Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Encouragement from Dr. Rebecca Johnson, PhD.

Someone told me there are now over 200 anti-trafficking organizations in the USA alone, then quickly added, “and most of those are awareness raising only”.  In the midst of the explosion of anti-human trafficking organizations, how do we distinguish the dreamers from the doers, the good from the good intentions? 

            Don’s Blog this week is being (politely) hijacked. After being a short-term volunteer with AIM the past 5+ years (7 trips) and being here in Cambodia these past few weeks, I wanted to briefly share some thoughts.

            In recent years I have had the privilege of serving, both in the USA and abroad, with numerous agencies fighting against modern day slavery.  While each organization has its strengths, I am an enthusiastic cheerleader for Agape International Mission. 

            “Jesus moved into the neighborhood” is how a friend described AIM’s involvement in Svay Pak.  AIM’s work in restoration of the sex trafficked and in community and national transformation (education, health care, training, children’s programs, evangelism discipleship and more), is bringing the light and love of Jesus into unimaginable dark places of lust, greed, abuse, torture, poverty and slavery.  AIM is providing practical assistance as well as God’s message of hope to many, many despairing people. AIM IS making a difference.

            I recently wrote about AIM to some friends, “This is a front-lines, genuine, “doing-it” ministry, where the leadership doesn’t limit God, is humble, God-dependent, and every penny is wisely spent.”   This brief statement coveys my observations and sentiments – AIM is a quality, God-honoring organization.  (Dr. Becca Johnson, 12/14/11)

           

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What Are They Thinking?

I have spent two of the last three weeks in Siem Reap, Cambodia.   It is there we are opening a new Rahab's House, but more about that in future blogs.  What I want to write about today is the experiences I had over those two weeks, and what they seem to revealed about those who benefit from the sexual exploitation of children.  Both of these experiences took place in five-star hotels along the main street in Siem Reap.

 The first involves 2 Western men somewhere between the ages of 45 and 55.  Every morning for five days these men would bring to the breakfast buffet 2 teenage Cambodian girls they had purchased to use as sex toys while they vacationed in Cambodia.  Each day as they arrived the men would be laughing and joking, all smiles.  However, the girls worked very hard not to make eye contact with anyone in the restaurant, but when that eye contact was made their eyes revealed deep shame.  That shame would grow every time the men tried to hug and kiss the girls.  But the men seemed to feel no shame at all, and absolutely no concern for the shame of the girls.  I wondered what are they thinking?

The second incident occurred in the lobby of the other five-star hotel.  I was standing there talking with friends when a Western man in his 60’s walked through with a teenage Cambodian girl.  Holding onto the girl’s arm he took her to the elevator and up to his room.  Certain that a hotel as nice as this would not put up with such nonsense I went to the front desk and explained what had happened.  To my surprise the front desk clerk said, “It’s okay sir.  The lady paid her $20.”  I relied, “What do you mean?”  She answered, “Our our hotel has a very strict policy about the ladies.  If the gentleman wants to bring a lady to his room the lady must pay $20.  You see it is okay sir because the lady paid $20.”

Is it that simple?  I'm beginning to believe it is.  Those who benefit from the sexual exploitation of children simply think it’s okay.  And the only thing that will change that thinking is a transformed heart…a heart that allows one to see others through the eyes of Christ.

Note:  Efforts to confront the men while not in the presence of the girls were unsuccessful.  But we’ve not given up.  To the contrary we are just getting started.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How Rahab's House Works to Prevent, Rescue and Restore Victims of Child Sex Trafficking...And Equips Others to Do the Same


A Holistic Approach to Prevention, Rescue and Restoration from Sex Trafficking
Svay Pak, Cambodia
VISION:  Jesus Christ through His church will defeat the evil of child sex trafficking.
MISSION:  Serving to meet the holistic needs of both individuals and the community, thus building relationships through which Christ can transform hearts.
CONTEXT: 
Cambodia continues to suffer the after affects of the unique genocide it suffered at the   hands of the Khmer Rouge.  Cambodia’s genocide is unique in that there was no winning side, and as a result the after affects are felt across the entire country.  Included among them are the following issues that feed the epidemic of child sex trafficking.

·         Abject Poverty
·         Lack of Education
·         Government Complicity/Corruption
·         Decimation of the Family Structure
·         Personal Moral Failure (Lack of a Strong Moral Compass)

In the recent past significant resources have been spent on the first two items with little, if any, significant progress made in defeating the evil of child sex trafficking.  While still early in the process, the progress seen in Svay Pak through the holistic ministry of Rahab’s House is very encouraging.  In addition, it can be argued that wherever child sex trafficking flourishes the same issues Cambodia faces, though may be not to the same extent, are present, just manifesting themselves in different ways.  This being the case the principles bringing success in Svay Pak can likely be applied in a wide variety of contexts with the anticipation of similarly positive results.

