When Karen* walked into the room, I was not prepared for her story. At 13 years old, she became infatuated with an 18-year-old man. She said she would have done anything for him. He met Karen’s need for love that she never received from her family. Within months, this man had convinced Karen to sell her body to help support him. Eventually, Karen was required to do things that have traumatized her to this day. She pulled up her shirt sleeve to show me a scar from a previous wound she received for refusing to work one night. When she would come home with bruises at night, her mother said, “You made your bed, now lie in it.” The violence and brutality of human trafficking robbed Karen of her life for more than four years. When she was eighteen, she was able to get away from the man and join the Peace Corps. Today Karen is 38, and she has been free more than twenty years; however, the trauma and emotional pain from her experience is still fresh. This story will have a happy ending because Karen has trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior, and she is beginning the process of God healing her from the years of abuse.
Karen’s story is not uncommon in the state of Virginia. Due to tips that came in through their hotline, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) uncovered 62 human trafficking cases in D.C. in 2014. This number includes 36 cases of sex trafficking and 21 cases of labor trafficking. Additional information is available from the advocacy group Polaris. The full report containing data from all fifty states and D.C. is available here. The 62 cases of human trafficking in 2014 bring the number of reported cases in the District to 431 since 2007. In Maryland, 135 cases of trafficking were reported in 2014. In Virginia, 175 new cases were uncovered.
Women’s Ministries in Virginia need to be aware of what is happening. Once we are aware, each of us must ask God, “What can I do?” Precious to God Ministries is hosting Emily Yount February 8, 6:30 pm at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond. Emily received the Keegan Traveling Fellowship Award from Vanderbilt, which allowed her to travel for the last year to 15 countries working with survivors of sexual exploitation, interviewing their aftercare providers, and researching the issue as a whole. Please go to precioustogod.org for more information. The North American Mission Board offers information and great links on the issue of human trafficking here.
One thing you can do is pray. Last year I started a prayer strategy called 12/31. If twelve Women’s Ministries will each pray one month of the year, we will cover the issue of human trafficking in prayer for 2016. Would your Women’s Ministry be willing to pray? If so, please email me at email@example.com the name of your church and the month your women’s ministry is willing to pray. You can download the prayer guide here. Let’s fight for these women on our knees!
*Her real name is changed to protect her identity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Donna Paulk has a passion to help women pursue their passions and live a Gospel driven life. Her greatest desire is to help women overcome obstacles that keep them from pursuing their God given gifts and talents. Donna is a certified personal coach with 20 years’ experience. She has worked in the corporate world in sales and training. She currently serves in two roles, Discipleship Coordinator at the Union Mission Ministries and as the Women’s Ministry Strategist for the SBC of Virginia.