Blaming Children

Today I would like to address one of the great misconceptions: blaming children for their own exploitation.

I have been asked several times during my study of CSET (commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking) how many of the women and children actually want to be in the pornographic or prostitution industry. How many of them actually choose this for themselves? This is a great misconception when looking at and trying to understand CSET. I am not naive enough to believe this never happens, that no women ever choose this for themselves, but this is most often not the case – especially with children.

I read a great article by Amalee McCoy titled “Blaming Children for Their Own Exploitation: The Situation in East Asia” from the ECPAT 7th Report on the Implementation of the Agenda for Action Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children which covered this topic well.

She talks about how “a failure on the part of societies at large to understand that all children who engage in commercial sexual transactions are victims of exploitation, whatever their circumstances, has led to the widespread view that some children ‘choose’ to endure exploitation and its physical and psychosocial repercussions, and thus surrender their rights as children to protection.” This is simply not the case. As we will see McCoy explain further and as I will hopefully cover in future discussion on this blog.

“A survey conducted by the Asian Women and Children’s Network in Yokohama in 2001 determined that many girls involved in enjo kosai [compensated dating] had not received adequate sex education that taught self-respect, and were negatively affected by a conformist education lacking in human rights consciousness. The pull factors behind children’s involvement in enjo kosai vary somewhat: curiosity, a search for affection in the absence of attention at home, loneliness, an effort to join what may be a fashionable school trend, and a way of earning gifts and extra spending money to supplement living expenses, buy consumer goods, cover nights out with friends or pay for hobbies and trips.” While some of these pull factors seem like decisions made by the children – many of them dig deep psychologically and are often times not even recognized by the child. Without the proper understanding about what they are doing and what it is truly costing them – in regard to the emotional, physical and psychological damage – they are not making an informed “decision”.

“Media reports often lump enjo kosai cases together with issues of promiscuity and loose morals, depicting the children involved as spoiled, greedy and motivated by a desire for the latest mobile phone or BMW Series 5 sedan. Such reports rarely shed light on the perpetrators, the likely psychological damage to the child, the vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections, or the grave and sometimes fatal physical danger that accompanies liaisons with strangers.” In many countries, unfortunately, it is still illegal to be a prostitute and that is a fairly easy case to try, but it is not as illegal or easy to try someone for purchasing sex or being the owner of a brothel who sells women and children to others as an organ for rent. And that is just prostitution – if we begin a discussion on pornography and the difficulties in even bringing a lawsuit up against that industry we could talk for a while (and we will – in a future post).

“The issue of consent is at the crux of the perception that children involved in enjo kosai have ‘asked for it’ and are therefore accountable, while children who are impoverished or more obviously coerced into prostitution are deserving of protection and sympathy. The perception that children ‘voluntarily’ sell their bodies to supplement consumerist desires encourages the misguided belief that such children consent to engage in an illegal activity and thus to their own exploitation, and that they therefore deserve legal punishment or sanction. This view fails to recognize that people under 18 are considered, under the terms of the CRC, to have need for special protection while they developmentally acquire the experience and knowledge required to appreciate fully the physical and psychological ramifications of adult roles and responsibilities. Thus, children cannot consent to their own sexual exploitation.”

Now we can begin another discussion about women over 18 – but I think I know where I still stand on that conversation. The point on this post is to break down the misconception that children are somehow to blame or making the conscious decision to be in prostitution because they want to be there. This is not the case. And each one of you has a responsibility to do something about it.

God, be with those children who are placed in the difficult position of CSET everyday with a lack of opportunity or options available to them. And even those who may have other opportunities available to them but stay here because of a lack of education, or the threat of others or the coercion they don’t understand – give us the eyes to see how we can be your agents of advocacy and change.


Scope of the Problem

As many of you may know (or maybe you don’t know me so you have no idea) I am very passionate about advocating against the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and children. This is an issue that I have studied more and more over the past 5 years and now desire to dedicate my life to. There are far to many people in the world today who do not know about this great epidemic and even more who have great misconceptions and do not understand much of what truly goes on around the world (and even in their very backyards!)

