IN SMALLER BITE-SIZE PORTIONS..
Early last week, on June 19th, the U.S. Department of State released the Trafﬁcking in Persons Report of 2013. The purpose of this annual report is to present what is essentially a grading system on how well various governments are approaching the crime of Human Trafﬁcking and the difﬁculties that come with victim identiﬁcation and service provision. In response to this report’s release, The Gray Haven Project interns have taken it upon themselves to present a summary and personal reﬂection on various sections from this report. We know that this report is extremely lengthy and that not many people will actually read the report, so we broke it down into smaller sections in an effort to make it a little more palatable for you..
If you would like to read the entire report or watch the introduction by Secretary of State John Kerry it can be found here: http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2013/index.htm
Without further ado, let's begin..
The Demand for Sex
Human Trafficking has steadily become more publicized in recent years. Thanks to the efforts of organizations such as International Justice Mission, Polaris Project, and many more, information about Trafficking In Persons has become more detailed and much easier to access. The sad reality is that human trafficking is prevalent even in the most affluent areas that seem to be “above” such activity. In fact, there are extremely few areas that are “trafficking-free” in the United States or abroad. The reason for this is very simple: demand.
If you know much about business, you will understand this. The amount of “supply” is contingent upon how much “demand” there is for the product. The demand for sex is indiscriminate, spanning across all Socio Economic statuses and across all races or ethnicities.
“If there were no demand for commercial sex, sex trafficking would not exist in the form it does today. This reality underscores the need for continued strong efforts to enact policies and promote cultural norms that disallow paying for sex.” This statement, found in the Trafficking in Persons Report of 2013 composed by the U.S. Department of State, is a simple reminder of how deep the culture of demand is seeded. It is found in everything, from the way our parents teach us to work hard so we can afford all that we want, to the unrestricted access to all things afforded to us by the Internet and smart phones, and even in the music we hear driving to and from work everyday glorifying professions that are prosecutable by law.
Now obviously, none of these things are inherently wrong. There is nothing wrong with a mother or father imparting the important lesson of a good work ethic, there is nothing bad about constant access to information, and music is a form of art when properly utilized. The fault lies in how such things are applied and what they are used to perpetuate. It is from this realization that we each must accept the responsibility of no longer remaining quiet and assuming that our friends, our family, or even our children will automatically recognize the moral misgivings of demanding commercial sex. Teaching a child to work hard and attain everything that he or she wants is a lesson every parent should strive to teach, but when do they learn that attaining such things cannot come at the expense of the freedom, dignity, or health of another individual? That lesson must be taught with words and actions, directly and unapologetically addressing the issue.
My name is Jeremy, and I am a summer intern with The Gray Haven Project. I have lived in the great area of Richmond since my 4th birthday, I currently attend a Richmond Seminary working towards a Master of Divinity, and I came to this organization with surface-level knowledge on human trafficking. I have since begun the plunge into the murky, dark and deep waters of this issue. Each day comes with a new experience and a fresh perspective.
Recently, Josh (co-founder and CEO of Gray Haven) tasked me with attending something known as a “John School” at which he was presenting information on the dynamics of Human Trafficking. For those who, like me, may not be familiar with John School, it is essentially a daylong course intended to inform men who have been charged with soliciting sex of the dangers of transmittable diseases, further legal consequences for repeat offenders, and the stories behind the “consenting adults” with whom they engaged in sexual activities.
I was struck the moment I walked in. Looking around the room at these ‘johns,’ there was no discernable connection. 30-something Average Joe was sitting next to a 20-something stud. Salt-and-Peppered men who reminded me of my own father (who, by the way, has never engaged in sex solicitation and is a wonderful man who has set an incredible example for his children) were sitting next to barely-out-of-boyhood young ‘adults’ who have yet to learn the amazing features offered by a belt. Maybe half of the room was married, or at least those brave few who decided to display their wedding bands. And all of them were in the same room that day for one reason: they were each caught paying for sex.
As I sat in the corner, observing the information being presented by the always-impressive Josh (going for brownie points here…I am an intern, after all!), I was able to read the faces of these men as they learned the horror stories behind the women they had believed were enjoying the sex, just paying their way through college, or consenting adults. And what I saw was both encouraging and infuriating at the same time.
From face to face, each man had a different expression. Some were visibly ashamed by their role in this industry that has caused so much pain. Others were shocked to learn that these women might still be under 18, coerced or forced into a life of prostitution. And still others were defiant and stoic, continuing their search for some way to claim their own innocence and ignore the hard truths presented before them.
It was this experience of witnessing the faces of the “demand” side of the trafficking business that has solidified the importance of educating men. For many, it was a lack of understanding the impact their actions had on the lives of others. For others, it was seeing how the industry truly worked behind closed doors. And there were the few who felt no guilt, no shame, and likely were only sorry that they got caught. But there is still hope in those men who, now educated and informed, might have walked out of that room with the conviction to not only never solicit sex again, but to also discuss the truth of this industry with their friends who may be engaging in the same activity. And this hope is enough to continue our efforts. Reducing the demand of commercial sex, even just by one person at a time, is still progress and it still makes a difference.
As I have learned in my short tenure at The Gray Haven Project this summer, human trafficking rarely looks the way you might expect. It is hidden and camouflaged so effectively that we likely pass it by each day and are never the wiser. Now I have also learned the same is true of those who seek it out and solicit the services it can provide. Any person, successful or unsuccessful, rich or poor, young or old, attractive or plain, sketchy or respectable, can be a ‘john.’ And they will remain a ‘john’ until they are educated on the consequences and impact of their actions.
Hope remains of bringing restoration to those involved in this industry. Now, that hope extends to those on both sides of the “Supply & Demand” model. Progress is progress, and the betterment of one person’s life regardless of which side they fall on makes a difference to at least that one. That is worth every bit of effort we can muster.