July-August 2015 – For many years, modern-day slavery operated under the radar of unassuming Americans. But through awareness campaigns, blockbuster movies, television shows, books, blogs, and conferences, knowledge of the the issue has permeated American culture.
Even with awareness rising, few perceive how great the problem is.
Globally, there are 20-30 million humans in captivity today. It is estimated 80% of those are female. Half of that 80% are under 18. Trafficking is the third largest criminal enterprise on the planet behind only illegal drugs and arms trading. It is a multi-billion dollar enterprise taking place in almost every country, including America.
Each time AFA Journal has covered trafficking, readers call, write, or email asking how they can join the fight. Cory Nickols, regional manager for Destiny Rescue’s Los Angeles, California, office, recently spoke with AFAJ concerning how Christians, armed with vision, purpose, and the gospel, can go on the offensive and help end trafficking in this generation.
The international front
Nickols began his journey to the front lines through a short-term mission trip hosted by DR. During the trip he saw the horrors of trafficking firsthand. Compelled by God, he applied to work full-time for DR and moved to Thailand serving as a copywriter. He was soon promoted to media director. Under that title, he participated in raids as an undercover agent identifying underage girls and, with support of his team and local law enforcement, rescued and transferred them to a DR safe house.
Knowing the impact a 14-day trip made on his life, Nickols highly suggests anyone even slightly interested take a similar trip. DR hosts trips every month, some last seven days and others fourteen. He said, “When you step off the plane, we take you to a red-light district where you see the environment. Then participants get to see some of our homes. The girls in our homes range from age 5 to 17, and each has been rescued from brothels or sexually abusive situations. Their stories are heartbreaking, but when you see the Great Physician healing them from the inside out, their stories of terror become stories of hope.”
While these trips are educational, they are also proactive. Some trips focus on projects that need to be done in one or more homes. The work may involve manual labor or painting a few rooms.
DR knows going out of the country for seven or fourteen days is not an option for everyone, so it provides several other ways for freedom fighters to partner with it. Nickols said, “One of our greatest and most persistent needs is funding. We want to be completely transparent with how our money is spent, so in addition to having a general fund for donations, we also offer project-specific opportunities.”
The first project is direct funding for the rescue of a trafficking victim. Nickols said, “It takes $1,500 to rescue one girl from a brothel. An undercover agent has to travel to a country and town where underage trafficking is known to exist. He then has to pay for lodging and food while he is there, typically from a few days to a week or more. Once he finds a girl he believes is underage, he will buy time with her, build a rapport with her, and offer rescue. If she accepts our help, we transport her to one of our safe houses, provide her new clothes and medical treatment, and give her a care package. “Every penny donated to DR for a rescue is used only for rescues.” DR has rescued over 200 girls since January 1, 2015.
The American front
It is commonly believed that trafficking is primarily a problem for Third World countries. But conservative estimates say there are at least 60,000 slaves on American soil. The tragedy of slaves in the land of the free is real and big.
Similar to international trafficking, there are numerous ways individuals can stand on the front lines. Two of the best weapons are awareness and education. Knowing trafficking is happening around small towns and big cities helps police officers and civilians recognize potential trafficking situations. No longer is a female walking the streets just a random girl who made bad decisions. She can now be identified as the victim she is.
Everyone has a sphere of influence. Knowing this, DR has developed programs for individuals to educate others in their personal spheres.
The first is Take a Stand. Nickols said, “The basic concept is for a group of people to stand up for however many hours they can. They get people to sponsor them for every hour. We have had several high schools and colleges participate. One high school student body president was so moved by the plague of trafficking he inspired the entire school to remove its chairs for one day. Students across the campus stood for eight hours. They raised over $8,500.”
