A few weeks ago I posted that I had gotten the book The White Umbrella delivered to my Kindle and that I would write about it after I read it. Here goes.
The book is about sex trafficking in the United States: facts/statistics about it, stories about girls/women rescued from it, and testimonies of those who have worked to restore them.
It’s not as dark a book as I expected. The facts are grim; the book doesn’t pretend otherwise and shares the situation through facts, stories, and links to news articles on the subject, but I was surprised by the hope in the book. The author started a ministry, Wellspring Living, that works with rescued sex slaves. These girls have been through trauma that I cannot imagine. I read their stories and thought, “I would be crushed, for the rest of my life!”
So should they, but the girls themselves and those who work with them share story upon story of growth and new life. It may be backwards/forwards and take tons of time and patience, but as these girls encounter the God who wants to make them new, many of them grow.
After I read the book I wrote an email to its publisher, Moody. I shared much of what I wrote above, but I also had a complaint: The book is a call to action, and I WANTED to act after I read it. But since I don’t live in the Atlanta, Georgia, area—where Wellspring Living is located—I can’t really be involved in that ministry, other than by donating. What if I want to get involved right here? Do you have any suggestions?
I received a response from a woman in Moody’s book publicity department. She invited me to a luncheon hosted by Moody Church the following Monday that was about sex trafficking in the Chicago area. The speaker, Frank, is the director of Chicago’s Salvation Army’s PROMISE program (Partnership to Rescue Our Minors from Sexual Exploitation) and has worked with sex trafficking victims for more than 25 years. With the Salvation Army, he recently opened Anne’s Home, which provides long-term residential care for girls rescued from trafficking in Chicago.
So I went. I thought it would be a gathering of a couple hundred people; like they just tacked my name onto a long list: What’s one more?
Under fifty people, and the group included Mary Frances Bowley (the author of The White Umbrella), Mary Welchel (Director of Women’s Ministries at Moody Church and founder of The Christian Working Woman), and an FBI agent who works with sex trafficking.
Everyone else seemed to have a reason to be there. People kept asking me: “So what organization are you with?”
“Um, none.” (Okay, I sounded a little more polished than that!—but probably not much more.)
“Oh, so why are you here?”
“I’m not sure yet.”
I was certainly there to learn—and learn I did, far more than I really wanted to.
I already knew that the FBI’s low estimate is that more than 100,000 children, usually girls, are being forced to do someone else’s sexual bidding. The age range is nine to nineteen; the average age is 11; and the average life expectancy of a girl in forced prostitution is only 7 years.
That doesn’t make you want to read any more, does it?
But I also learned this is no longer just an inner-city problem. Law enforcement agencies in Illinois are reporting an increase in cases involving middle-class suburban children because the kids have access to a computer at home and can be targeted more easily.
I don’t want to bombard you with too much info in this post, so I’ll end here, but in a follow up post, I’ll put tips for identifying children who are being sexually molested and/or trafficked and hotlines you can call if you suspect it. It’s happening far more than we want to think it does, and it’s happening closer than we can imagine. I’ll categorize this post and all follow up posts “Sex Trafficking.”
If you want to do more research, below are two addresses to check out: one is Wellspring Living’s home page, and the other is the PROMISE website.
Thanks for reading.