You’ve heard the River Story, right? I first heard it from Jim Wallis, but it seems to be a popular parable. I heard it invoked again at the meeting of Bread for the World activists last week.
It occurs to me that is the context within which I have heard it used: ending poverty.
But ever since we screened Call + Response, I’ve been thinking about something Kevin Bales says in it:
This is an economic crime. People do not enslave people to be mean to them. They do it to make a profit.
They do it to make a profit.
In other words, human trafficking/modern-day slavery follows that most basic of economic principles: supply and demand. Traffickers make money because people are willing to pay for the supply they offer. In this case, people. People sold for labor or for sex.
Rescuing trafficking victims and supplying them with much-needed care is, obviously, vital work. Work that requires a dedicated long-term, interdisciplinary approach. The best example of which I am aware is Anne’s House.
But, as the River Story reminds us, while that good, vital work of providing care for victims happens, we must simultaneously send people up the river to find out who and/or what is pushing them into the river – and stop it!
International Justice Mission does a good job of this by prosecuting traffickers.
But even that isn’t quite all the way up the river, is it? It seems to me that source problem is people who seek to buy people. If we end the demand for people (for sex and for labor) we will end slavery.
End. Slavery. That’s really what this is all about.
Those best doing that work, at least here in the Chicago area, are CAASE and their companion effort, End Demand IL. I hope you’ll check out their work and support them.
CAASE Executive Director, Rachel Durchslag, was featured in Huffington Post last week. Here’s a taste:
Most johns (men who buy sex) know that they cause harm when they support the sex trade, but they continue to buy sex because they face very few consequences. I know this because I conducted a study that interviewed 113 johns in Chicago, and only 7 percent of those interviewed had ever been arrested for buying sex. When men are targeted by law enforcement it’s called a “reverse sting.” Why is it a reversal to arrest purchasers?
It’s a reversal for our culture because purchasers are men, and as a society we have always blamed women for prostitution. This needs to change. If there were no demand, there would be no prostitution.
Their work is producing good results, making a real difference. Here’s more from Huff Post:
One Chicago study revealed that, on average, women entered prostitution at the age of 16. Girls are often recruited by someone they have come to trust, even by a boyfriend or family member. Until our Illinois Safe Children Act passed in 2010, minors in prostitution were treated as criminals. Now, no minors in Illinois can be prosecuted for prostitution, the term “juvenile prostitute” has been removed from the books, and there are increased penalties in Illinois for pimps and johns.
Our law enforcement partners are also stepping up. Just this summer, we saw a huge bust in Cook County that brought down nine traffickers who were selling women and girls. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Sheriff Tom Dart said that new wiretapping capabilities from the Illinois Safe Children Act were crucial to building the case. It wasn’t largely publicized as part of the sting, but more than 50 johns were also arrested.
One way Woodridge UMC is attempting to end demand is by talking honestly with our young men about how our culture objectifies women and how that objectification denies their basic humanity. We hope our young men will be part of the generation that changes that!
How about you? What are some ways you are ending demand for slavery?