So, let’s chat about it – let’s become informed – and let’s break down our misconceptions. And let’s just start with some basic information and statistics…what’s the scope of the problem?

There are few things more devastating in the life of a child than the feeling of a total loss of control. To be kidnapped or sold into the hands of individuals you don’t know only to be abused and neglected. This is the life of a child caught in the grips of the sex trafficking crisis.

If there is one consensus among individuals involved with the sex trafficking crisis, whether they be scholars, government officials, or passionate advocates, it is that hard statistics are nearly impossible. While relevant statistics will seek to be presented, they must always be taken with a grain of salt because of the enormous underground nature of the sex trade. Although sex trafficking is a devastating problem no matter where in the world you look; some would argue Southern Asia to be among the worst of it. Since my hopes are to travel to Nepal to work with the sex trafficking crisis, I will focus a bit more on this area of the word.

The most common estimate is that somewhere between 700,000 to 4 million individuals are currently in sexual bondage. (Huikll, 2003; “Foreign Government Complicity in Human Trafficking, 2002). This large number can be broken up into many areas. The most recent estimates say that in the United States alone 20,000 individuals are brought in annually for purposes for sexual exploitation. (Masci, 2004; “Combating Human Trafficking”, 2005). In India some estimated that 2.3 million are currently in bondage. (2002 Trafficking in Persons Report). They go on to say that more than 200,000 girls are trafficked into the country each year, most of which are from Nepal. (2002 Trafficking in Persons Report; “Combating Human Trafficking”, “Country Reports on Human Trafficking Rights Practices – Nepal, 2005).

While some variation can be found in these statistics, many of them closely match with other research and sources like them. I find these statistics to be fairly reliable and trustworthy. As stated before, this crisis is hard to grasp so any numbers will be, at best, very good guesses.

There are many emotional, physical and psychological effects the experience of being trafficked will have on a child. Perhaps the biggest effect is the likelihood of contracting the HIV/AIDS virus. Young girls in brothels are having unsafe sex with multiple men a day. In many cultures men believe if they have contracted the AIDS virus and have sex with a virgin, the AIDS will go out of them and into the virgin, curing them of the virus. This has led to the trafficking of younger girls, as well as the spreading of the disease. A 2005 government report says up to 65% of women who come out of brothels are HIV positive. (“Country Reports on Human Trafficking Rights Practices – Nepal, 2005). In Cambodia, in 1992, an AIDS program found that “9.5% of female commercial sex workers were HIV positive. By September 1995, 37.9% were HIV positive.” (“Combating Human Trafficking”) This has the potential to create greater instability within countries as the AIDS crisis evolves and quickly becomes out of control. (2002 Trafficking in Persons Report).

Another area that affects children is the threat of retaliation.
Five convicted traffickers, who had been given 20-year sentences but were released within 3 years, attacked a 17-year-old girl living at the Women's Rehabilitation Center (WOREC). They attacked her after failing to find another woman, rescued from a 1996 Bombay brothel raid, who had filed a case against them. WOREC and other organizations involved in the rehabilitation of women who have been trafficked say their members have been threatened and their offices have been vandalized because of their activities. Despite the existence of anti-trafficking legislation and recent attempts to increase the imposition of penalties on traffickers, anti-trafficking legislation is not well enforced. (Trafficking Report on Nepal).
Many non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) have set up safe houses where children can go to find shelter and security while recovering from their trauma. However, most continue to live their lives in fear.

There are many reasons why children end up victims of the sex trade. One of the greatest problems is the lack of education. Most frequently this affects a child living in poverty. The pressures of poverty can cause either parents or the child themselves to succumb to drastic measures. Sometimes a family is not even aware of the torment they are placing a child in. (2002 Trafficking in Persons Report; Masci). Many individuals are told that they have job opportunities awaiting them: they leave home hoping to be an actress, waitress, model, nanny or factory worker; many times in the United States. However, they are kidnapped and taken into the brothels instead where they are forced into sexual slavery. (Masci).