COMPONENTS:
The specifics of the components will be determined by needs of the community served;   however, generally speaking they will fall into three broad categories.  Most importantly these components must be delivered by an entity within the community itself, an entity that is part of the community.


RELIEF
Direct aid to meet immediate physical, material, and economic needs.  The needs to be met include protection and advocacy.  Relief should be temporary.

DEVELOPMENT
Providing an individual, family, or entire community what they need to move beyond the
dependency on relief into a condition of economic self sufficiency.  Development is far more
time-consuming, complex, and expensive than relief.  Development will provide access to
wide ranging opportunities such as education, job creation and training, daycare, heath care, athletics and the arts.

REFORM
Social reform moves beyond relief and development and seeks to transform the conditions
and social structures that fuel child sex trafficking.  It is resisting and changing the legal,
political, and social systems.  Social reform can address the deeper sources of hopelessness in
communities as it is applied on both an individual and communal level.





Friday, November 11, 2011

Some days living in Svay Pak it can seem fighting the evil of child sex trafficking is a losing battle. Yesterday was one of those days...The bad guys seemed to be coming out ahead at every turn. I went down stairs to get some fresh air and just as I did one of the four van loads of kids (and I do me van loads) just arrived to attend classes at our Rahab's House School. This is what I saw...


video


WOW! I didn't think you could fit that many victories in one van!




Wednesday, November 2, 2011

BETRAYAL

Saturday I met with one of the girls at one of our aftercare homes.  She had asked us to protect her two little sisters from the horrors of child sex trafficking she had experienced.  Bravely she shared the details of her trafficking and abuse from the age ten until fifteen when she was rescued and brought to ARC.

It amazed me how she could share such painful experiences without shedding a single tear.  But things changed when I asked if her parents were involved in her trafficking.  Her immediate response was an adamant, "No!" Of course this seemed difficult to believe considering the young age at which she was first trafficked, and that she continued to live with her parents for the first two years of her being trafficked.  So I said, "If you really want your sisters protected you need to let us know everyone that was involved in trafficking you." 

This time, in halting words, she explained that it was her parents who first took her to the man who trafficked her.  It was her parents that took her to him over and over for the next two years.   Now the tears flowed.  And it was clear that of all the  unbelievably painful abuses she has suffered the betrayal by her parents was by far the most painful...the one most difficult from which to heal...the most difficult to forgive.

Please pray for her and all the girls of ARC as most suffer from this same betrayal.  Pray for their healing, for the grace to forgive.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Truth in Advertising




This billboard in Phnom Penh reveals the truth about Cambodia’s karaoke clubs…Bring along your condoms because you won’t just be singing.  No, Cambodia karaoke clubs are places to buy sex with young girls, a significant number just kids.  Thousands of them held captive, some physically, emotionally enslaved, others as a result of the abject poverty from which the country suffers. 
And this business is growing and evolving.  Back by powerful network of organized crime the clubs are growing not only in number, but in size.  Some hold several hundred girls.  The answer is a holistic approach that includes not only immediate relief, education and economic development, but heart transformation through Jesus Christ.  Our Rahab’s House in Svay Pak, Cambodia has been using this approach for three years, and while we have a long ways to go significant progress has been made.  Learn more on our website: www.agapewebsite.org


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An American Pedophile in Svay Pak, Cambodia

I live in Svay Pak, Cambodia, a place where foreign pedophiles come to purchase and sexually abuse little girls every day.  In the past we would confront these men and force them to leave our village.  While this was emotionally gratifying, it really did nothing to stop the abuse of the children.  Recently we have changed our tactic and now try to initiate conversations with these pedophiles in order to obtain information that can be used by law enforcement and NGOs to stop the abuse and torture being inflicted upon dozens of children. 

Last week we were able to record an American pedophile as he negotiated with one of our staff (who he believed was a pimp) to purchase girls between the ages of six and ten in order to sexually abuse them.  Sadly, this audio file represents what happens daily here in Svay Pak.  In addition to the audio file we have a video of this pedophile.  Both files have been given to law enforcement, but a lack of resources have limited any action being taken against this man as he continues to rape and torture little girls.

Please help us by watching the video and listening to the recording (see link below), then share it with everyone you know who will join the fight against child sex trafficking.  The video and audio quality is not as good as we would like; however, if you know this man you might be able to ID him.  Any information we receive about him will be given to law enforcement helping to make up for the resources they lack. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dancing for Joy!



Recently I had the pleasure of attending a dance recital.  No, I'm expressing what I saw far too weakly—What I witnessed was the amazing results of unconditional love shared with the victims of CSEC.  Two of the girls who have graduated from our program at ARC took part in this dance recital.  They are two of the five ARC graduates now studying in the States.  Their journey from a torturous abuse at the hands of an American pedophile—an abuse categorized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as among the worst they have encountered—to successful students in an American high school is nothing short of miraculous.

