Why the Church Wants to Talk About Sex Trafficking, But Not Domestic Violence
If you are like me, you may have been unaware of human trafficking until about 5 years ago when it became a hot topic. And of course now you are openly against it, along with every church friend you know. We wear our rubber bracelets and take our selfies with a red X in opposition of this modern day slavery.
You probably follow at least one anti-trafficking outfit on social media, and there are anti-trafficking events popping up all over the place.
I admire the anti-trafficking movement, and I stand with them in solidarity. We need an army to fight for the freedom of the 27 million slaves. Anti-trafficking is something the Church is getting behind in a big way, and I’m glad.
But did you know that, in addition to the estimated 27 million slaves in the world today, up to 70% of women worldwide experience physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime? In addition to that, a low estimate of at least 1 in 6 men experience abuse as well.
Abuse encompasses domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, religious abuse, financial abuse, and much more. Human trafficking is only one issue in this culture of exploitation. So why is it that human trafficking is the only form of abuse we regularly hear about from religious communities? Why do we focus on this one aspect of abuse and rarely, if ever, address the other kinds?
Here are three reasons I believe churches prefer to talk about human trafficking over domestic violence:
1. Trafficking Happens Far Away, but Domestic Violence Hits Close To Home
We have this false assumption that Human Trafficking is an atrocity that happens in a land far, far away. It’s an out of sight, out of mind type of thing. We can send our money and support individuals and organizations in other countries without having to get involved in the personal details. It’s less messy to support people you don’t have to see, and to do so in ways that don’t directly impact your daily life.
On the other hand, domestic violence is up-close and personal. It could happen in your church, to someone in your small group, to someone in your own home even. It’s messy and in your space. To really address it, you might have to learn something new or even change something about yourself or your ministry. It’s easier to just brush it under the rug and pretend it doesn’t happen than to do the hard work of hearing the stories and educating yourself on the solution.
2. It’s Easier to Pretend that You Don’t Know Traffickers than to Pretend You Don’t Know Abusers
We don’t like to believe that we could personally know any of the traffickers. It’s easier to side with the victim when their trafficker doesn’t go to your church, live in your home, or hang in your friend circles. With human trafficking, we can keep our stereotypes that these bad guys are unlikable, seedy human beings that we would never associate with. To support a victim of domestic abuse, you have to accept the cold hard fact that at least 75% of abusers are someone known to the victim, such as a family member, friend, or mentor. You might have to struggle with the fact that abusers can seem like normal people, people you may enjoy hanging out with while completely unaware of their double life.
3. With Trafficking Victims You Can Just Give Money and Selfies; You Might Have to Sacrifice Time and Energy to Help Domestic Violence Victims
It makes you look good to take a selfie and hashtag about giving money to an anti-trafficking organization, but you don’t really have to do any work. You don’t have to get involved in the rescue or walk with them during the years of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. With victims of domestic violence, you might need to help them escape a messy and dangerous situation by confronting their abuser, and leading the victim to professional help. It might mean you have to sacrifice some of your time and energy to connect them with resources and sit with them during panic attacks, or listen as they share the painful, messy parts of their story.
The truth about human trafficking is that it doesn’t just happen in other countries. It happens right here in the U.S. It’s a lot closer than you think. In fact, just like sexual and domestic abusers, a trafficker could be a member of your church. Trafficking victims do need your money and your social media shares, but they also need people to actually get out there and do the rescuing. They need people to walk with them as they heal during the aftermath, as do survivors of domestic violence.
I’m convinced that the reason the church would rather talk about human trafficking than domestic violence is because we can maintain the illusion that it doesn’t happen any where near us, so we don’t have to change or make sacrifices to help the victims. As I’ve pointed out above, this is not reality.
In the same way that we need the church to become educated on human trafficking, we need the church to become educated on domestic violence as well. We need to get off the bench and start really helping the abused individuals in ways that count.
Let’s educate ourselves on the realities of who perpetrators are, and the kind of trauma victims and survivors face, so we can create real change. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get messy in rescuing both the local and the global victims of abuse.
Join us at The Courage Conference as we tackle the issue of abuse together! Find out more information here. Or discover what to expect at The Courage Conference. This is an event you wont want to miss if you are an abuse survivor, someone who loves survivors or a church leader.