Over a year ago I was sitting on a beach in the Dominican Republic with Nelson, our Country Director. Nelson pointed them out to me. They were sitting right next to us on the beach. The three women looked a little younger than me. They were chatting with three foreign men — two middle aged and one much older.
Nelson turned to me, “You don’t understand what they’re saying, but it’s very sad.” A woman came out to collect money from the men. Nelson translated, “If you take those two girls you could have a lot of fun.”
The man she was talking to was the picture perfect image of a villain — sharp features, sharp eyes. He started smoking while two of the men paired with the girls walked down the beach. He sat with the last girl and waited, waited for another girl to come back so he could have two.
“Prostitution isn’t legal in the Dominican,” Nelson told me, “but it happens on all the beaches. The police don’t usually do anything unless the girls are underage.” I had a hard time believing every one of the girls I saw were over 18. Nelson responded, “They probably are… but they didn’t start today.”
I knew this sort of thing happened all the time. One of the Transitional Homes VisionTrust partners with is full of underage girls rescued from the very beach I was sitting on. They were each assaulted or abused, some sold into prostitution by their own mothers. I always knew it happened — I’d just never had it happen right next to me.
I stared at the man. I wanted to scream at him that he is scum, that he isn’t a man at all. I wanted to tell the girl that she is loved and has far more worth than she could know. I wanted to throw up thinking about how this cycle continues — men buying girls or boys, using them, treating them like their property for an hour and then walking away. Some of these girls even grow up to become the trafficker, selling underage children to adults. In many cases it’s the only life both sides have ever known — mothers passing down their profession, fathers passing down their degradation, poverty closing in with what feels like no other option. There’s no one reason it all continues and there’s no easy solution.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that there were 20.9 million people in forced labor from 2002-2011. That’s three out of every 1,000 people in the world. 50forfreedom notes, “If they all lived together in a single city, it would be one of the biggest cities in the world.” This number does not just indicate those that have been forced into sexual exploitation, but those trapped in forced labour in industries around the world. In fact, statistics show that one in five people living in modern slavery are victims of sexual exploitation while the rest are in a variety of industries. VisionTrust sees this in the communities we work in around the world — with domestic labour in Haiti and rock quarries in Liberia.
You might be asking, what can I possibly do when faced with such an overwhelming issue? Quite a bit actually. You can help break the cycle of trafficking by sponsoring a child, advocating for anti-trafficking policies with your local government, and partnering with organizations doing great work. We cannot afford to be naïve when God calls us to justice. We cannot afford to do nothing. Join us today to help stop human trafficking.