As I envisioned the dance I was about to see I anticipated seeing the girls perform a ballet, maybe similar to the Apsasa dance of Cambodia. Instead what I saw was hip-hop.  You know maybe that was more appropriate—A dance where each girl could individually express the joy she now has, the healing and freedom that is now hers.

You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance;
you have taken away my sorrow
and surrounded me with joy.
Psalm 30:11 (GMT)





Sunday, June 5, 2011

Are We Angry Enough?

Am I angry enough to win the fight against child sex trafficking?  Why anger? Anger is essential.  When we are angry enough we will stand with the oppressed…We will fight injustice regardless of the cost to us personally.  Now, what will fuel our anger…love!  If I loved each victim of child sex trafficking as if she/he were my daughter or son, my granddaughter or grandson, how angry would I be?  How would that affect the way I approach the fight for their freedom?  What would I be willing to sacrifice for them?  My prayer is that I would love each victim of CSEC as Jesus loves me. 

John 13:34 - “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

NO LOVE – NO ANGER – NO JUSTICE

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How seriously are we taking the fight against child sex trafficking?

When I say we, I'm speaking of America, our country.  If the dollars budgeted to fight this evil are any indicator, we are not taking it very seriously.  Some interesting facts:

1.      When it comes to crimes human trafficking now ranks number two, surpassing illegal arms distribution, and on course to become number one, surpassing drug trafficking.

2.      The federal budget to support military bands…$500 million.  http://ow.ly/4Yo4i   

3.      The federal budget to fight human trafficking…$110 million.  http://ow.ly/4YotM   

4.      The federal budget to fight drug trafficking…$15 Billion.  http://ow.ly/4ZU0g


Don't get me wrong, I support fully the efforts of our men and women in the Armed Forces.  Our son served in the air force, and we are extremely proud of his service to our nation.  I’m for the fight against illegal drugs.  But seriously, look at those numbers.  Although the issue of human trafficking has received much attention over the last year or two, it has obviously not become a priority for our country.  Thankfully, we live in a democracy.  We have, in the vote, the ultimate power in determining our country’s priorities.  This is an issue that we need to bring before our elected representatives.  Join the fight against child sex trafficking with an e-mail to your congressperson and senator.

It will take sacrifice to defeat the evil of child sex slavery

From a biblical perspective it is easily seen that evil is only overcome by sacrifice.  However, this biblical truth has also been confirmed in the historical fight against slavery.  The victories achieved have only come through sacrifice, the sacrifice of many.

So what is sacrifice?  Webster defines sacrifice as “the surrender of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered having a higher or more pressing claim.”  But I believe that definition falls short of the sacrifice necessary to defeat child sex slavery.  From Webster's definition we might think of giving up something we want as sacrifice.  But true sacrifice, the sacrifice that free slaves, results from sacrificing from what we have or need.  This true sacrifice is painful.  Still, if we are willing to endure that pain, the pain of giving up what we need or have (time, talent, and treasure) children will be set free from an unimaginable horror.  Personally, I cannot think of a thing I have that is more prized or desirable than that.  Now I but pray for the strength to live out that belief. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How do we define success when it comes to caring for girls who have been sex trafficked and abused?

When it comes to caring for girls who have been sex trafficked and abused there are two primary measures to determine success. The first is trauma assessments. When a girl enters our aftercare center, Agape Restoration Center (ARC), she is given a trauma assessment which provides a baseline from which to measure her progress. These assessments are then conducted on an ongoing basis in order to determine if the impacts of the trauma she has experienced are lessening as she progresses through our program. Across the board, 100% of the time, the girls in our program are found to experience less negative impact from the trauma they suffered. Some might think that this is the definition of success. However, although these assessments reflect positively on our program and are valuable in evaluating it, I don't believe they define success.

The most widely accepted definition of success is what happens to the girls once they are reintegrated  into society. In other words, are they able to start a new and healthy life, or do they return to their former lives. Here again the numbers reflect positively on ARC, less than 15% of the girls who are reintegrated from our program return to their former way of life. And once again, despite the positive reflection these numbers have on ARC and their value in program evaluation, I don't believe they define success.

For me success is defined by never giving up on a girl regardless of the decisions or choices she makes. Success is a girl believing that no matter what choices she makes when she leaves ARC, she will always find unconditional love and support to make healthy choices from our staff.  As Rachel Lloyd wrote in her book, Girls Like Us, “I learn[ed] that leaving the life takes practice, that girls need to try multiple times without having someone give up on them.”  And we have experienced this very same thing with some of the older girls who have come to our program after spending years trapped as sex slaves. The following story of a girl we'll call Mary is a case in point.

