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Unimaginable Harm, Unspeakable Crimes

During July 2023 “more than 200 victims of sex trafficking were rescued during a nationwide enforcement campaign…that also included the identification or arrest of more than five dozen suspected human traffickers and 126 individuals accused of child sexual exploitation and trafficking offenses.”1


As reported by one major news source, “’Sex traffickers exploit and endanger some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cause their victims unimaginable harm,’ Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement. ‘This operation, which located 59 actively missing children, builds on the tremendous work the FBI has undertaken over many years to rescue minor victims and arrest those responsible for these unspeakable crimes.’ ”2


This most recent “… law enforcement initiative—now in its 13th year—is a coordinated operation among the FBI, other federal agencies, state and local police, and social services agencies across the country to find and assist victims of human trafficking, particularly child victims. Law enforcement agencies conduct targeted operations to identify traffickers, their networks, and their victims…The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a significant partner in the initiative. The private non-profit is a clearinghouse of information and has assisted in more than 400,000 cases of missing kids who were recovered since its founding in 1984.” 3


Behind every statistic, there is a person with dreams, aspirations, and the right to live a life free from child sex trafficking and exploitation,” 4 said NCMEC President and CEO Michelle DeLaune.


The 2023 surprise blockbuster movie, “Sound of Freedom,” starring Jim Caviezel, has greatly expanded awareness of the current reality of what Attorney General Garland refers to as the “unimaginable harm” and “unspeakable crimes” being done to the “most vulnerable members” of the global society. As reported by USA Today, " ‘Sound of Freedom’ draws upon the real life of Tim Ballard, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent who is credited with saving countless children, largely from outside the U.S., from traffickers who force them into prostitution rings aimed at pedophiles.” 5 According to an early review by Variety’s Owen Gleiberman, “…you needn’t hold extreme beliefs to experience ‘Sound of Freedom’ as a compelling movie that shines an authentic light on one of the crucial criminal horrors of our time, one that Hollywood has mostly shied away from.”6 By July 26, 2023,” “Sound of Freedom” … earned over $125 million at the North American box office…[and]… will begin to move into international distribution…”7


Pornography and human trafficking are connected! “Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world, with over 30 million people estimated ... (sic) to be enslaved, according to UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.”8 The “…consumption of porn in an increasingly sexualized culture has been linked to an increase in the human trafficking industry because victims of trafficking are often used in the making of pornography…” 9 Just one of the many examples of this connection, as reported by one Florida newspaper, concerned a “15-year-old girl who was discovered to be in 58 adult videos…[shown on various porn sites]… She had been missing for a year and was finally able to return home after her mother spotted her in sexually explicit videos and alerted the authorities.” 10


In a scholarly article published during 2017 in the Journal of Counselor Practice, (10(1):19–39, 2019), authors Humphrey , LeClair, and Hicks, convincingly state, “Pornography is the driving force behind the international sex trafficking industry…” 11 The same authors go on to explain that, “Our sexualized culture fuels the sex trafficking industry and pornography plays a large role in the demand (Busnik, 2015; US Dept. of State, n.d.). Andrew Nasalli (2015) argues that viewing pornography increases the demand for victims. Noel Bouche (2017) correlates the amount of “clicks” on pornographic sites with increases in the global sex trade. Trafficking victims are often used in the production of pornography, and many are recruited into pornography at a young age (Luzwick, 2017) …”12.


Can people of faith do anything to slow this onslaught against our society’s “most vulnerable members.” The answer is, “Absolutely, yes.” Author Sam Black, in his recently published book, The Healing Church – What Churches Get Wrong About Pornography and How To Fix It, “addresses the need for churches to join in the battle…[against pornography]… and provides a roadmap on how to become a leader in that battle.”13 In Black’s comprehensive review of what widespread use of pornography has done to our society, the author candidly reports, “Based on multiple surveys, about 70 per cent of men and about a third of women in the Church say they struggle with pornography specifically. Some people are occasional viewers of porn, while others have full-blown addictions. Still others lie somewhere in between.” 14.


