Uncomfortable topics and difficult conversations. I’m thankful to be part of a church that doesn’t shy away from these things. Summit engages a wide range of such topics, but in March we specifically looked at four injustices in our world. Four I-can’t-believe-this-stuff-is-happening-in-our-world-and-even-in-my-neighborhood kinds of injustices.
One of these was human trafficking. Faced with the reality of 45 million people currently trapped in slavery—more than at any other point in history—what are we to do? How can we absorb this information, escape paralysis, and be moved to action? Our conversation in March yielded a realization that many of you have questions about these very things. This post aims to topically address many of the questions posed that evening.
As with any matter larger than ourselves, we must partner with others to effectively work toward positive change. Thankfully, there are many organizations already blazing trails on the front lines of this fight, amassing numerous success stories as they go. Globally, we work with International Justice Mission (IJM) as they partner with local law enforcement in the countries where they work. They begin by helping both victims and perpetrators of violence to move through existing legal structures. As they do this, three things happen: they develop relationships within the existing system, they begin to uncover where the system is broken, and they work toward proving the system can actually work.
Locally, we partner with Samaritan Village, a recovery program that helps survivors of human trafficking who have been victims of sexual exploitation and chemical dependency. Samaritan Village helps to identify these women and build long-term care programs that address their specific care needs, walking alongside them toward healing.
Rescuing victims can take a number of forms. IJM spends extensive time doing reconnaissance work in gathering information related to potential traffickers, trafficking sites, and methods. At times they will send investigators posing as traffickers or buyers to obtain inside information needed for action. Again, partnering with local law enforcement, at times they will perform raids to rescue victims. Other times it might take the form of legal action taken against a labor trafficker to force release of those he or she has held captive.
Samaritan Village often works with recent survivors of trafficking, sometimes being identified through the local jail system or through a personal relationship developed through the staff. They employ a holistic, trauma-informed care model that provides residents the opportunity for healing in a “safe house” where they are able to develop a family-like environment with fellow residents and staff.
Aftercare & Recovery
Whether abroad or here at home, much of the recovery process looks the same at its core. Survivors need a chance to process their story in a safe space. Beyond simply processing their story, they also need to experience safe community once again—or perhaps for the very first time. Aftercare helps survivors to see their value in God’s eyes and helps them to begin to see a way forward living in light of this (potentially new) truth. It is a tremendously painful and long journey. But in it lies the potential for deep goodness as they experience the healing power of a relationship with Jesus while being surrounded by a loving community.
Perhaps the most difficult approach to adopt in the work of human trafficking is a heart for the redemption and restoration of the traffickers and buyers themselves. Nature tells us that human beings should not do this to one another, and so our response to the reality of it can lead toward feelings of vengeance or hate. Certainly legal action is in order and certainly they need to be stopped from exploiting others. But we also must remember that we are all broken. And if our view of God is big enough, we can see that there is no level of brokenness so large that the love and redemption of God cannot overcome it.
Nathan Boyett is the Global Partnerships Coordinator at Summit. If you are interested in learning more or taking action, please reach out to him with more in-depth questions and he'll be glad to help.