Rape Drugs, Roadside Stands, and Human Trafficking: There Are No Innocent Bystanders

[From the archives.]


Un-Innocent Bystanders

Earlier this month my son and I attended a conference entitled The Church and Human Trafficking. It made me think about Adam and Eve, but not the part about how everything was sinless and free of awful things like human trafficking in the Garden of Eden. It got me thinking about us too, but not just “us” in the sense of me and my son but also “us” in the sense of you and everyone else.

An Awkward Conversation

God told Adam and Eve to eat whatever they liked in the Garden of Eden, except for the fruit that gave knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 3 covers the whole story. I’ll paraphrase occasionally here.) Later, Satan asked Eve to explain these rules about eating fruit. In what was far from her finest moment, Eve got the facts wrong.

“We can eat whatever we want, but we’ll die if we eat or touch that tree’s fruit.” (Why she added that bit about not touching it is anyone’s guess.)

“Oh come on, you can eat it,” said Satan. “And once you do you’ll be like God himself.”

So Eve ate some forbidden fruit. Isn’t the suspense killing you, though, wondering why Adam wasn’t there to help set Eve straight? Oh, that’s right. He was there.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

He was right there with her the whole time, and as soon as they took those bites they knew they’d done wrong and tried to hide from God.

Hiding from God never works.

“Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” said God.

Direct, to the point, simple to answer: yes or no.

“The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Hmm, that’s not quite a yes or no answer. More like: “It’s your fault; you put this woman here! It’s her fault; she’s the one who served me the fruit! It’s not my fault; I was just standing there!”

Innocent bystander? I don’t think so.

Driving Traffic

At the human trafficking conference (held at Mount Hermon in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains in California, by the way) we heard from people who have gained tremendous experience, sometimes by choice and sometimes not. One person who gained her initial experience not by choice told us of the trafficking going on in pornography.

As a young woman, she fell into a crowd that seemed nice enough. Sure they were a little rough, but they were better than those she’d known before. Then one night they invited her into the backroom of a bar and drugged her. It wasn’t a regular street drug. It was the type sometimes called a date rape drug. These drugs make you unable to remember what’s happened. They break down your ability to resist. They can give the appearance that you are wide awake and willingly participating in whatever’s going on.

A room full of men repeatedly raped her.

They filmed her, too. That was the point, to distribute this as a sex video. She had no idea what had happened to her when she woke up. Then it happened the next night … and again, and again, and again. Although she suspected possibly being raped, she still did not know that she was being filmed. Not until someone showed her the video, that is.

This happens to women every day. It might be in the backroom of a bar, it might be during a college party, it might be at a friend’s house. One common scenario we learned shows how people can be drawn into participating in this. Suppose a group of young men in college have raped someone on video and then invite others to watch it. The way group dynamics work, a viewer won’t easily be able to speak up in protest. Once they’ve seen it, they are then complicit in the film even if they were not there initially. They may try to claim innocence because they had nothing to do with creating the movie, but it sounds as hollow as Adam’s response to God.

You think, “Well, I don’t watch porn, and I certainly do not ever want to watch a gang rape.” Good, but that’s not all there is to human trafficking. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime:

Trafficking in persons has three constituent elements:
The Act (What is done) Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons
The Means (How it is done) Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim
The Purpose (Why it is done) For the purpose of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs.

So it’s not just sex.

One common variety of labor trafficking occurs on street corners every day. Ever see those fruit vendors who are set up with a stack of strawberry boxes or bins of cherries or bags of oranges? They might look like they’re from some local farm, but they’re not. These people are driven to a corner and told to stay there all day selling fruit.

At the end of the day, they’re picked up and driven to a house or apartment, likely sharing a room with several others. They may be from another country, originally arriving here willingly on a promise of finding a better life. But once here, isolated from friends and family, they are told they have to work selling the fruit and hand over their wages, that the people controlling them will turn them in to the police if not, that the family back home will never see them again.

It’s easy to control people who are in unfamiliar territory, who don’t know the language, who are afraid of what might happen to their families. It’s easy to control people who feel worthless. It’s easy to oppress victims.

It’s what human traffickers do, and they do it well.

They get away with it because too many of us are mere bystanders, even claiming to be innocent bystanders.

I don’t know about you, but I’m un-innocent. Spluttering excuses like Adam in the garden just won’t cut it. God calls us to so much more.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8.)

God’s justice, God’s mercy, done God’s way. That’s what I’m after. Where to start?

  • Start with prayer. Ask God to help you understand the problem.
  • Read up on the subject. The UN link above might be a good place to start.
  • Talk to your friends and see if anyone else is interested in the issue. I’ve found that if God has work for me to do, there’s a strong likelihood he’s got someone for me to do it with.

Whatever you do, it’s a start.

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12 Responses to Rape Drugs, Roadside Stands, and Human Trafficking: There Are No Innocent Bystanders

  1. janehinrichs says:

    Thanks for sharing this again, Tim. Human trafficking breaks my heart, makes me weep the more I think about it. I can’t imagine how God feels about it. I pray all this talk that seems to be in so many places is having an effect on the situation.

  2. lauradroege says:

    Wonderful post on a horrible subject matter. Thanks for writing and running this piece again.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Thanks for this, Tim. Our church is quite involved in this issue — we have some members who are connected with International Justice Mission and Ratanak International.

    I put up a link to your post on my church’s Facebook page because I’m sure there are people there who’d be very interested in reading what you’ve written here.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for linking this up with your church’s FB page, and thanks for the links in your comment too.

      International Justice Mission has been on our radar for a few years now, Jeannie. My son is considering applying for an internship with them, perhaps to work in one of their field offices overseas. He’s already traveled to Vietnam a few times to work with children and youth, and is leading a team there this summer, so it’s a logical extension if he does decide to pursue working with IJM.

  4. nmcdonal says:

    Thanks for continuing to keep this in front of us, Tim. Very important stuff.

  5. Adriana says:

    Thank you, Tim. Also thanks for the link to Lesley Sebek Miller’s post. It’s helpful as well.

  6. Lesley says:

    Thanks for linking to my post Tim. I really hate reading your post (and I hated writing my own) but it’s important to talk about. This week, Sacramento was named the 2nd worst city in the US for trafficking (according to the FBI). Things have to change.

  7. Aimee Byrd says:

    The principle behind this article is so important, Tim. I try to teach this (on a much lower level) to my kids. It’s not enough not to be the one calling people names, bullying, etc. You need to take a stand for the victims. There is responsibility in association. People try to “just stay out of it” because they don’t want to pay the cost of taking a stand. But if we raise our children knowing that the right thing also comes with a price, they will be better prepared for the greater crimes.

    • Tim says:

      You are such a good mom (and don’t try to talk me out of that opinion!). Being faithful in little things does lead to being better prepared for the big ones, Aimee.

  8. Pingback: Why I haven’t Seen 12 Years A Slave (and probably never will) | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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