Ugly Side of Rio

I love the Olympics. There’s a large part of me that loves the games because I am most assuredly not skillful enough or graceful enough to even attempt any of the sports myself. So, like numerous others around the games, when I can’t, I find satisfaction in watching. 

Don’t hear this as a, “Boycot the Olympics” speech. If I did that, I’d be a force to be reckoned with for the next two weeks. But there’s a side of Rio we never want to think about. To the Christians in my audience, I beg you to think about it. 

As you watch the games and they pan over the brightly lit nightlife of Rio, see what they don’t want you to see: A struggling industry that caters to child prostitution because any dollar made is a precious dollar spent. 

The roads are packed with the, “You only live once” crowd for the next two weeks. The kiddos are being told its beneficial for their families. The “industry” is so big that even if a few heroically-minded people rescued three or four children, their spots would be filled by new recruits within an afternoon. 

Welcome to Rio. 

As a Christian, I often find myself acting as if praying doesn’t have power. When I think of this heartache, I mutter, “Jesus, the only thing I can do is pray.” 

Wrong. It’s the most powerful thing we can do. Pray against the industry. Pray for the kiddos’ protection. Pray their hearts are guarded with supernatural power. Pray for freedom. Pray the economy has a miraculous turn where they aren’t interdependent on prostitution to keep the lights on. 

Enjoy the Olympics. Pray for Rio. 

Hello, My Name is Sex?

All they were meant for was sex. They probably got fed beautiful enough lies. They most likely hated their fathers enough to believe the lies or feel as if they couldn’t speak out for protection. They were probably quietly called the hotel’s residential whores.

I mean, heck, obviously that’s what they were. Two men went into their rooms who most likely didn’t look like they could have been the girls’ fathers. The girls never left, always smiled and never called the cops. Whoredom in Alaska isn’t that hard to imagine. Right? We could stand back and mentally write their story and possibly judge them for their character. When it all comes down to it, though, it is Alaska.

Whatever floats your boat, Kiddos.

Two men in Fairbanks, Alaska, underwent a traffic citation recently which led to the seizure of narcotics and the discovery of two women under the age of 21 (Anchorage Daily News). One night being used for sex is enough. At least one of these women had been kept for over a year.

As I read their story, my heart broke in two. To be fair, women go unnoticed so often in Alaska, I was shocked to hear the men were being held accountable. I have too many young women friends who only changed their situation by the grace of God. The offending men are never pursued or only verbally threatened by an overprotective male in the woman’s life. 

Because “undercover and low-grade” trafficking is so common in Alaska, I am not shocked by the woes of these women. Mentally, I started praying over the women as soon as I saw the words trafficked and Alaska. 

Then I did something I never thought I’d do. I choked back the phrase, “Thank you for keeping them alive.” I shed a few tears and whispered, “If they don’t know You, Lord, thank you for giving them another chance. If they do know You… Oh, Jesus, do a miracle and give them the desire to continue living.”

Christians come down really heavily raising a collective rant about ending trafficking. Wholeheartedly, I couldn’t agree more. No one deserves that level of mental, emotional and Spiritual abuse. Only after those first three things are broken in a woman does she even stop to consider regretting the scars of physical and sexual abuse.

But the reality is, freeing her from her surroundings or the “Johns” who stole her innocence isn’t freeing her. The bonds go to her soul, the cage to her spirit. She feels dirty, useless, hated and abhorred. She may be able to walk the streets again, but those emotions warring for her life make her long for the bedroom again. 

According to Equality Now, 6 out of 10 women identified as trafficked victims are used for sexual exploitation. With that many “sisters” on the street being used for thirty seconds of mindless bliss, returning to her trafficked surroundings is easier if there isn’t emotional, mental and spiritual protection and support. She’ll be seen as needy. She’ll ask the same questions over and over and over again. Answer them. Every time.

With the recent story heavy on my mind, I plead for a perspective shift in my Christian brothers and sisters. Yes, work towards ending sex slavery. Yes, talk about it enough that we can’t act like it doesn’t exist. Do it proactively, though.

Be willing to be seen as the awkward prude in the grocery store who asks the nervous teen if the guy holding her hand is good to her. Look for fear. Look for hatred. Look for a tightened grip on her hand. Be willing to hold the young woman’s gaze for an almost-awkward amount of time. Even if she thinks her life is fantastic (pimps really can be sweet, smooth and pleasing), holding her eye contact can tell you so much.

Believe it or not, convincing the woman that you see her breaks her mindset that her identity will always be sex. If she tears up when you ask her her name… Whisper the truth and the call the cops. 

Tell her her name is so much more than Slave.