Journey Church, of Boynton Beach, presented the documentary “Nefarious” on Friday, January 26, which describes the evil of human trafficking, in particular, sex trafficking. The documentary was written by Benjamin Nolot, who traveled throughout the world to discover how pervasive trafficking and slavery truly are. What he discovered was shocking, from a fifteen-year-old who was kidnapped and forced to be a sex slave, to parents in very poor countries who sell their girls in exchange for luxury items such as cell phones to local “escort services” (this being acceptable within some cultures) even before they reach puberty.
Oftentimes the mothers had been sold when they were younger, as well. UNICEF has documented that one year 19,250 children had been sold, some even by parents, by the time they reached the age of sixteen.
As shocking as these statistics are, the horrors of the life of a person trapped as a sex slave are worse. Men coming at all hours to abuse, beatings if quotas are not met, eating on the floor and no time outside are common conditions in many countries. Governments and orphanages in some countries sell the orphans for profit. Dan Allender, a Psychologist and Anti-trafficking advocate, commented on this aspect, “Where there is trafficking, there is government corruption.” He also commented on the treatment of the person, “Many women are there (in the situation) because of something similar to Stockholm syndrome: they see one person shot or beaten and they don’t want to be the next. So they essentially fight to be on the captor’s good side.”
Panel discusses local challenges
The scourge of human trafficking is not simply a global problem, however. It is also a local one, with Florida third in the nation for reported cases of human trafficking and Palm Beach County third in the state. Journey Church sponsored a forum after the movie with a panel of people involved in combatting human trafficking: Becky Dymond, director of Hepzibah House, a faith-based restoration program for those escaping sex trafficking; Tanya Mead, from the Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches; and Julius Whigham II, Staff Writer for The Palm Beach Post.
Becky Dymond described her purpose for Hephzibah House as providing a haven of hope for women escaping trafficking. “The root causes relate to significant abuse; some are raised by traffickers. Do they really have a choice?” she asked. “Some have been victims of unreported rape. There are three types of trafficking situations: kidnapping, pimping and trauma bonding (Stockholm syndrome). In the most common situation, victims usually will not make the call themselves; they presume they are ‘loved’ by the pimp.” Becky learned in her experience as a counselor to balance mercy with firmness and reasonable standards for the women’s behavior. Through her and others’ efforts, Hephzibah House has helped 40 survivors to gain stability and independence.
Julius Whigham shared some of the statistics for Palm Beach County, obtained from the PBSO for the first half of 2017. Of thirty-two active trafficking cases, twenty-four were sex cases, eight were forced labor. He described the most profound thing learned was the type of cases seen. Some victims didn’t even have their driver’s license on hand, revealing the level of control the trafficker has over the person. The task force, jointly run by the FBI and the PBSO has made fifteen arrests, some labor trafficking, others sex trafficking. “Often there are also drug related issues, so the traffickers will plea bargain to get their case tried through the drug courts if they can.”
Tips for parents
Tanya Meade, President of Rescue UpStream, shared tips for parents concerned about preventing their children from being caught up in trafficking: Ensure open communication, make them aware of the dangers of social media and the internet,(since these types of media are used for recruiting , and traffickers will hide their purposes online) and challenging the glamorization of commercial sex. Parents should also monitor their child’s online activity and have their children’s passwords for any social media site. “Predators see children as a commodity. Knowing who your child is with and ensuring they are not left one-on one with anyone else is one of the best ways to protect them.”
For more information, visit www.nefariousdocumentary.com.
Penni Bulten is a homeschooling mom who is fascinated with the Founding Fathers and their faith. She can be reached at [email protected].