than good. You may very well have to decide. If you honestly can’t back-burner your belief in the sinful nature of sex-work, then your attempts at help may be toxic. You might be wiser to find another way to contribute to the world.

  • gimpi1

    Do you care if the way you present your message is doing more harm than good? Because that’s what I take a way from Meg’s article, many people are doing more harm than good (or just plain causing harm) because of their need to condemn.

    It’s not rescue if it leaves the people one was trying to help in worse straights – for instance, deported and abandoned in a third-world country or pulled away, but provided with no means of support and forced to go back to the situation one was “rescued” from and endure punishment for leaving. I think that’s the information she’s trying to give you.

    You appear to be saying that you simply don’t care if the “help” you believe in really helps at all. Is that true, or am I misreading you?

  • gimpi1

    No?

  • gimpi1

    Well, you sound as though you care more about making your statement than actually helping anybody. Is that true?

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Does “?que no?” work better? I could fall in love with the feline. :)

  • gimpi1

    She’s a real sweetie. Her name is Notaé. We found her in our driveway, begging. We took her in and cleaned her up, and eventually wound up re-homing her with a neighbor who had just retired and needed a bit of company. We still get visiting-privileges when he goes on vacation, however:-)

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Amen!

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Christians frequently explain away the things that Jesus said that don’t sit well with them… judge not, love your enemies, you cant serve bith God and money… but it’s harder to ignore his example. He never ranted against the underdogs, the weak, the poor and those who did not abide by their cultures code of purity. He, instead, called to account the powerful and the righteous.

  • And your comments just reinforce this column is a “shut up Christians” column, is not Christian at all itself and is endorsing things that go directly against Christ.

  • Jennifer, it’s clear this column is not written by a Christian and not endorsing Christian things. They don’t care about Christ. They just want to do whatever they want and not have anyone tell them they’re doing something wrong or hurtful.

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    That’s the good life – you get some cat love every now and then and still get to take your own vacation without worrying about her. :)

  • Expressing intimacy between two committed people is one way to value sexuality, but it’s not the only way people value sexuality.

    You suggest that viewing sex work as degrading is “universal ethics”, but that is not universal at all. Not even remotely. That is your moral belief that you would like everyone to share, but it’s not a position that is compatible with all systems of morality.

    Sex can also be fun, it can be a way to get to know a person, it can be a lucrative way to make a living, it can be a way to better understand yourself, it can be a part of healing trauma. Sex is many things to many people, and as long as it’s consensual, that’s okay.

    The vast, vast majority of people I know have sex outside of committed relationships and are unharmed by it. Perhaps you only see harm because that is what you want and expect to see. If you are interacting with people who share your same values about sex, of course they’re going to be harmed by having sex outside a relationship – not because that type of sex is inherently harmful, but because those people are violating their own values.

    I admit, I really can’t understand categorizing consensual sex between adults as one of the “more serious violations of ethics”, when there is so much violence and cruelty in the world, with people actively harming each other. Worrying about other people’s purity seems like it should be pretty low on the list compared to all the other ills in our world.

  • I can’t imagine anything more loving and Christlike than providing compassionate and appropriate help to those in need, without judgment, which is what Meg is advocating for.

  • Noah

    No worries.

  • Noah

    Ah. Had no idea.

  • You’ve been working in the trafficking industry for a decade? Which organization? What are your credentials? For someone to publicly tell a survivor that they basically don’t know what they’re talking about, it calls into question their credibility.

  • Faustina

    So that’s a “no” on these supposed credentials. How entirely expected.

  • I said I’ve been “working with” meaning either working directly as a volunteer at events or financially supporting groups. I was one of the first supporters of Annie Lobert’s “Hookers For Jesus” ministry in 2005. I’ve supported safe houses in Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Minnesota and California. I’ve worked directly to find outreach events with groups in Ohio, California, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and currently help fund a group that rescues underage girls forced into trafficking in southeast Asia along with continued funding of Annie, the Florida ministry, a Kansas City ministry and a northeast Arkansas shelter for women recovering from drug addiction. (Not sex, I get it, but dangerous addictive behavior.) I’ve physically volunteered with ministries in Tennessee, Missouri and Minnesota during the times I worked in ministry in those states.

    I could respect you if you would just be honest and admit this was an attempt to take a shot at Bible-focused Christians who won’t shut up and turn a blind eye to sinful behavior.

  • And by the way, Benjamin, I didn’t say she didn’t know what she was talking about…I said she was telling Christians to shut up and that sex work is not a human right. Her experiences are her own.

  • Enoch

    It exists in the way that any moral panic exists: In the minds of the mob. A mob that destroyed countless innocent lives and families (http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2014/01/fran_and_dan_keller_freed_two_of_the_last_victims_of_satanic_ritual_abuse.html) while occasionally catching a child sexual predator in the process (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capturing_the_Friedmans). It does not exist in any meaningful way, that is, the way in which the witch hunters of the 1980s claimed it existed.

  • Deborah West

    But He did say “go and sin no more”.

  • Deborah West

    The organization providing the women in the brothels with ‘help and information’ and ‘a doorway out’ has also judged those women. They have judged that what those women do is wrong therefore they are providing them with ‘help and information and a doorway out’. If they were not judging, then they simply wouldn’t be trying to help those women with an alternative. For the life of me, I don’t understand what the problem is with saying ‘this is wrong’ about something. It is not wrong to say murder is wrong, adultery is wrong, prostitution is wrong. What’s wrong would be NOT offering help and an alternative. So yes, it’s BECAUSE of the way I feel, that I can and do offer help and assistance to those in need. I have ‘judged’ them be in need. And I have yet to meet anyone who turned down my help. Some have been saved, others have not – that is their choice to make.

