Become an Expert about What Breaks Your Heart
The past couple of days have held some pretty intense moments for me. I’ve sat through a training and two presentations about sexual trafficking in our world today. It’s a subject that tends to dampen the mood in a room, but it’s a conversation that I earnestly believe is worth discussing.
I first heard about how much of an issue this modern day slavery is my senior year of college. Many of my friends, representative of our generation, are very passionate about Social Justice. I learned from them that the university hosted a speaker from the Not For Sale movement, an organization that states, “Not For Sale fights human trafficking and modern-day slavery around the world. Through international work on the ground and in mainstream supply chains, we proactively target the root causes of slavery while engaging and equipping the movement for freedom.” I sat in our student center and heard about it three years ago, wondering how it was possible to do anything about such an overwhelmingly pervasive issue.
This weekend, the discussion came back around. One of our local churches hosted Jeremy Affeldt, a relief pitcher for the SF Giants who just happens to have grown up in my hometown. Affeldt has partnered with Not For Sale in the past few years, speaking out at their events and supporting their organization financially. You can read more about his involvement with them in this SF Gate article, but reading that article to me wasn’t nearly as powerful as hearing him speak in person.
Affeldt will be preaching the sermon at this church this morning, and I’ll be off to hear him in another hour or so, but for now I’m caught up on the words of his speaking counterpart last night, Jenny Williams. Williamson is the founder of an organization called Courage Worldwide, and is doing her own part to fight against the injustice of sex trafficking. She operates a group home for sex trafficking victims nearby in Sacramento, and has ambitions of building many more homes for victims in the years to come. She is working with FBI agents, churches, and communities to raise awareness and provide healing for young victims of this horrendous activity.
I listened to her tell stories, talk about the healing process, and tell our city’s first responders what they can do to recognize and rescue young people from these situations. She talked about how CA is the #1 trafficking state in the nation, and how the girls that she meets just need someone to believe in them, to help them believe that a better future can exist for them. She told us that 95% of victims of sex trafficking are in foster care, and that many of the victims she has met were trafficked by people in their life whom they trusted, including their parents. The average entry age for sex trafficking here in the US is 12 or 13, and that there are 300,000 to 400,000 trafficking victims in the US at this time.
California passed an Anti-Sex Trafficking proposition back in November with 81.6% of our population in support of the proposition. Prop 35 made it so that there are increases prison terms for human traffickers, convicted sex traffickers must register as sex offenders, all registered sex offenders must disclose their internet accounts, criminal fines from convicted human traffickers to pay for services to help victims and mandated law enforcement training on human trafficking. I don’t know how this legislation will play out, but for Williamson, Affleldt, and many members of Social Justice movements, this legislation is at least a step in the right direction.
I must personally disclose that sex trafficking is not my passion. I think that it is awful thing and that it should not happen, but it isn’t something that I feel like I can dedicate my life to abolishing. Williamson related how she first heard about sex trafficking five years ago, and despite her protests that she was “just a mom”, she has dedicated her life to fighting against the injustice that dug so deeply into her heart. One thing that I heard from her above everything else last night was her plea for us all to “Become an expert about what breaks your heart.” That I think I can do…when I figured out what it is that truly breaks my heart.
Until then, I can write, and I can tell people about these things, and I can pray for God’s justice and mercy to be known in this world. And today, I can listen to a SF Giants’ pitcher talk about what he does and how he makes a difference in this world by using his platform to fight social injustice. Sounds like a pretty good Sunday if you ask me.