I’m cleaning out my inbox and find an unread email from last month. It's from a woman out of the sex industry for years with a desire to be involved in JSL. I feel horrible that an entire month goes by. I email her my apologies and include my cell phone. She immediately calls, it’s close to 11 p.m. — I’m feeling worn and a bit sick ('tis the season). But, I hear the Spirit, “You don’t have to fix, just listen.”
I pick up the phone and her story unfolds. She, in turn, asks for mine. What’s my story? Was I in the industry? Why am I doing what I do? We share, we connect, we get it. She hasn’t walked my road, nor have I hers, but here we are now walking TOGETHER. While I listen, my mind turns to the dysfunctional systems, repeated patterns I hear in SO many stories. The stories of childhood sexual abuse are commonplace — one of our women doesn’t even remember years 9-12. Then, there’s the adoption and foster care system woven with the toughest thread of rejection, the sex industry eats these children (now women) up.
I hear the stories of our women who are sexually assaulted by customers...and managers allow it, some even encourage it — that’s probably where I begin to “lose my religion”. This is right here, right now, in the USA. Gang rapes, parking lot assaults, violent molestation in V.I.P rooms, and the worst — the women keep silent about it. Many think because they’re commercial sex workers that this is expected of them. Many are unaware of their rights and services that exist to help them if this occurs. Some of them have been doing this work since they were 14 years old, right here in our own backyards. And you know these people — you see them in the grocery store, on your college campus, at the mall, at the movies. They’re waiting tables, bar-tending, administrative assistants, teachers, pilots, hairstylists, nurses, etc…
These stories aren’t past, they’re present, current realities that happen every single day in “gentlemen’s clubs” across our country. And while the alcohol and Xanax might take the edge off of the victim, as humans we have this amazing tape that documents non-stop — our brain. It might disassociate, but make no mistake — it DOES NOT TURN OFF. It stores, it files away, it adjusts and troubleshoots, but there is no powering down unless you’re dead. And all that coded information? Even if it’s in the subconscious, the brain signals our responses and determines much of our behavior. When life events occur that signal similar senses, that’s when we trigger, that’s when it’s brought to the conscious...that’s when things can get messy — when we pick up the pills again. Or, it’s when healing can begin; but, how do you begin to know you can choose this?
In all the attempts to legitimize sex for sale, I want to be transparent and clear: it was never God’s intention for humans to sell sex. We are under a major cultural effort to normalize commercial sex, and thereby minimize the trauma. The attitude and rhetoric goes like this, “Oh yes, human trafficking is deplorable; but I mean, if a woman chooses to sell sex that’s her prerogative.”
Sex trafficking and the commercial sex industry are inextricably linked. Porn is mainstream, and it is driving sexual appetites to objectify and exploit humans, most often women. Pornography is now becoming more violent, and violence now becomes normalized in the name of a sexual fetish, hobby, or lust. This appetite then shows up in strip clubs, needing a person, not just a screen. An appetite is out for one thing: satisfaction. It has no regard for human empathy. If you’re not “bold enough” to show up at a club, you do what most cowards do, go online— buy a girl there.
These “clients” (well, client would be a legitimate business term and this business is illegal) show up at hotels, the one your family likes to stay in, and purchase sex. Many times from underage boys and girls. This underage child is not a prostitute, but a victim of human trafficking. And when she becomes 17, guess what? She “acts out”, drops out, runs away from home, and starts soliciting sex online and the cops’ hands are tied because in Texas, a 17 year old can be criminalized. When business slows for her online where will this teenager go? The clubs. Or maybe an app - a lot of the industry is moving to live webcam sex and such. The sex industry has a huge advantage now because of technology and social media, they’re picking off kids left and right. Poverty is still the number one risk factor for human trafficking, but in our country, middle - upper class high schools are hunting grounds for recruiters. In a well known Texas suburban ISD, there are 35 human trafficking cases currently open in their high school.
Church — wake up! Your ministers, your deacons, your congregations are being ravaged by unchecked appetites that lead to violence against women and children. They’re being arrested. Your daughters are desperate for belonging and are getting lost in social media, sexting-land. You need to TALK about this. And it is an all-play. Men and women alike are using porn more and more together. Your kids are seeing images they never tell you about. This is a cultural conditioning and we must be “awake”. Human empathy and connection are flying out the window while we argue, debate, gossip, and numb out so we can sleep. This is not life abundant.
“The night is gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast of the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Romans 13:11-14
JSL is committed to reaching those impacted by the commercial sex industry as well as stopping the demand. Stop Demand School is a sex buyers intervention program where those arrested for solicitation or purchase of sex, can be sentenced to take as part of their punishment. You can read more about it here.
89% of women in the industry say they want out but have no other means of survival. When we stop the demand, the supply decreases. Simple economics. And when this happens, JSL is ready to help those exciting the sex industry to recover through healthy relationships, support groups, counseling and jobs through Lovely Enterprises.
We are not hopeless, but are counting on the people of God to first address the issue within themselves, within their congregations and thereby make change in this culture.
“Let it begin with me, God.”