  • Meg

    My hope is that you’ll one day be able to go back, re-read my piece, and see it in the light which it was intended. Let’s be clear, being a volunteer or financially supporting an org does make you an informed person with wisdom or insights necessary to serve a marginalized, stigmatized population with specific challenges and needs. I read an article on brain surgery once in the Lancet, but I’m not foolish enough to think I understand Neuro-biology or educated enough to perform brain surgery.. For every sex worker who’s had little to no economic choice about the work they’re doing, for every Transgender person who’s left to trade sex or face homelessness, for every survivor who’s been forced into the trade then shamed for their involvement with it, I pray to the God you’ve implied I don’t believe in that you’re able to see more. I make no apologies for my defense and advocacy for those in the sex trade and I do so because of the damage that words like yours inflict. They breed stigma, isolation, and even violence and death for people who society judges and thinks less of. I don’t generally respond to such vitriol and I won’t be reading another word of yours, but I pray wisdom, perspective, and compassion for you. We are most dangerous when we think we’ve got it all figured out.
    Best to you, Jason.

  • Mark Weigel

    You took that wrong… I forgive you. I was referring to the fool that posted a remark saying these women have it coming and ask for it. Someone started to argue with the moron and I simply said you can not argue with a fool. It is not the fault of women that have sex crimes perpetrated on them. I counsel people every day. It’s not there fault most of the time.

  • Mark Weigel

    We already have a house that ministers to men. We have been asked to start one for women by a women’s advocate group. We know what we are doing, have a license and are a non-profit. Thanks.

  • Mark Weigel

    We help save their lives first of all. Then we talk to them later about their souls. Thanks.

  • Mark Weigel

    I was referring to the fool that posted a remark saying these women have it coming and ask for it. Someone started to argue with the moron and I simply said you can not argue with a fool. It is not the fault of women that have sex crimes perpetrated on them. I counsel people every day. It’s not there fault most of the time. Many of them are victims.

  • You said “I know what they need”.

    Um, no. You don’t. Going to a fundraiser doesn’t make you an expert in trafficking aftercare anymore than going to McDonalds makes you an expert in the food industry.

  • “…I think that a cycle of self-denial, shame, consumption and guilt can create some very unhealthy behaviours that at the end of the day are not ultimately about pornography, but about understanding and accepting ones own sexuality and having safe, compassionate space and partners to explore that with.”

    That’s a great take on the issue. It’s like when someone develops an eating disorder — there’s nothing wrong with the food, it’s that the person has developed an unhealthy mentality about food and about their own body.

  • Stuart Blessman

    Jesus never hated the sin. He always loved the sinner.

    We somehow have gotten that backwards. Hate the sin and the sinner that commits it with all our energy…then love the saint we’ve somehow cleaned up and rescued through sin management.

  • That’s a great comparison. :)

  • gimpi1

    This column is written by a Christian and this specific article was guest-written by a Christian. Ben and Meg have as much right to their view of Christ as you have to yours. It’s not anti-Christian at all; it’s offering tips on how Christians can do the work they say they want to do more effectively.

    Is the task of aiding people subjected to human trafficking more important to you than telling the world your views on sexual morality or immorality? Because you many have to choose. Do you care that you may be doing more harm than good? Because that may be what you are doing. That’s what I took away from this article.

    That said, I don’t really have a dog in this race. I don’t consider myself a Christian, so this is really between you, Meg and Ben. I don’t care at all about issues of Scripture. I care about helping people in dire straights. I took Meg’s information as being about how do that effectively. That’s all.

    I do feel if someone can’t do something effectively, they may be well advised to work on something else. There’s plenty of ways to help people. If your beliefs make it hard for you to help the those harmed by trafficking without hurting and shaming them, what’s wrong with looking for another way to help?

    For instance, I suffer from an aggressive form or rheumatoid arthritis. I can’t do much in the way of physical labor. I wanted to volunteer for some disaster-relief groups, but was at kind of a loss for what I could offer. However, I’m a graphic designer, and I know Adobe and other software backwards and forwards. I hit on offering my services as a web and print media designer for organizations setting up websites for donations and publicity. It plays to my strong-points and my weaknesses aren’t a problem. I can contribute without putting my boots on the ground.

  • gimpi1

    You’re not alone. Actually, as I understand it, people victimized by trafficking for sexual exploitation are a minority of trafficking victims. Trafficking for forced labor is actually more common, but – perhaps because it doesn’t have the sensational “appeal” of sexual trafficking – it doesn’t get anywhere near the attention.

    I think that’s part of the point she was trying to make. Human-trafficking is horrific, wether it’s done to staff a slave-brothel or a fishing-boat. We need to address it in all its forms, not just in sexual exploitation. I also think that’s a valid point.

  • gimpi1

    So, do you not care about the people who you may be pushing away? If you could be more effective by putting your judgment on a back-burner and just offering a that doorway without comment, would you be interested?

    I think it’s highly possible to care about enslaved women in brothels without focusing on the sexual aspects. People are enslaved in farm and domestic work, on fishing boats and in factories. Slavery can be fought with passion. It matters much more to me that someone is forced to labor against their will than the specific labor they are being forced to perform. I’m sure sexual-exploitation has a special horror, but men shanghaied on fishing-boats and tossed overboard to drown if they rebel are in a pretty horrific situation, too. I’m not going to judge them. If I’m not going to judge them, why should I judge women forced to work in the sex-trade. It’s the force I care about, not the sex.

    I care about results. I took Meg’s column as valuable information about getting better ones. She’s saying, from her view on the inside (if I read her correctly) that not offering judgement on the morality of those caught up in trafficking will make traumatized people more able to reach out for aid. If you want to help, isn’t that good to know?

    I really don’t understand why learning about ways to be more effective at work that you care deeply about is so controversial. What do you find so upsetting about Meg’s information?

  • gimpi1

    Ah you’re right. I proved the fool by not reading closely enough. Apologies.

  • Yes, my wife and I’ve read about that organization that set up the daycare center.

    That way of helping is wonderful and brings change for everyone.

    My objection to Meg’s article wasn’t related to her good efforts to help others, but in her statements that SW isn’t wrong.

    For instance, she wrote, “Rahab was unapologetic about her work, did amazing
    things, didn’t leave the industry,”

    !? I don’t know where Meg got information
    that Rahab didn’t leave prostitution.

    and
    “(sex work helped that happen, by the way)”

    I don’t understand how Meg can say that. It’s like saying stealing or lying every day helped me.

    and
    “I started to embrace and appreciate my time and work in the industry. ”
    “I generally liked the work I was doing.”
    “I’m well aware that SW changed my narrative, kept me grounded, and saved my life.”