Mary came to the ARC at the age of 15. Since the age of 8 she had been sold by several of her family members, including her mother, as a sex slave to both Cambodian and foreign men. In addition, she had been raped repeatedly by her father and her cousin. Mary is a very bright girl, and despite never attending school she had completed first through seventh grades by the time she reached age 18. It was our hope that Mary would finish high school and attend university. However, soon after completing grade 7 Mary's mother, who is HIV-positive, became quite ill. At that time Mary asked to be reintegrated so that she could help to physically and financially care for her mother. So, we provided her with small business training and a loan, and she opened a small clothing store in her mother's village.

Mary was quite successful in her small business, but soon after she was reintegrated she began to hang out with a less than desirable crowd of girls. It wasn't long before she decided to live with those girls instead of her mother. She continued to run the business, but worked less and less hours and spent more and more nights in clubs around Phnom Penh. During those nights on the town she found a boyfriend, someone she thought loved her, and moved in with him. Within several weeks she was using illegal drugs, had abandoned her small business, and was supporting her habit and her boyfriend by selling her body. During all this time her ARC social worker continued to follow-up with Mary several times each month. Mary willingly met with her even though she knew her choices were not pleasing to the social worker because she knew that social work loved her and wanted only the best for her. Months dragged into years and Mary continued down her self-destructive path, still meeting at least monthly with her social worker.

During those meetings Mary’s social worker unconditionally loved her, explained why the choices she was making would only hurt her in the long run, and offered alternatives. It took more than two years, but finally during one of those meetings Mary said she no longer wanted to live this way. She cried, “Please help me, I want a new life, last night I asked Jesus, if He loves me, please send someone to help me today.”  And Mary was helped that very day. We were able to place her in one of the best vocational training programs in the country of Cambodia. She worked very hard and graduated from the program with honors. Today she is working in a job in which she earns four times the national average wage in Cambodia, which allows her to not only support herself, but help care for her mother as well.

To me the action of Mary’s social worker is a modern day application of Jesus’ parable of the wandering sheep in Matthew 18:10-14, and the definition of true success…

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

Learn more about the work of ARC at http://www.agapewebsite.org/

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Do Girls Choose To Be Prostitutes?

The short answer to that question is...In an overwhelming majority of the cases, they don't! Now some may say that flies in the face of research that has been done in Cambodia. And I must admit that that End Child Prostitution, Abuse and Trafficking in Cambodia’s (ECPAT-Cambodia) Database Report on Trafficking and Rape in Cambodia 2009, states on page 24, that 95% of trafficking victims chose to willingly follow their traffickers. In other words they chose to become prostitutes. However, licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Becca C. Johnson, PhD, provides an interesting list of reasons why girls "choose" prostitution. This list includes the following...

Cultural Pressure: the spoken and unspoken obligation of children to obey, honor and support parents (primarily in Asian cultures) - no matter what it requires.

Familial Pressure: cultural pressures, plus parental demands and/or an inability to care for the girl or family.

Financial Pressure: cultural and familial pressures often lead to girls carrying the family's debt burden, and thus being encouraged or pressured into sacrificing herself for the good of the family. While some victims are sold unaware, others "choose" the sex trade, as a means of fulfilling their duty to provide money for the parents and/or the family.

Survival: believing there are no other available options.

Glamour: mistakenly thinking that sex work provides a life of glamour and money.

Vulnerability Factors: these factors include such things as a history of abuse, lack of family support and protection, in foster care (or living somewhere other than with their own family), emotionally immature (poor boundaries), instability, uncertain legal status, poverty, and desperation.

Our work with over 150 trafficked girls in Cambodia fully concurs with Dr. Johnson's list. In effect girls may say they have chosen prostitution, but in reality they are forced into it based upon their life circumstances. You can read the story of one such girl, Mein, at http://agapewebsite.org/news/.

Still, there is additional evidence to support the claim that girls don't choose prostitution, at least in the country of Cambodia. The ECPAT-Cambodia report referred to above contains additional findings that support that this thesis. On pages 31 and 32 of the report, the trafficking victims were asked, "what abuses did you suffer prior to being freed?" 83% responded, "I was forced to have sex." At the very least this would indicate that the girls had no idea that choosing prostitution meant having sex with men. And if they didn’t understand that, how could they be choosing it?

I've been hesitant to write this blog, afraid that some may think that the answer to stopping sex trafficking/sex slavery is economic development and education. There is no doubt that these are good things, and are helpful in the fight against human trafficking. However, they are not adequate to fight the evil of child sex trafficking. Certainly we need look no further than our own Western societies to confirm this fact. While there is no doubt the West leads the world in economic development and education, there is also no doubt that these have not eradicated evil. In fact, much of the evil that supports human trafficking worldwide originates in the West. So what's the answer? That will have to be the subject of another blog.