Dirty? Promiscuous? Someone to be avoided? Sinful? Slut?
Maybe some of you would even associate that word with images of attractive, scantily clad women in high-heels, getting into fancy cars and bringing in a lot of money.
Several years ago I would have thought some of the same things. Now my first thoughts when I hear the word "prostitute" are these: Exploited. Broken. Abused. Enslaved. This is someone's child. Was she abused as a child? Who deceived her? Does she know that there are people who want to show her love rather than just use her? Does she know that this is not God's best for her life, and Christ desires for her to know physical, emotional, and spiritual freedom?
We live in a society that has glamorized sexual violence and exploitation of women. I don't even have to give examples of this because it is so pervasive. Unfortunately, even believers buy what the world promotes, unknowingly accepting the lie that this is a "job" that women choose to do. But did you know that according to the Polaris Project, the average entry age into prostitution in the United States is 12-14 years old? Did you know that the average life span of a prostitute on the streets is 4-6 years? Did you know that the mortality rate for a prostitute is 40x higher than the national average? Did you know that in the thousands upon thousand of women that Women At Risk has rescued from the sex industry, they have never encountered even one woman who had chosen to get involved in the first place? Did you know that most of these women are used 10-30 times a day, and are often manipulated, threatened, branded, beaten, starved, and deprived of basic human necessities if they do not meet the monetary quota their pimp sets for them?
Did you know God has a special delight in redeeming broken vessels for His glory? Last week, I had the incredible privilege to hear an amazing testimony of a woman I'll call Karen. Karen always felt extremely self conscious and lonely....a very common feeling in young girls. She never felt as though she fit in anywhere, and in high school began to spend time with a group that made her feel like she finally had friends. The problem was, they were manipulating her in order to use her. One day she responded to a call from one of her friends to meet and hang out, only to show up and find that it was not the friend she expected but an older boy from the group who lied to her, raped her, and left her. She was only 14, and she had no idea what had happened to her. Feeling isolated and scared, she spiraled into depression and began lashing out at her mother. She soon turned to drugs to numb her pain, and her mother, not knowing how to respond, sent her across the country to live with her aunt. Soon, Karen's aunt grew tired of her niece's moody, angry behavior and sent her to live with a friend from school.
Less than two weeks later, that friend's father took Karen to an isolated area, held his hand over her mouth, and violated her. Once again isolated and fearful, Karen fled back to an area near her mother, and she was soon even more addicted to the drugs that helped her escape her dark depression.
Karen caught the eye of one of the top drug-dealers in the area and she once again fell prey to the lie of Satan that this was the only person who would accept her as she was. He used her for as long as it suited him, and months later left her alone, more addicted than ever, and penniless.
To get her hit Karen began selling the only thing she had left: her body. By her own admission, she never should have survived with all that happened, yet God preserved her. She got clean for a short time and was married to man whom she describes as "miraculous." But still, Karen was not filled. She turned back to her short term fix of getting high, spending weekends binging. Still her husband stayed and tried to help her. The breaking point came when Karen put her desire for drugs above the safety of her daughter...and her husband finally told her enough.
She returned to what had been their home, only to find her husband had taken their two daughters and mostly moved out. Oddly, the television was still there and turned on. Not only turned on, but on a channel that had a man preaching the gospel. Though Karen had heard it all before, something this man was saying finally sunk in: "Christ, through dying on the cross, is saying 'you are mine. I have bought you with a price.' No matter how dirty, how broken, how filthy you feel right now, Christ has purchased you and desires for you to know forgiveness and true life." Karen stopped running. She stopped turning to cheap highs and short term fulfillment and turned to Christ! God restored her relationship with her husband and her daughters and even blessed her with a third daughter though doctors said she would never be able to have any children with her husband.
If you met Karen, you would never know what she has been through because she radiates love and joy. Her daughter does too; she led the worship that night at the women's bible study when I got to hear Karen's testimony and she was an example of how when Christ heals, He heals completely! Karen's story of redemption took place almost ten years ago. What was amazing though was that at my table there was sitting another beautiful sister in Christ on the path of healing. "Lydia's" story is almost identical to Karen's, & she was one of 9 individuals rescued through the All Worthy of Love outreach program last year and is now over half-way done with her restorative program. She was able to join us for the evening and hear a testimony from a woman who exemplifies God's grace; she was able to see what God can do when we are willing to walk in obedience, and when we reach out and take the gift of forgiveness and new life that Christ is offering.
So what does this mean for you, believer? I hope it means you will not be so quick to judge those who have different stories and backgrounds than your own. I hope it means you will seek to help the people you see who are so obviously struggling, rather than turning away because their predicament makes you uncomfortable. I hope it means that you will love relentlessly and without borders, like Christ has done for us.
There are so many practical ways you can help those trapped in human trafficking. As a start, please check out a few of the ministries I mentioned in this post:
Women At Risk
All Worthy of Love
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. -Isaiah 58:6-12