    And

    “We are all entitled to rights, respect, dignity and
    protections. Please stop limiting human rights to those you simply agree with.”

    Every human being should have human rights and equality.

    But that doesn’t mean if he/she is engaged in immoral
    activity, he/she is “entitled to rights…” in the sense that she/he can stay in the immoral work of SW.

    A close friend and a relative are in law enforcement. So
    perhaps that is also why I see this differently. My friend spent quite a while
    in vice, arresting prostitutes, johns, and pimps, etc.

    He took a caring concern for those caught in immoral
    actions.

    That is entirely different from saying that a person can
    do SW because it isn’t immoral.

    Hopefully, others still caught in SW will find a way out through organizations like the one in Mumbai.

  • Nimblewill

    Thanks for the response. The problem within Christianity is that we too often say what we are against instead of what we are for. I think folks just want the same here. Tell us what can be done as bluntly as you tell us what we shouldn’t do. Again thanks. You are a brave soul.

  • Deborah West

    These are the statements that I find upsetting. Meg says “please stop arresting us”. Prostitution is a criminal act. So yes, prostitutes should be arrested. But so should the ‘johns’. And the ‘johns’ should also have a criminal record for their part. Meg say “stop protesting porn and stripclubs”. Again, no. With your silence, you CONDONE the act. Pornography and stripsclubs should be protested long and loudly. Meg said please stop telling us ‘that we were created for more”. Nope, because God did create humans ‘for more’. We are called to spread His Word. Meg says “please stop focusing on is sex work right or wrong”. Again, no. The Bible states clearly that either male or female prostitution is wrong. Meg says “please stop railing against the porn industry while shopping at _____” Lastly, no. The porn industry is evil. McDonald’s is not. It just sounds like she’s bitter because she is not financial able to ‘shop at _____. These are the statements that just don’t make any sense from a Christian point of view.
    My heart breaks for those women and children that are victims of sex trafficking. Truly, they are victims. And from what I’ve researched, they WANT to be rescued. Regardless of what Meg says.
    I do want to say that most of what Meg said, I do agree with. There are just those several points that smack of her hypocrisy, not mine.
    I have worked with sexual abuse victims. Most of them sincerely do want help. They want a better life. And a lot find that better life in Christ. They find it BECAUSE of the good Christians that help them, offer them protection, evangelize them, and continue to love them.
    We are not going to agree on every point. No one ever does. Perhaps I just clearly see the difference between a ‘hand out’ and a ‘hand up’.

  • gimpi1

    As I mentioned to another commentator, I think in Meg’s discussion of things like cheap seafood, hamburgers or clothing, these things are often produced using slave-labor. Using the McDonald’s example, South American cattle-ranches have been caught using slave-labor. If McDonald’s knowingly buys beef from a ranch keeping their costs down by enslaving people, yes, then McDonald’s is doing something evil. It’s not about her being bitter, it’s about not supporting industries that engage in trafficking. As I understand it, a majority of the victims of trafficking are not trafficked for sexual exploitation, they’re trafficked for forced labor.

    If you arrest a woman who has been forced to engage in prostitution and threaten her with deportation, you make it almost impossible for her to get help. We rightly sneer at Islamic societies who arrest girls who have been raped. Is arresting a trafficking victim who has been forced into prostitution any better? I don’t know if decriminalization is the way to go on this, but I’m willing to look at the evidence and see.

    That said, I don’t subscribe to your beliefs, so that makes it perhaps easier for me. I don’t care if something is Godly, or Biblical. I care if it helps people. Meg is offering her advice on how groups can be more effective. I think it’s quite likely valuable. Insider information almost always is. Perhaps I see some things clearly, too. Perhaps, because I care more about help than belief, I see that value.

    You’re right, we won’t agree. That’s fine, that’s what makes horses race.

  • whatareuthinking

    Whether the organization is Christian-based or not, the best practices for success in certain areas have been through survivor-led initiatives. There is not one solution, and the problem is enormous so it is very difficult for any single organization to effect real change. As an active participant in the anti-slavery movement, my belief is that all strategies are most effective when created by survivors, or under the consultation of survivors. I believe that is the message of the article.

  • XCellKen

    Hey Jason, I hope you are not divorced and remarried. Cause that is also a SIN which Jesus said something about

  • Bond Aficianado

    Interesting points, to which i dont fully agree with but most i do. Im not going to go through them fully just list a couple of bullet points and then leave and you can come scream at me if you want.

    1- sometimes, when one is entrapped in a vice (im not speaking of victims of HT but rather those who want to be where they are at) be it alcohol, sex, drugs, thought patterns etc you fill in the blank, they tend to see content rather than heart from a person and no matter how it is said or not said or done or not done they only see hate but its because of their own view of themselves (literally how they view God views them) and so never escape but perpetuate the anesthetizing of their heart of hearts. There’s much anger in those statements above and for the most part probably for understandable reasons. You can only love as much as your realization of how much youre loved.

    2- i wouldnt try and help anyone who doesnt want help, its sadly a waste of time and i dont say that to offend i say it because sometimes you arent supposed to help someone. sometimes they are supposed to be there so that they will be drawn out to which i believe thats what this person is boiling all these points down to and for that much i agree with them.

    3- and this is theological and im saying this simply because its rooted in a false idea. Rahab did change. period. im not going to bombard you with bible verses but it goes back to the above point: if one doesnt want help or change for their betterment, well shoot, let it be thats alright, its sad but alright. you cant force anyone to do anything. which leads to this final point:

    4- on both ends of the spectrum be it Christians leftist or right wings or even non christians and all those in between…all fail at this point-they dont follow the Spirit’s lead. they move out of their own strength and own thoughts and own deeds rather than being so in touch with the love of the Father that He is the one who moves through them to say do or wait in silence as to what others need.

    later

  • Bond Aficianado

    a couple things i noticed in the below statements is that one has to be tender to the Spirit when reaching anyone. There have been times when ive listened and spoken tenderly to the heart of someone and its transformed them and then theres times ive firmly been blatant with someone and they transformed. Both times i listened to what the Spirit was saying and thats what needs to happen. I believe that one cant just go into someone do what they want. Some people youre not even supposed to pray for, i have experiences with that. Regardless, its all timing and only God sees the heart. Ask Him what their heart needs. Ive spoken to those with OCD/Paranoia/Anti-Social personality disorders, listened to the voice of the Lord, said my simple sentence and their demeanor changes right before my eyes. This isnt because of me. Then theres times ive blurted out one word answers that i would never ever say because theyre too harsh but it was exactly what that person not only needed but what they actually wanted and it changes them. regardless, i believe the first avenue of approach with someone in HT is literally loving the Hell out of them and in the proper time Jesus can be tenderly introduced. He really is soft and gentle of heart.