It is easy to vilify sex traffickers for the “unimaginable harm” they do to society’s “most vulnerable members.” But what about the “70 per cent of men” and “about a third of women” who quietly, and often privately, consume the product that, “is the driving force behind the international sex trafficking industry.” Some viewers, after watching “Sound of Freedom,” left the theater feeling somber. Some probably asked the question, “How did things get this bad?” During the movie, one of the lead characters uttered words to the effect that “there are some things that are so ugly that they are just not mentioned in polite conversation.”


It is time to begin to talk about even that which is ugly. What has been ignored in the past, is not going away. People of faith can do something about pornography. One good place to start is to begin reading Sam Black’s book, The Healing Church.


This battle can be won. “This battle must be won!”

__________________

Endnotes:

1. “FBI-Led Sweep Targeting Sex Traffickers Recovers Dozens of Minor Victims,” FBI, (August 1, 2023), (https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/fbi-led-sweep-targeting-sex-traffickers-recovers-dozens-of-minor-victims), ¶ 1. (Accessed August 29, 2023.

2. Kosnar. M. and Alsharif, M. (August 1, 2023), NBC, “FBI finds 200 sex trafficking victims, 59 missing children in two-week sweep,” (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/fbi-finds-200-sex-trafficking-victims-59-missing-children-two-week-swe-rcna97580).

3. “FBI-Led Sweep Targeting Sex Traffickers Recovers Dozens of Minor Victims,” FBI, ¶ 3.

4. “FBI-Led Sweep Targeting Sex Traffickers Recovers Dozens of Minor Victims,” FBI, ¶ 8.

5. Della Cava, M., (Updated August 14, 2023), USA Today, “Why 'Sound of Freedom,' Jim Caviezel's controversial child sex trafficking film, is a hit,” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/movies/2023/07/12/sound-of-freedom-movie-controversy/70405543007/), (Accessed August 29, 2023.

6. Gleiberman, O., (July 2, 2023), Variety,” ‘Sound of Freedom’ Review: Jim Caviezel Anchors a Solidly Made and Disquieting Thriller About Child Sex Trafficking,” (https://variety.com/2023/film/reviews/sound-of-freedom-review-jim-caviezel-1235660035/).

7. Frater, P., (July 26, 2023), Variety, “‘Sound of Freedom,’ $125 Million Indie Smash Hit Film, Sets First International Releases,” https://variety.com/2023/film/news/sound-of-freedom-hit-film-international-releases-1235681175/#!

8. “Here’s how your porn habit could be helping human sex traffickers,” NBC-2News, (June 7, 2021), (https://nbc-2.com/news/2021/01/12/heres-how-your-porn-habit-could-be-helping-human-sex-traffickers/), ¶ 1. Accessed August 29, 2023.

9. “Here’s how your porn habit could be helping human sex traffickers,” NBC-2News ¶ 5. Accessed August 29, 2023.

10. “Here’s how your porn habit could be helping human sex traffickers,” NBC-2News ¶ 9. Accessed August 29, 2023.

11. Humphreys, K., LeClair, B, and Hicks, J; (2019), “Intersections between Pornography and Human Trafficking: Training Ideas and Implications,” Journal of Counselor Practice, 10(1):19–39, 2019 DOI: 10.22229/ibp1012019; p.19; (https://www.journalofcounselorpractice.com/uploads/6/8/9/4/68949193/ibp1012019_%5Bpubcopy%5D.pdf). Accessed August 29, 2023.

12. Humphreys, K., LeClair, B, and Hicks, J; (2019), “Intersections between Pornography and Human Trafficking: Training Ideas and Implications,” Journal of Counselor Practice, 10(1):19–39, 2019 DOI: 10.22229/ibp1012019; p.24.

13. Black, S., (2023) The Healing Church – What Churches Get Wrong About Pornography and How To Fix It, (a Covenant Eyes resource), Morgan James Publishing, New York, New York., p.15.

14. Black, S., (2023) The Healing Church – What Churches Get Wrong About Pornography and How To Fix It, p.48.

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