Another sad realization is that many times children fall victim to corrupt officials and authorities. Cultural bias can play into this corruption and discrimination – especially in cultures with caste systems or a low view of women. (2002 Trafficking in Persons Report; Trafficking Report on Nepal). The NGO’s estimate (although unverified) that “50% of victims were lured into India with the promise of good jobs and marriage, 40% were sold by a family member, and 10% were kidnapped.”(Trafficking Report on Nepal).

This is a most unfortunate situation. This is a desperate and seemingly hopeless situation. Only God is big enough to rescue and rehabilitate the number of those who are suffering in sexual slavery today.


Shake 'n Blake

Get ready people...it's Shake 'n Blake time!! Karla and I are getting all decked out again this year. And we're going to vote vote vote!


Our Life Stories

Sometimes I get overwhelmed observing the world.
Simply looking out the window of my favorite local Pasadena coffee shop and watching the various people walk by.
Thinking about their stories.
Why are they here in California, why Pasadena, why on Colorado Blvd.?
Do they live here or are they just visiting?
Are they having a good day or walking around seeking some form of hope and encouragement?
It is so amazing how God interweaves all of humanities life stories together.
To be able to be to intricately involved in my life and directing me where I should go - yet he does the very same thing for that man standing on the corner of the street with his hands in his pocket, looking confused, sitting through the changing light now for the second time...
When I think about the people he has brought into my life and the part they play in speaking wisdom into my life and developing me into the person I am continuing to become. Their personal life story in how they came here is so interesting - seeing how God has made them into the person they are for the stage of life they are in at this very moment.
I think that is why it is so hard for me to believe a concept like open theism. Believing that the future is open and God does not really know what is going to happen is not something I can jump on board with. Sure - he is all wise and can make that "educated guess" (and we all know he will be right) but because of our free will he does not know. There is just something about that that does not settle right with me.
The way our bodies work, the stories our lives create, and the ways our paths intertwine convince me I serve a God who is intimately involved in my life and he knows what the next chapter holds - he even knows how the book ends.



Hard Work.
Big Picture.
Little Steps.
Pushing Boundaries.

There are so many other words that can describe different events we go through in our life.
If we want to achieve in life I think we must go through times of testing, fire and hardship. I know that I don't learn my most valued lessons from the times I was most comfortable but from those times I felt out of place, dirty, isolated, uncomfortable, tired, etc. I am constantly amazed at the things I get to do. I am amazed at the things my body CAN do. God really gave me quite an amazing thing that I can push and stretch to unbelievable limits.
How many excuses do you make that prevent you from achieving the great things laid before you? Sure, they're hard - and you just want to throw yourself off that cliff sometimes so you don't have to trek anymore - but the view at the top makes it alllll worth it!



I am torn about the prospect of online dating and the internet hook-up. While living back in the Midwest I never would have considered eHarmony or any other internet dating site – and didn’t even really know anyone else who ever used them.

Now that I have moved to California I have met so many people who met their spouse on eHarmony or similar sites. They connect with people, talk, meet to go on dates, and this is how they navigate the whole dating scene.

I just think this is so interesting. In all honestly you don’t know if you are going to meet some creep. True they ask you a whole series of questions and ask you to be really honest – but you never really know. But I guess you never really know when you meet someone face to face either.

I guess it is all the conception I have in my head that somehow it is supposed to work differently. God is supposed to just bring you together and you shouldn’t have to go on some internet site to find it…but who is to say. I just think that it is so interesting how things have changed.

So, what do you think? eHarmony…would you do it????


Fight Club

The heart and soul of Fight Club soon became Project Mayhem. Edward Nortan’s character gets frustrated right about the time Project Mayhem begins. He starts to feel excluded and out of control. He yearns for the days he and Brad Pitt had started Fight Club and were the centers of attention. He felt like a bad ass and loved the attention he received.

When he asks about Project Mayhem and argues that he should be more involved because he was one of the creators of fight club Brad Pitt says to him, “this is not about you and me. You choose how involved you want to be in Project Mayhem”.