  • Bond Aficianado

    i believe you both missed one anothers’ hearts in this conversation between you and Jason and the influence of the others interjecting into your conversation fueled this. Which is easily done in writing whether it be online, letter or text. But it was great to get an outside view of this discussion to which you are at points both wrong yet at other points both spot on and its sad you missed the points where you agreed. :)

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Hey Deborah – first I want to apologize if the way I started my last comment felt hurtful to you, soared. I was being thoughless. Now in regards to that delightful story that you referred to from John 7-8, you do realize that this is an interpolation, don’t you? Most modern translations set it apart or footnote it as such. The story first appears in non-canonical texts in the third century. It may have been passed down thru the oral tradition. But we don’t know that for sure- what we do know is that it is not in the earliest manuscripts, so we can’t accept it as authentic at the present time. However, if we look at another story of Jesus
    and a sinner woman – an uncontested story – that appears in the 7th chapter of Luke, we find that he proclaims her many sins have been forgiven because she “loved much”. (Oh to hear those words!) His parting comment to her was “Go in peace.” Grace and peace, Deborah.

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Arghh! That silly autocorrect!! That word was supposed to be sister. Not soared
    But since that word found its way in, I guess we’ll make it “sister soaring on the wings of eagles” :)

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Blissfully unaware of any moral mobs or witch hunts conducted by survivors of ritual abuse, I followed the two worthless links (what’s up with THAT, ese??) you posted to try to understand where you’re coming from. Having learned nothing about your position from the links, I will not however make the assumption that you simply imagined those moral mobs and witch hunts just because you refer to something outside the realm of my personal knowledge. I have, after all, lived on the margins of the dominant culture most of my life. But your arrogant attempt to define and deny the personal history of other human beings – and the phony links – have led me to wonder whether we have here someone who’s got something to hide….or less nefariously perhaps, just someone with a closed mind who counts it a small thing that a child molester or two got exposed along the sway. Whatever your problem is, fellow, may God have mercy on your soul.

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Thank you, Meg. God bless you.

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    P.S. I love you!

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Thank you.

  • Deborah West

    Thank you. I had read somewhere that story in John had been added later by (?) scribes. But I had forgotten that. Thanks for reminding me. But with the example you give, Jesus did say that her ‘sins’ were forgiven. Therefore, prostitution is a sin. With that being said, let me also say that I am a sinner, also. When I was younger, I drank too much and was rebellious. I know my sins have been forgiven. But I also know that my past sins do not hurt me anymore, therefore I doesn’t bother me for people to talk about it or remind me of it. It is just simply a fact of my life. But I did learn a lesson from it. I believe all people are sinners, some more than others. But those that can learn a life lesson from Christ, are the ones that can overcome sin (for the most part). Perhaps I came across as short, for that I apologize. I need to learn to use more words, not less. I may have friends that have committed murder, adultery, or even murder. I don’t know because they haven’t told me. I don’t ‘judge’ someone on their past. I am more concerned with their future. Most people don’t know about my past, but that doesn’t mean that I can just forget it and not learn from it. That’s doesn’t mean that I can continue on in sin and expect to get the ‘best’ from life. We have to learn from our mistakes and more forward. I think people in secular world use the word ‘judge’ way too harshly. They seem to think it means that they shouldn’t be called out on their sins.
    Again, thank you for your conversation. Peace be with you, also.

  • Enoch

    The first link is an article by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, about the real victims of Satanic ritual abuse: Those falsely accused. I mentioned Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World earlier.
    But you want more? The FBI’s KV Lanning wrote a report in 1992 defining a satanic murder as “one committed by two or more individuals who rationally plan the crime and whose primary motivation is to fulfill a prescribed satanic ritual calling for the murder.” Guess what? He could not identify a single case using that definition. Not one! But SRA proponents were claiming hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands of murders in the 1980s and early 1990s. And the strongest proponents and hack authors were discredited one after another: Lauren Stratford, who claimed she hailed from a multigenerational satanic family (claims proven fraudulent; she resurfaced years later falsely claiming to be a Holocaust survivor). Or Mike Warnke, who claimed he ran a satanic cult in college Debunked by conservative Christian skeptics, I might add. And there were others: Michelle Smith, Bob Larson, John Todd (he was ultimately found to be a sexual predator himself and given a 30 year prison sentence). These people profited off of Christian fundamentalist’s gullibility and paranoia, primarily, although it bled into the mainstream as well.

    So we have no substantiated cases of satanic ritual murder. And the rest? Even most conservative Christians are skeptics these days. But you know what is interesting? They also predict exactly what you did in your response to me here. As Lanning says in his report, “Another very important aspect of this paranoia is the belief that those who do not recognize the threat are evil and corrupt. In this extreme view, you are either with them or against them. You are either part of the solution or part of the problem.” So I am “someone who’s got something to hide…..or less nefariously perhaps just someone with a closed mind who counts it a small thing that a child molester or to got exposed along the way.” To be clear, I cited “Capturing the Friedmans” because it is an example where the hysteria netted a child abuser, but may have resulted in the wrongful conviction of his son. Although that case did not involve ritual abuse allegations, it did involve hypnosis and the discredited investigative techniques used in the McMartin and Kelly Michaels scandals. Michaels was accused of turning a child into a mouse. She spent 7 years in prison.

    Beliefs have consequences.

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    I’ve got a lot of work in front of me right now , but I will reply ASAP. In the meantime – who do you think your talking to here? A fundamentlist? An Evangelical? The first link you sent gave me a 404 error – the second one a choice of several links. You wanna pick one and resubmit?

