Did you watch the premier of A Path Appears, the new series on PBS by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (authors of Half the Sky)? It’s about sex trafficking here in the United States and features some courageous people who are doing something about it. The stories are unbearably heartbreaking and deeply disturbing. Today, however, these same women are competent, articulate, healthy and beautiful. It would not be that way if someone hadn’t intervened.
One girl told how, as a teenager on the street every night, she would watch nice women in smart suits walk by and fantasize that someday one of them might come up to her and ask if she was ok. She was longing for someone to notice, as she stood outside in the cold nights talking to men in cars. None of those women ever did. Many of those now reaching out are women who have been “in the life.” They have eyes to see what others miss!
Just last month I saw a flyer up at Henry Ford College where I teach part-time. It was for a service project sponsored by students at Madonna University called SOAP (Save our Adolescents from Prostitution). People participating in this project go to local motels and distribute bars of soap labeled with a hotline number for people to call if they are being trafficked or see someone they suspect may be being trafficked. The flyer caught my eye because of my involvement with iZōsh.
Some of you may have seen Shared Hope International’s I’m Not Buying It campaign on Facebook before the Super Bowl. Together with Demanding Justice they circulated a petition calling for the prosecution of the buyers of sex. These organizations help more of us to see the harm and pervasiveness of trafficking, and are a very effective approach. They call on the justice system to stop treating the trafficked women, girls (and boys) like criminals— since they are victims, and instead they demand that the ones selling and paying for sex be prosecuted as criminals.
These movements are encouraging indicators that this issue is finally being seen by more people here in the United State! As I was thinking about this blog, I remembered the story of a 3rd century saint said to have saved three daughters of a poor peasant from being sold into slavery by secretly paying for their dowries. I thought it was Valentine, and thought, perfect! However, it was Nicholas. He saw the plight of these girls and took action! This month, as we celebrate the ideal of romantic love on Valentine’s Day, I invite you to think —not so much of eros, but of agape.
Agape is the Greek word for brotherly love or charity and is used in the New Testament to describe the self-giving, covenant love of God that we are invited to have for each other. It’s the love described in I Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
As women helping women, let us keep our eyes open to see and take action to honor, protect and give hope to some of the most vulnerable among us: those being trafficked.
Join us at our next iZōsh event, on March 20th at 7 pm, where we’ll take action together and grant loans to women in extreme poverty! This is one of the best ways to protect women around the world from human trafficking.
Happy Valentine’s Day from iZōsh