The other strategy adds another layer of involvement by directly involving the women rescued from trafficking. Nickols said, “After we rescue the girls from brothels, we begin to teach them a trade. One of those trades is jewelry making. We take the jewelry they make and invite people in the States to host jewelry parties. At a party, people learn about trafficking and have an opportunity to buy items hand-made by survivors. This serves to provide income for our girls, bring awareness to the hosts’ sphere of influence, introduce them to DR, and provide them with something tangible to remind them to pray for those caught in trafficking and those working to rescue them.”
For both initiatives, Destiny Rescue offers promotional material and any other support desired by participants. Information for both events can be found at destinyrescue.org.
Bringing awareness is a great and laudable goal. But it cannot stop there. Numerous people have been found guilty of trafficking underage girls in America and received a fine, a few months in jail, or only probation.
This is where organizations such as Shared Hope International (sharedhope.org) take center stage. Part of Shared Hope’s vision is to bring legislation to state and federal levels that protects victims while prosecuting traffickers and others participating in or profiting from trafficking. Each year, Shared Hope studies and analyzes each state’s laws pertaining to trafficking and provides them with a report card. Currently only three states have an “A” rating: Washington, Louisiana, and Tennessee. (See AFA Journal 2/15.)
Other states are making progress, but leaders need to hear from constituents. One phone call to a state representative can lead to massive changes.
Even if changes are happening at the state level, local changes must be made as well. Most police officers do not have training to identify and assist trafficking victims. This problem will be fixed only by a grassroots movement in each city.
The home front
Nowhere is the fight against trafficking more real than in the home. Parents do not want to accept this fact, but American children are at risk for being trafficked in every neighborhood. Alicia Kozakiewicz, a 13-year-old girl in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, met Scott Tyree through an online chat room. The two formed a relationship through the course of a year and decided to meet on New Year’s Day 2002. Tyree turned out to be a 38-year-old man from Virginia. He abducted her and took her to his home. She was later rescued and now speaks across the country telling her story, encouraging parents to be active in their children’s online activities. To see the rest of Kozakiewicz’s story and see her other suggestions for parents, visit aliciaproject.org.
Tim Winter, president of Parents Television Council (parentstv.org), furthered Kozakiewicz’s suggestions. He said, “The most important, practical thing parents can do to protect their children from trafficking also requires the most effort. We parents have to be more actively involved in the media consumption of children, social media yes, but also any and all entertainment.
“Today’s television landscape is making traffickers’ jobs easier. I have spoken with women who were trafficked, and each one told me the entertainment culture is rife with depictions and descriptions that desensitize us to the horrors of trafficking. This helps break down a girl’s objections to being trafficked and men’s objection to participating in their abuse through using them as sex slaves or participating in pornography.”
Nickols echoed their sentiments. He said, “Parents must take an active approach to learning about social media and entertainment. But I would say equally important in protecting kids is for parents to provide a loving, safe, and stable home environment. Traffickers see a group of kids and can spot the single girl starving for love and affection. He will prey on her, using her desire to be loved and valued to manipulate and ultimately enslave her.”
Fighting trafficking can seem like trying to hold back a flood with a Styrofoam cup. But Nickols has hope for Christians. He said, “Whatever role God is calling you to play in the fight against trafficking, say, ‘Yes.’ Your yes to God is not insignificant. When you say yes to God, you are leaving it up to Him to perform a miracle on your behalf. Just be patient and faithful.”
DESTINY RESCUE … RESCUING CHILDREN
Destiny Rescue has a clear mission and purpose. The leaders of the organization wanted a name to match that clarity. Cory Nickols said, “When we rescue girls, our first goal is to bring them physical and emotional healing. We provide that through doctors, counselors, and the gospel. They see they are worthy of dreaming. We show them God still has a plan and purpose for them, leading them to learn how to dream again. Once they have accomplished that, they begin to dream of a bigger destiny than being used by men. Our girls have become nurses, accountants, salon owners, and teachers. Their destinies have been rescued.”
One of the many ways to partner with DR is adopting a safe house. To see other ways you can join the front lines with DR, visit destinyrescue.org.