  • Enoch

    Try it this time: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2014/01/fran_and_dan_keller_freed_two_of_the_last_victims_of_satanic_ritual_abuse.html

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capturing_the_Friedmans

    The parentheses appear to have made the links inoperable.
    I have no idea what your spiritual or religious beliefs are, but you do believe in God and apparently in satanic ritual abuse.

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    I had an openly gay professor at a university in California, Dr. Rodney Simard, with whom I became good friends. One time he told me the story of being invited by the senior pastor of a huge urban church to join him and his friends for “sex games”. He accepted the invitation. But when he got there, he said, he discovered they were having sex games all right – in the context of “satanic rituals”. He was so terrified by the experience he left town the following day. I ask you, if a grown man – an experienced man of the world – was so unnerved by the experience that he ” got the hell out of Dodge” (Memphis, in this case) – how do you think a child, with no way of escape, must feel?….To clarify your impression of who I am, let me explain that I am not a big believer in other people’s beliefs; I am a big believer in direct experience. Thank you for taking time to fix the links for me. Now, in exchange, I’m going to give you a “link”. You don’t even have to click on it. Just keep scrolling thru this comment. See that little cameo beside my comments? That is my own picture, the most recent one I have, a selfie I took in June. (If you think I look young for my age, thank you. I’m paleo). Now see the name? That is my true name. The F stands for Frances. In some circles I’m known as “Frankie” – but nearly everyone calls me Elaine. I make no comments on any public forum under a pseudonym. What I say carries my name and the image of my face right along with the words. And everything i have to say, l say in front of friend and foe and the NSA… as well your venerable FBI source and every author you cited. I currently reside in a rural community called New Market, Al. If you want to contact me directly, I’ll post my email address here in public view. I was born in Gadsden, Al, February 1, 1952 – it was leil shabbat, if you care to know, the sabbath of Parshat Bo, the story of liberation. A church – going relative of mine belonged to the Order of the Blood Moon. That wasn’t the whole name. It was TheBrotherhood of something, Order of the Blood Moon. The leader was Jerry Splitztozer; his wife did not participate. His name on the inside was Master. But my brother and I called him “The Nazi” behind his back. By the way, I didn’t know a thing about the Holocaust until I saw an exhibit at community college when I was 19. But – this was in the 1950’s and I guess we figured out from TV shows that Nazi meant bad guy.

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Slip of the thumb. I didn’t mean to post that. To continue. My name on the inside was Princess Bride of the Master. Mr and Mrs Robertson participated. A man whose name I dont remember, too. But he wasn’t with us all the way to the end. And also a man with a beard whose name on the inside was Jesus. My brother and I used to call him Jesus Man between ourselves, because he wasn’t the same as the Jesus of the church. Even as a child, I felt like he didn’t belong there. He wasn’t mean like the other adults. He grinned a lot. Maybe I would say now, he was simple. He was the “m” for all their S and M games. One time my brother tried to tell someone what they were doing to me, to us. The above mentioned relative laughed hysterically and said he had a bad dream. I didnt speak up to defend him. Then they did something to him that was something like what I think they mean nowadays when they say waterboarding, and I had to watch. Because he talked to someone on the outside. He didn’t have to go with us ever again after that. But he never was the same after that, and we never talked about it. Only once, a few years before my brother died, he said to me, ” l used to get panic attacks whenever I got around a man smoking a pipe. But as soon as I rembered that Jerry Splitztozzer smoked a pipe, the problem stopped.” I knew then was still my ally, but I didn’t say anything. They killed cats. The blood moon. That’s during the waning. There were white (lab?) coats and long long fingernails. If I say “occult things” you might think of the neo-pagans, but don’t. Because that’s not what I mean at all. It was different. Scary, not like the things the neo-pagans do. Nobody ever said the word Satan, that I can recall. We didn’t worship the devil. We worshipped Master. Master holds the keys yo heaven

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Master holds the key to heaven and hell. That’s what I had to say. We had a mock crucificion for Easter. But we never did anything on Halloween. I loved Halloween because it wasn’t creepy to me like Easter and Christmas. I can’t confirm or deny if anyone got murdered. If anyone did, it was Jesus Man. And if they did it wasn’t on purpose. One time when he was being the ‘m’, he collapsed and I never saw him again and nobody ever mentioned him. But most of those things in that article you sent me, I never heard of before – not from my own experience and not from anything any other survivor told me. And I also have no idea if the Order if the Blood Moon was hereditary for Splitztozer or if it bwss part of a network or anything like that. When I was nine, I got baptized. The Nazi and Mr Robertson took me into a little room without my relative there. The next day, I couldn’t understand what I was doing at school, because I was ” dead”. That’s all they did to me, except for the sex stuff, so I guess I got off lucky. A survivo I knew from the San Joaquin Valley usrd to get “crucified” upside down. And then, I shared a house in Santa Cruz with a lesbian couple, one of whom was a survivor. Her relative used to still try to get her to participate, even though she was a grown woman and didnt want to be in the inside. She lived in terror of him. So, Mrs Robertson died in a motel fire. And a female church going relative of mine said, “If she had been at home with her husband where she belonged, she wouldn’t have died.” (Sniff). Splitstozer died when I was ten, healthy and in the prime of life. A non-church going female relative of mine who never had a harsh word to say about anybody muttered. “Thank God that man is gone”. My brother grew up to marry a girl who was a survivor of ritual abuse. I felt that he felt he needed to take care of her because he had been unable to save me from them when hebwss six years old. Thank you for reading this. The end

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Likewise, a pleasure communicating with you, Deborah. I think it’s fascinating that we assume the woman’s “many sins” – which as I recall were not specified in the text – to be prostitution! The only sins a woman could commit in the NT were sexual? Jesus’ FOCUS of judgement was not against those who were in violation of the Judaic codes of purity but against those who were guilty of social injustice. Christendom has taught us all (Anabaptists as the exception) to reverse the focus of Jesus. Christians rant against the sins of the marginalized and remain silent in the face of the sins of the powerful. To really live as Jesus lived is unAmerican. The result is the alienation of the very people you think you are trying to reach. In their eyes, y’all look just like the Pharisees, instead if the disciples of Jesus. Why not have enough faith to let the Holy Spirit convict them of sin? That IS his job, isn’t it? And be happy to do what Jesus has called us to do: love. Teach morality by example. Just a thought. Oh, and one other thing about the story of the sinful women that occurred to me. Notice that Jesus said that her many sins were forgiven BECAUSE she loved much. Not because she believed much. Not because she got baptized the right way. Because she LOVED. Now, why the churches wrangle over “the plan of salvation”, sometimes condemning each other to hell because they don’t have it “right” they could have been loving each other – and by thus would the world have known they are truly his disciples….. This is so, so fundamental that I don’t know how I missed it for so long. I recently asked for the prayers of the church that I may truly love. I still keep missing it! It is so much easier to criticize and condemn and complain than it is to take the time to try to understand the other’s feelings. Grace and peace to you. And love

