The first time I walked down this street, it was by accident. We were relatively new to the city. I enjoy ferreting out the various markets and shopping possibilities in cities we where we have lived. Brussels was no different. So here we are a family of four rummaging around in a heavily populated well trafficked area when we happen upon display windows. Window shopping can be fun depending on what you find in the window. In these windows were girls…very scantily clad girls. At the time which was about eighteen years ago, I could only think, “Yikes, get the kids off this street.” Fast forward to September of 2013.
After a wonderful week in Antwerp, Belgium ministering alongside Janee Angel and Hary Khano, we were traveling by train to Brussels. We were to spend a week visiting our friends. We looked out the train window as we approached the station. There was the street with more windows than before. They were bigger and they had neon lights. Every window had someone in them…male and female. Each one was attempting to show off their wares. It was eleven o’clock in the morning. A couple of nights later, we were visiting friends in the area. We walked along the street. Men getting off work were ‘window shopping.’ Only a few of the windows were occupied as business was quite brisk at this time of day.
Not much has changed from the first time I was on that street until my recent experience there….not much except me. I used to think “prostitution.” Now I think “victimization.” I used to think “immorality.” Now I think “vulnerability.” I used to think “selling.” Now I think “being sold.” I used to think, “selling is illegal.” Now I think, “buying should be illegal.” I used to think “choice.” Now I think, “force.” I used to think, “sad.” Now I think, “unjust.” One of the things I say to folks when teaching about human trafficking is this tiny bit of logic, “If the average age for entering prostitution is between 12 and 14, then you are not a prostitute you are a child. You are a victim. If I happen to meet that child after the age of 18, he or she may be technically adult but their victimization has not gone away with age.
I have witnessed personally many forms of human trafficking in my past 29 years of missionary service. I have seen everything from child and forced labor to the red light district of more than one major city. I am grieved that I let it slip by me without considering that not only was I contributing but I could have and should have been a part of changing it. It seems these days that trafficking is the latest justice bandwagon. The list of injustices harming our fellow human beings is endless. No, we can’t right every single one. And no, not every single one of us will call the trafficking hotline (1-888-373-7888) in order to help a potential victim. But this is one injustice that every single one of us can make a difference in the life of another whether by our purchasing power, our observation of others, or supporting grass roots movements to end exploitation such as pornography. I would not want to leave anyone without the possibility of acting immediately. So here are five quick possibilities to make a difference:
1. Follow the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Sign petitions or become involved in some of their grass roots awareness efforts.
2. Download the app Free to Work and begin examining your purchasing power.
3. Order Polaris Project’s new student kit and empower your youth to be a part of making a change.
4. Put the National Human Trafficking Hotline Number in your phone and use it! 1-888-3737-888.
5. Try not to use the word prostitute or to think of prostitution as a crime. Rather think of buying sex as a crime and press for laws that make it a mandatory 30 days in jail and a misdemeanor!
Note: The city of Houston now has a “SAFE court,” Survivors Acquiring Freedom and Empowerment. For first time offenders charged with prostitution rather than entering the criminal court system they will be assessed and will be trained in life skills needed for recovery and a new life. We are working to help our partners at Redeemed Ministries in the establishment of an assessment center.
Email email@example.com if you would like to know how you can help.