I recently watched the much acclaimed "Half the Sky" documentary and was particularly moved by the Somaly Mam segment, wherein a former sex worker, Somaly Mam, now has a internationally known program that rescues underage sex workers from horrible, abusive situations in her native Cambodia, and across Southeast Asia.
Many of her girls (literally, girls from ages 3 and up) have been tricked into sex work by the promise of a job in the big city or were straight-up sold into prostitution by their desperate, impoverished families.
Being sold or tricked into unpaid, unwanted sex work is called sex trafficking and it is a serious problem, not just in developing countries like Cambodia and Thailand, but also, here in the United States.
What I didn't know, and was really excited to find out, was that trafficking was already on the radar of the Salvation Army. As we seek to 'Do the Most Good" fighting trafficking is a clear calling for us as an organization. We routinely feed the hungry, and shelter the homeless and minister to widows and orphans, but what about "freeing the captives"? Human trafficking has been called "modern slavery"; and the numbers support it. An estimated 2 million women and children are sold into sexual slavery around the world, every year. And even in the US, it is estimated that 14,000 to 17,000 victims are trafficked annually.
The good news is the Salvation Army is leading the way to educate and empower concerned also has a national focus on ending Sexual Trafficking in the United States. The Salvation Army's Initative Against Sexual Trafficking (IAST) is designed to educate about this issue of trafficking, as well as to point ways to help: just some of which include educating others, praying for victims, and joining with local ministries to minister to victims.
A great local organization that is actively engaged in fighting trafficking in our state is Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans (or O.A.T.H). Their site is here: http://www.oathcoalition.com/
Check out their awareness video: "She's 13."
For more ways to get involved with ending human trafficking, check out the IAST site; it has a ton of great resources, here: www.iast.net
Although human trafficking is a fairly well-known issue "over there" in places like Cambodia, we shouldn't forget that not only does it happen here too, but that no one should lose their personal and bodily freedom, much less a young child or teen; do your part to help end human trafficking. I know I'm going to.