  • Enoch

    Hey Elaine. Thank you for sharing your experience. There are some verified accounts of ritual abuse. I once worked on a case involving a Mormon fundamentalist offshoot that engaged in religious ritual child sexual abuse. However, I was specifically referring to the far more dubious claims of Satanic ritual abuse. Your experience sounds much more like the Mormon case I worked on and the Hosanna Church scandal in Ponchatoula Louisiana. The latter case involved the former pastor of said church, Louis David Lamonica, who walked into a police department a few years after it had closed and confessed to several acts of child molestation, and also described a splinter sect that he had formed with former Hosanna congregants that engaged in satanic worship and other occult activities. The case was very unusual; there were no signs of occultic activity, but there was substantial evidence of child sexual abuse based on the pastor’s confession, videotaped statements of the pastor’s sons as well as statements that they had made while being treated by professional therapists and psychiatrists.

    Now, at trial, Lamonica and his sons recanted. Lamonica claimed that one Lois Mowbray had become his spiritual counselor and had basically used his position of influence over Lamonica to force him to falsely confess. The sons also claimed that Mowbray, their mother and another church member pressured and coerced them into making false allegations of sexual abuse. The judge ruled that a proposed expert witness, Dr. Richard Ofshe, a sociology professor at the University of California at Berkeley who concentrated on social psychology, could not offer testimony. His proposed testimony was on what it is that can lead someone to give a
    false confession and on the nature and structure of the mechanisms of influence that are used in high control groups. He further stated he did not intend to offer testimony as to whether statements made by the defendant were true or false. Defense counsel tendered Dr. Ofshe as an expert in the field of false confessions and influence in high-control organizations.

    Basically, the courts, both trial and appellate, found that the expert testimony was inadmissible because a) this was a case where the defendant had offered a voluntary confession, as opposed to one driven by interrogation techniques which was Ofshe’s true specialty, and b) the court found that the research on false confessions caused by high-control groups to be vague and speculative and, in any event, Ofshe had not done work in that area for ten years. So this testimony, which might have lent further support to Lamonica’s claims, was ruled inadmissible.

    I offer up this case because I think it presents an area where the conviction is totally defensible, where there may or may not have been ritual abuse, and where there is still some possibility of doubt given the testimony of the defendant and his sons. Maybe they were coerced into false confessions and accusations of child sexual abuse by third parties, who knows? Or maybe, given that these kids showed signs of child sexual abuse when treated by professional counselors, they didn’t want their father to go to prison forever and they wanted to recant. And maybe there was some occultic or ritual activity, or maybe it was just child sexual abuse.

    The Mormon breakaway sect case also involved ritual elements. Allen Rex Harrod was convicted of multiple counts of child sexual abuse. Among other things, he required at least one of his victims to submit weekly reports of her sexual encounters with defendant, entitled “Fruits of [Victim’s Name], Daughter of Isaac.” This all began when the victim was 8. Other victims included a prepubescent son, who was ordered to have sex with his parents and masturbated with this “prophet” Harrod, as well as an unrelated 14 year old girl sent by her parents from Texas who was given an anklet that Harrod claimed showed she was his concubine, and had to perform monthly “sacrifices” before her menstrual period began to save the baby that was lost (they believed a baby was lost as a result of menstrual cycles). Failure to do these sacrifices and maintain ritual purity following a menstruation meant that they had to have anal sex with this “prophet.” This “prophet” also sent his son to another member of the deviant cult, one Michael Lebrecque, then living in Texas, for the purpose of creating child pornography and receiving instruction in sexual activity. Lebrecque was also the father of the teenage girl sent to Harrod, and the two of them frequently communicated to each other about their bizarre religion.
    Now, this case certainly involved ritual activity, but to me it seems clear that these psychopaths are using the ritual activity as a pretext for banal but monstrous acts of child sexual abuse and incest. I would not be surprised to discover multigenerational incest that was oft-justified by some veneer of supernaturalism.
    Again, thank you for sharing your story. I admit that those examples exist, and I don’t want to minimize how horrible they are. If that is what you mean by ritual abuse then, as you can see from the above examples, I would not contest the existence of that kind of ritual abuse. The SRA phenomenon is a whole different level. For what it is worth, I think that these actions are monstrous. Neil Postman once called childhood one of our greatest humanitarian inventions, and I totally agree with that. These patriarchal and predatory cabals, or simply individuals and families, make it difficult or sometimes just impossible for their children to function as adults. One of those monsters from the Mormon cult created a sociopathic son who was imprisoned for rape by the time he reached his twenties. And on it goes…

  • Jennifer Darling

    Yes I have read extensively about a group called Operation Underground who are Christian men who take it upon themselves to rescue children, literally and physically go in and get them out of their slavery, rescuers.

  • Jennifer Darling

    There are many ways to personally fight these things and as we all should do I start at home, with my children, my sons and daughters. I hope to raise sons who would be disgusted at the idea of watching porn and raised my daughters to be women who would never think about selling their bodies. I do happen to help the poor and have housed the homeless. I have fed the hungry and dressed the naked. And not just through financial donations to organizations that so these things, but by sharing my house, giving food to hungry people either on the street or again, inviting to dine with me, those with no food or little resources of their own. I have personally taken clothes out of my closet to give to someone without, I remember one specific day a man came to put oil in my house and he was freezing in the dead of winter. I asked him if his coat was in the car and he said he didn’t have one, that the job just called this morning and he went out because his family needed the money. I got him some hot chocolate, microwaved because he was in a hurry, pulled a sweatshirt and a warm jacket from my closet and an extra pair of gloves out of a drawer and gave them to him and told him to keep them as he promised to return them. He left with tears in his eyes. I learned of a pregnant woman with 2 small children who didn’t even have one days worth of food in her house and went to the store and bought 2 weeks worth of food the same moment I learned of it. So, tell me again who I remind you of you arrogant self serving B@#$T&*%.

