When we think of domestic minor sex trafficking, what pictures are in our minds of who the victims and offenders are?
Do you ever think of traffickers being female? The United Nations now reports that female traffickers may outnumber male traffickers worldwide.
Do you ever think of victims as being male, LGBT, or adult prostitutes? A 2008 study found that almost half of the study’s identified trafficking victims in New York City were male. Runaway and homeless youth are one of the most vulnerable populations to sex trafficking, and LGBT youth are heavily over-represented in this population, comprising more than 40 percent of the nation’s homeless youth. Between 2008 and 2011, 39 percent of federal investigations into sex trafficking were for adult prostitutes, not minors.
It can be easy to stereotype the victims and offenders of any crime in our urgency to seek justice. Yet in our rush, we may inadvertently leave behind those most marginalized by the crime of sex trafficking.
Our modern gender roles may cause us to not take a male victim’s cries for help seriously, or lead us to incorrectly believe that the damage caused by a female trafficker is not as great as that caused by a male trafficker. Our nation’s profound differences over LGBT rights may lead us to see LGBT victims of trafficking in light of a political agenda, rather than in the light of their tremendous suffering and their intrinsic worth as a child of God. Our deep-seated faith in our ability to “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps” may blind us to how child victims of trafficking could still be trapped in sexual exploitation decades after their eighteenth birthday.
As advocates for anti-trafficking, we must keep our eyes, ears and hearts open to who Christ is calling us to serve. Trafficking is an incredibly young cause, and we are still learning so much about the causes, characteristics, and experiences of the victims of such a horrific crime.
Pray that God gives us strength not only to serve those affected by sex trafficking, but also to know where there are still more voices crying out.
Natalie Stone-Garcia is a Masters in Social Work student interning with UnBound Waco. Natalie has a passion for conflict, violence prevention and reconciliation. Her husband is stationed in Fort Hood, and, between the two of them, they have lived in five states in twenty years. She loves her family and friends, weightlifting and quiet weekends spent reading.