*Christie had already spent her 9-year-old life abused by both of her parents, in 4 different foster care homes, and plagued with the sorrowing and constant worry of if anyone would ever come into her life and stay. She had been physically, emotionally, and sexually abused in 2 of the 4 foster homes, the last of which I had played a role in removing her from.
I distinctly remember the day that I was driving her home from school and she looked at me with the eyes of a child who desperately wanted to be loved and said, “Coral, will you adopt me?” The words broke my heart, not only for her pain that she clearly felt but also for the pain of not being able to say, “Yes.”
I was unmarried, in college, barely had any money of my own, and was in no place to permanently care for an emotionally traumatized 9-year-old. I felt this child’s pain as if it were my own and it stirred up the beginning of what has often distressed me to tears.
I had grown up with privileges that I had taken for granted my entire life. Watching Christie grow up without a home, parents, or even one stable person in her life that she knew would always be there, opened my eyes to what was beyond my “practically perfect” life. I knew I had to do something to help kids in Christie’s situation and other children in need of help. I couldn’t sit idly by after seeing first hand the amount of pain a child can be subject to. It was overwhelming to realize just how much pain and suffering children, even in our first world country, had the misfortune of feeling.
Christie represented the millions of children I felt incapable of helping. How can “little old me” really do anything to help all the children experiencing abuse and abandonment in the world? Thinking about the amount of anguish experienced by children in the world is extremely overwhelming. Along with millions of children in her situation, who have been abused and are left without a home to call their own, there are also millions of children who are being sex trafficked and who are victims of child pornography.
People often think of sex trafficking as a “foreign issue” but it’s happening all over the United States as well. There are over 4000 brothels disguised as massage businesses in the United States. Pedophiles who want to have sex with children can also get access to minors who are sex trafficked victims through craigslist and backpages.com. There are also many children who are victims of “webcam sex tourism,” otherwise known as child pornography.
The Reality of Child Exploitation
Blake Lively gave an emotional speech about the reality of child pornography at Variety’s 2017 Power of Women Conference in New York City this past April.
Being a mother of young children herself, she said it was devastating to hear the facts about this issue when she asked a law enforcement officer about the details of child pornography. She said, “Unspeakable things happen but I’m going to speak about them because I feel like if these kids are experiencing this, the least that they deserve is for us to hear about what’s actually happening to them.”
She went on to explain that children and even infants that still have the embellicul cord attached aren’t just being touched. She said, “There is penetration. There is extreme torture and bondage. There’s beastiality which is having an animal penetrate the child or infant. There’s incenst. Anything that you can think of is out there.”
Children are ideal victims because only 10% of them speak up after being abused and they don’t make great witnesses when they do speak up.
Approximately 50-100% of those who watch child pornography will end up sexually abusing a child in the future. Teresa Downing spoke on an In Plain Sight podcast episode (you can find this episode here) and said that “many buyers who are in committed dating and marital relationships say that they buy (sex with victims) because they can do things to the people (including children and infants) that they purchase that they can’t do to their every day partners. Whether that be bondage or reenactments of some kind of violence or other fantasy. Often time it starts with pornography. They want to enact what they see online.”
The statement that sexual abuse most often stems from viewing pornography is proven time and time again. One example of this is covered in this news article that tells the story of a man from Delaware who was convicted of possession of child pornography, unlawful sexual contact with a child under 13, and attempted murder. The child was playing outside with her neighborhood friends when the man started talking to her and lured her into his car. He then sexually assaulted her and threw her into a lake. She was able to get out of the lake and was rescued after someone spotted her walking around in very little clothing later that day. It’s clear that child pornography is disgusting in itself and it also frequently leads to more child abuse and exploitation by the men who are watching it.
The Reality of Sex-Trafficking
Most victims of child pornography in the United States are kidnapped or are exploited by someone they already know but in other countries, including India, the Philippines, China, and Russia, many children are sold into the sex trafficking business by their own families who are in dire need of money.
In this article written by PRI, it tells the sorrowing account of a girl named Panshi, age 14, who thought she was going to the mall and dinner with her mom and sister, but was instead taken to her aunts house where she was raped for 10 days straight to earn her family money. Her mother and aunt stood outside the door listening to her screams of protest but her mother didn’t take her home until Panshi fell violently sick.
There are over 2 million children who are victims of sex-trafficking. Operation Underground Railroad is an incredible organization that has rescued 693 victims and assisted in the arrest of over 300 traffickers since they began their efforts 3 years ago. Their efforts are incredibly important because the reality of child exploitation and sex-trafficking is terrible and distressing.
There are millions upon millions of stories similar to the 4-year-old girl and Panshi’s stories. I was witness to the suffering of one of these children. Every single day I saw Christie struggling as she wondered if anyone would come and save her; if anyone would come and love her. Fortunately due to the the foster care systems, she wasn’t in as much pain as she had previously been in, but seeing her struggles first hand still made me want to do everything I can to help other children in need.
Making a difference for children who are plagued by such enormous and sickening problems can seem impossible, but by doing a few simple things you really can make a difference. I’ve found that if I spend less time worrying about the little things that don’t really matter, I have more time to focus on the people in the world that need our help.
Here are 5 things YOU can do to help make a difference in the lives of children who are victims of sex trafficking, child pornography, kidnapping and sexual assault:
1. Spread Awareness of the issue and it’s prevalence: By spreading awareness, more people will be willing to help and donate to the cause.
2. Donate to Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that rescues victims of sex trafficking: Donations directly affect the lives of children as the money will go towards rescuing more children. You can also contribute to further rescue operations by buying The Abolitionists. (Trailer below)
3. Buy one of my handmade bracelets and 20% of the profit will be donated to Operation Underground Railroad.
4. Listen to the In Plain Sight podcast channel that offers additional information on the actions you can take to help the cause.
5. Stop the demand: Fight the New Drug provides information and articles on how pornography directly impacts the demand for sex trafficking and adult and child exploitation. Refuse to support the demand by watching pornography or buying sex.
6. Start a Anti-Trafficking group in your church or community that’s purpose will be to spread awareness and inspire people to take a stand against sex trafficking. Don’t wait for someone else to do something about this. YOU can be the one who does something about it! Starting a group or organization is a great way to spread awareness and take steps that will make a difference.
7. Teach your children to respect women and respect their own bodies. Teach your sons and daughters that they should try to have control over their thoughts and actions despite how those around them dress and act. You can’t change other people but you can change yourself. Also teach them the harmful effects of pornography- not just how it will affect them but how it affects victims of sexual exploitation. Of course, traffickers and child abusers may have had excellent parents that taught them these skills but making sure we do our part as parents is an extra prevention against more people adding to this devastation.
8. To help children like Christie, think of adoption as equal to having a biological child instead of thinking of it as a last resort. As long as there are orphaned children in the world, helping them should be one of our priorities. I believe we should be more concerned with helping the children on the earth that are without homes and families than with bringing new children into the world. These children didn’t choose to be born into a life where they are abused, moved from home to home, and parentless but we CAN choose to bring them into our families as our own.
9. Turn on your Amber Alerts- I was completely appalled with myself when I realized I had turned my amber alerts off. Yes, they may be annoying but don’t you think the parents of the missing child are feeling annoyed, devastated, helpless, and a million other upsetting emotions because their child is missing? We need to be there for each other and think about how we would feel if someone took our child. Would you want them to turn off their Amber Alerts because of the inconvenience of it?
*Name of child referred to as “Christie” has been changed for privacy reasons.