  • Jennifer Darling

    I am not talking about sex workers, I am talking about sex slaves, the two are different, VERY different. I have no respect for one and compassion and care for the other.

  • Jennifer Darling

    The best way is to start at home, to raise children and hopefully a generation who finds these things disgusting and who would never be consumers of this evil disgusting business. Outside of that I have been known to donate to organizations who rescue slave, especially children as that is my only means to help in that situation.

  • Herm

    Jennifer, I love your works as by your logic you have learned to be empathetic of other’s needs. This is so much more difficult than having the Spirit of God guiding you to the real needs, as He knows truly by the other’s heart and mind, to minister for God to heal. What about those who if left just a bit longer in their need they would have recognized from Whom came this singular opportunity to live? Your rewards are definitely rising from your efforts but only on Earth and not in Heaven. Moses smote the rock and lost his opportunity to enter the Promised Land because he made it seem like he was God, when he was only privileged to be a servant of God.

    ““Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:9-12

    You and I are one of the mothers and fathers spoken of in the following:

    ““If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27

    I desire that my children know that I am as perfect as any child of Man as are they. I desire that my children know to go directly to the only perfectly reliable source for healing as do I. My list of credits after acknowledging and following the lead of the Spirit of God is way too long to pen on this blog or in one week. I know most of them and God knows all of them. None of them would have happened without God’s direct intervention. None of them are by my grace except my choice to follow God’s lead in my heart and mind. I wish the same for my children, my siblings of Man and know it is so for my siblings of God.

    As a trained counselor, with scientific research to go by, watching porn, by son or daughter, is not a sin unto itself but is a symptom of a need to know more about one’s self and their role in life. There is only one Rabbi who can take them safely through those lessons and it isn’t their carnal parents.

    I have met men and women who have sold their bodies to survive and did so in everything they did to others as they would have others do to them. I would do all in my power to keep my children and grandchildren from being put in such a situation of choices. If they were I would not love them any less and know neither does God.

    I hope this helps you some to accept the Rabbi into your heart and mind. Then you will actually know the healing power of Jesus to be an example to your children as a child of God, sister of Christ. Bless you for making every effort to be as your father and mother, husband and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life has taught you is eternally constructive and productive. Jesus can bless you as His disciple to what is real and that will include trusting to be led by the Holy Spirit to actual suffering that He can heal through your efforts. By your fruits you aren’t there, yet.

    Love you! Really!!!

  • Herm

    Do not worry, you have made that clear. We worry because love your enemy (“for one”) is missing from your repertoire and not from Jesus’.

  • You have compassion for one group of people but not the other? I’m sorry ma’am, but you’ve completely missed the entire message of Jesus.

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much for the examples Jennifer.

    Do you think it´s possible to have sincere moral objections against such practices, but to also love those who are involved in them — both those who are trapped against their own will and those who are simply there voluntarily? Is it possible, do you think, to listen to the people involved in the industry and learn from what they have to say as well?

    I ask these questions because I think it´s important to remember it´s not so much in what we do or what we say, it´s HOW we “do” and the way we “say” things that matter the most.