This is often how it is in the Christian life. Lots of times projects get really big and the social justice issues we are engaged in involve lots of people and we begin to feel like a number or a statistic or insignificant compared to the number of people working on the problem. We start to feel jealous that we don’t get more credit. We start to feel we are loosing control when others start listening to advice from more sources and going in different directions without consulting us first.

But Jesus would say to us that it is not about you and me. It is about what he is doing in the Kingdom that is already but not yet. He chooses to use me in big ways and in little ways – but none of these are about me and what I can do. When I get the idea that I have something to contribute and the success of something falls on my involvement – whoops! We only have so many gifts and abilities – that is the beauty of the body. When we all come together we can make a bigger contribution and a bigger impact.

And then I choose how involved I want to be in Project Mayhem. God always puts opportunities before me – I just decide how involved I want to be. God will do big things and continue to use me if I decide I want to blow things up – steal things – and stick it to the corporate man. ☺


Everyone Wants Someone to Follow

Everyone wants someone to follow if there is someone strong enough or willing enough to lead him or her.

I look at the world and see so much conformity. No one wants to stick out – unless they are sticking out in the “right” or “popular” way. And everyone wants to be accepted by others.

When someone steps up with an idea or movement they feel passionate about calling out others to follow them they will gather many people to themselves in just a short period of time. This is because people are thirsty for direction and meaning in their life.

Sometimes I just sit there waiting for someone else to take the lead and tell me what to do. I feel so unqualified for the passions God has put in my heart that I just stand motionless in the midst of the chaos around me.
What will it take to put me in motion? What will it take to make me that leader others yearn to follow?



How much do I let money control me?
Brandon gave a great sermon today on the parable of the rich fool from Luke. He talked about money being the root of all kinds of evil - not of all evil. That's an important distinction.
You don't even have to have money for this to be the case. The love of money (whether you have it or not) leads to all kinds of greed and dissatisfaction.
The important thing is to realize is that God has our best interest in mind - do I really believe that? 1 Timothy 6 tells us that God gives us everything for our enjoyment. Everything we have: our money, our time and our talents - they all belong to God. Everything God gives us he desires we use in order that life may be lived to its fullest and life may be abundant.
It is when we can grasp this and when we can really let go that we begin to live and experience.
I don't think I am there yet. I still hold on too tightly to wealth because I believe that a bank account equals security. As long as there is some money in there I am OK.
God - take my life but my bank account belongs to me.
I want to do so much for the world - for the suffering and the oppressed - but I think I need to let God do a whole lot more for me and learn to trust his best interest for me and his ability to provide - otherwise there will always be something holding me back.



Isn't it hard when sometimes you feel like you are split in a million different directions? You are a caring and passionate person (or you would like to think you are) and you hear about all sorts of issues but your heart struggles knowing which ones to invest in.

Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking
The Church
Medical Ethics
Child Soldiers
Slave Labor
I could go on and on....

We all have areas that we feel passionate about and called to - but we also see that many of these areas overlap.
So how do you decide? How do you look at the many needs in our communities and the world and not get overwhelmed?

I am deeply passionate about the issue of sexual exploitation and trafficking. But even within the sector you have many areas in which to get involved. Do you want to work with men or women? Do you want to work with women or children?
Let's say I work with children:
Do I work with the prevention: working on legislation, boarder control, etc.
Do I work with the rescue: brothel raids, relationship building, etc.
Do I work with the rehabilitation: psychological care, relationship building, etc.

There are so many avenues you can work with how do you decide? I am so torn. My heart breaks when I hear about what is being done to children around the world and across the United States - but I feel powerless to do anything about it. There is so much work to be done, but how am I qualified to do anything about it?

But despite all of that we must do something. Even though there is an overwhelming amount to be done and we don't know our place in it all - we know that God has called us to minister to the alien the orphan and the widow. What you do the least of these you do to me - Christ said. Even if it takes everything within me - I will do whatever I can to see God's Kingdom brought to earth. I don't know when, and I don't know how - I can only hope God chooses to use me to bring peace and comfort to those suffering.