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Photo Credit: NSVRC

By Aaron Gaglia (@GagliaAC)

Recently, the European Union released its first “Trafficking in human beingsreport. This report, providing data concerning human trafficking in the EU from 2008-2010, revealed that sexual exploitation is the most prevalent and growing type of trafficking in the EU. Women make up 96% of all people trafficked for sexual exploitation and 68% of all people trafficked (girls make up 12% of all people trafficked). Due to the systemic and corporate aspect of the crime, the gravity is often felt impersonally without grasping what exactly this great evil is. Today, I hope to help bridge that gap by looking at sex trafficking through the lens of sexual assault, revealing that sex trafficking is a systemic and extreme expression of the personal sexual assault of a human being.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. According to SAAM’s webpage, the goal of this month is “to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.” It is a month to open our eyes to the disgusting vileness of sexual violence with the goal of healing and prevention. This year’s campaign is focused specifically on promoting healthy child sexuality and its role in preventing child sexual abuse. So, what then is considered child sexual abuse.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), child sexual abuse can range from voyeurism and exhibitionism to touching and penetration and includes child sexual exploitation (i.e. sex trafficking). Though child sexual abuse may include violence, since a child is a minor, by definition all sexual activity between a child and adult is sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse, more commonly involves psychological manipulation such as threatening to hurt the child’s family, etc. Girls are still three times more likely to be sexually abused than boys (the ratio is even higher with sex trafficking, specifically). Sexual abuse is a huge problem with 16.3% of adolescents having been sexually abused in the last year and more than a quarter of people having been sexually abused during their lifetime.

Though trafficking affects both children and adults, the average age of a into prostitution is 12 years old and is continually growing younger. Oftentimes families are desperate for money and either knowingly or unknowingly sell their children into this industry of child sexual abuse. Moreover, under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, any prostituted minor is by definition a victim of sex trafficking. The anti-trafficking organization A21 Campaign describes the typical life of a sex trafficking victim in this way:

“After a trafficking journey that typically involves deception, rape, beatings, and constant threats, victims are often forced to live in confining and unsanitary conditions. Once formally put to work, human trafficking victims can be forced to service from 40 to 110 customers in one day. Malnutrition, sleep deprivation, as well as emotional and physical abuse become part of the day-to-day routine.”

We must truly come to terms with the fact that the machine of sex trafficking is made up of individuals who are continually sexually abused and violated. It is an industry of the violent sexual assault and abuse of women and children. It is an industry devoted to stripping women of their dignity, rights, and privacy—an industry that turns women made in the image of God into mere products to be consumed and abused. And as shown above, sex trafficking victims are victims of multiple types of abuse from many different people. They are abused by both those trafficking them and those buying them. They are not assaulted once or occasionally, but continually. They are stripped of their dignity and forced to be abused as their job.

The EU study shows that this great evil, as of yet, is not being defeated; it is growing. The systematic, organized, and violent abuse of girls is becoming more and more prevalent. These children need an advocate, someone who will rescue them, restore them, and punish the perpetrators so that they will no longer sexually abuse children.

By God’s grace, awareness about this evil is growing and more and more people are fighting to end this evil. Though the EU study is great cause to mourn, the good news is that there are organizations that are fighting it in Europe. One such organization is the A21 Campaign. This organization, founded in 2008 by Christine and Nick Caine of Hillsong fame, seeks to holistically fight trafficking by focusing on prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships.

This criminal industry will continue to grow unless more and more people stand up for what is right and work to end this evil. We must dignify and respect women by not turning a blind eye to this evil but by advocating for the enslaved. What better way to remember Sexual Assault Awareness Month, then by taking a step to end this evil.

For more info about how you can get involved in fighting sex trafficking, here are a few links:

A21 Campaign

#EndItMovement

International Justice Mission