  • F. Elaine Anderson

    Hey, friend. I thank YOU for reading what I wrote. I’ve never done that before. Never spoke more than a sentence or two and that only to other survivors or a trusted friend. And I never told my story in writing before. And thanks as well for taking the time to write me a long reply. If I may continue to impose upon your time, there’s a few more things I’d like to share with you.
    When I mentioned the white coats and claw-like nails, they also whited their faces, like clowns without any decoration. I don’t know why I think you need to know that, but it might be helpful to you in your work someday maybe. The other thing I wanted to mention from my past is that sometime around 2005 – many, many years after the fact – I asked the relative I mentioned, point blank: “Was Jerry Splitztozer a real Nazi?” He chuckled – chuckled! – and said, “Oh, he was a FINE German craftsman.” I wasn’t exactly surprised that he didn’t confirm or deny anything, wasn’t surprised that he didn’t jump at the chance to break the rule of silence. I think what hit me with the most impact was that fifty years later, his love for and loyalty to Jerry Splitztozer still trumped everything else…(I did confront him directly, though, about the sexual relationship he imposed on me as a child outside of the Order of the Blood Moon. And even though I gave him a written statement declaring that I was not looking for justice, revenge or reparations, that all i wanted was the kind of human respect that a simple “Im sorry” would show, his wife retained an attorney against me. My half-sister and my brother stood by me; my cousin “poo-poo’ed” what i said as unimportant. He did offer, through the letter i got from the attorney, to pay for my counseling – I declined to accept. I went to visit him when he was in critical condition one time in the hospital and asked him if there was anything he wanted to say to me. “Yes!” He said, and then he proceeded to tell me where his insurance papers were in case his wife couldnt find them….)
    When I read through the first link you sent, my initial reaction was….. incredulity. And it wasn’t entirely because of the fact that the details “reported” don’t line up with anything I remember, or any of the few details any other survivor shared with me. Along the same lines, neither I nor any other survivor I know ever expressed the slightest inclination to pursue “legal justice”. On my part, it wouldnt have been pragmatic, even if i had wanted to, which I didn’t. My relative was a model citizen with a security clearance. Reserved, courteous, moderate in his speech and conduct, he was down- to- the- penny scrupulous in business transactions and taxes. He tithed to the church, and even though born and raised a southern white male, he did not make racist remarks or treat people if color discourteously. As for me, I was a counter-culturist, a rabble-rouser, an outspoken social critic, and a misfit….. as well as being intellectually gifted enough to have understood, had i given it any thought, that no imperial court would ever rule in my favor. The best i could hope for would be the sound of that “hysterical laughter” and the brush off -” Ah, just some bad dreams”. Oh, fire. Thats another thing i forgot to tell you. There were always flames. As late as my early 40’s, i used to like to put myself in an altered state of consciousness by staring at the flames in the fireplace, and when i would “come back”, i would have no sense how much time had passed. Once i began to identify that as maintaining an unhealthy connection with my past, i quit doing it. To continue (I do have a point here, lol) – I never met a survivor of ritual abuse who had the slighest enthusiasm for talking about what happened, except for a word or two to reassure each other that “you’re not alone”. Not only because of the power of the rule of silence and the other factors I mentioned above, but simply because it “costs” more to speak than it does to just move on and focus on being strong and resilient in the here and now (The internationally renowned counter terrorist trainer Nirmalya Bhomick spoke for me when he said, “Living well is the highest form of revenge”). And I will say, knowing that this flies in the face of modern wisdom: speaking is NOT catharic. As far as me opening up to you, a stranger, an intellectual who doesnt even question the right of civilization to exist (!), you weren’t my friend until AFTER I told you. :) What you did was draw the line in the sand, and I gave my full concentration to the section if whether or not to cross it. Writing that account for you was an act of combat, and I engaged it with full awareness of the potential consequences. Look, I’ve been whole for years. I’m happy-spirited. I take a lot of pride in my consistent high energy levels and mental clarity (I eat right). But over the last two days, I’ve been fighting off feelings of lethargy, being spaced out and just wanting to sleep in the aftermath of writing that to you. I’m not feeling sorry for myself – it will pass. But I am trying to communicate something about the Wikipedia link. Now, I don’t want to be so arrogant as to presume that just because something doesn’t fit inside my experience and worldview that it isn’t real. On the other hand, juxtapose the info in that link over against the perspective of an insider. GS, theres something wrong with this picture! Not just in the extravagant details, but in the m.o. as well. I’m going to throw this out there and you can take or leave it. I think what happened in the eighties was a clever smokescreen, and neither the moral mob nor the rationlists (each side responding according to the demands of their respective worldview) called it for what it was. The kind of public awareness created by all the hype practically guarantees that if anyone ever does break through the rule of silence and speak of their personal history, they will be met with laughter and “Been having some seriously bad dreams, haven’t you?”
    BTW. if God were to offer me to get born again – if you will – into a family that protected me and respected my body and my personhood, d’ya know what I’d say? No, thanks. :) No thanks. Everyone I’ve interracted with along the way has played a part in me becoming who I am today. And since I’m happy with that, I just say instead, God have mercy on their souls…
    One final comment – the issue of beliefs. I have a big problem with doctrine of all kinds – religious dogma, political ideology, academic theory (Grad school drop-out in linguistics – – just couldn’t stop laughing long enough to take the Chomskians seriously). Mostly, Seeker, I find all that stuff boring. And besides, it stifles mental freedom. So here’s what I do believe: civilized human beings are lemmings rushing toward the cliff of environmental draw-down, dragging the rest of the biosphere along for the ride. And with all due respect to Derrick Jensen (Lierre Keith, Aric McBay) – the most comprehensive and powerful program to subvert the overlapping hierarchies of economic/ political/ military power – as well as the supporting pillars of patriarchy, racism, and other dominance games – can be found in the orthopraxy of the first century followers of Jesus (please note! There was no orthodoxy in the emerging ekklesia until the institutional element of the movement, led by a network if bishops and directed from Rome, married the most powerful terrorist state the world has ever known. And was given the legal authority to have anyone possessing documents counter to their beliefs….executed. Thus was an exuberant, fearless, avant-guard counter culture duly domesticated.) But before that time the Jesus people countered violence (the State, now as then, was built on and maintained by violence) with nonviolence. They undermined its ultimate threat (capital punishment) by treating death as a reward. They countered the money game by forming their own share economies. They countered the culture of dominance with an ethic of service. They countered patriarchy by renouncing their extended families and creating a new, multi-ethnic family among themselves. Some had women leaders. (History speaks more loudly of this than the imperial canon does. They subverted the divine mandate of the empire (yes, never was there an empire lacking the blessing of the god in whom they trust!) by transferring the titles of Caesar to THEIR leader: sin of god, savior, redeemer, lord, the very God, the bringer of peace on earth. As one historian put it – that was either a low lampoon or it was high treason. Take your pick, but the last I heard, Rome wasn’t doing a lot of laughing. When Paul wrote “Christ crucified” everybody in that historical context understood: Here is an anti-imperialist personage (crucifiction was a political execution reserved for those who defied – violently or non violently – the power of Rome. And also for slaves who were relentlessly disobedient – same concept.) When he said “Jesus is lord” – the corollary was a given: “Caesar is not.” By the way, thus is the meaning behind “Call no man your father” made clear. Let’s make that “pater patrae” (sp?) – father of the nations. Let’s see… now this was the title of Gandhi?..Jacques Ellul….?or was it the “princeps”of Rome. Now, am i saying this is a fail-proof strategy? Obviously not. It was once subverted. But if we can learn to renounce the idolatry of the state once and for all, and the concommitant gods of comfort and convenience, then I say we’ve got a fighting chance here. Grace and peace to you, friend. :)

  • Todd

    Her statement was actually about supporting and helping. And telling others about the healing power of Jesus Christ is boldly showing more love than any other suggestions here by far.

  • Todd

    Keep planting the seeds Jennifer, God will cause the growth ;)

  • gimpi1

    The person who wrote the article, who is an actual survivor of trafficking, says her statement is not helpful or loving. I’m willing to take her word for it. May I ask, why aren’t you?

  • Sara

    I too am very passionate about ending and preventing human trafficking. If you are looking for a way to support, I have a petition to increase human trafficking awareness and punishments at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/499/023/591/demand-a-more-severe-punishment-for-human-traffickers/
    I would really appreciate your support. I really want to see this change happen.

  • If you are facing violence and want to fight fear with justice, check out ZARIYA (www.zariyaindia.org). We know it is difficult to reach out for help — With ZARIYA, submit just one piece of contact information and get help easily and anonymously! You’ll be connected to a counsellor within 48 hours at not charge.

  • Women Like Us foundation

    I believe one-day human trafficking will be a thing of the past, but the government needs to do more. Laws need to be put in place to prevent such things from happening.

  • Conservative “Christians” vote for deregulated capitalism and then beat up on people for trying to survive under it. Abusive and violent ideology.