Dordt College News

Human trafficking discussion centers on hope for victims

April 12, 2011

“When you bring light into the darkness, the darkness flees,” Melissa Brisbin said. She was speaking at Dordt College about the hope that is available in Christ to victims of human trafficking, a crime that is more prevalent in America than most people realize.

Brisbin is the child services director for the Center to Restore Trafficked and Exploited Children (CRTEC). The Cedar Rapids-based organization seeks to educate, mobilize, and equip people to stand up and fight for children who are forced into modern day slavery. She shared her knowledge and experiences helping victims of human trafficking with the Dordt College community on Monday, April 11.

Today there are between 27 and 30 million slaves in the world, Brisbin said. In fact, she says, the number of slaves today far exceeds the numbers of Africans trafficked in the trans-Atlantic slave trade that was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
She explained the ease of growing the trafficking business by comparing the methods from 20 years ago to those used today.

“[Traffickers] used to take pictures of children who were out playing and they would sell them in a catalog. Once the child was bought they would kidnap him and deliver. Now it’s done mainly on the internet.” Because the internet is so widely used throughout the world, trafficking is increasingly difficult to contain.

Human trafficking is so prevalent that Brisbin says, “There is trafficking in every city, of every state, in America.”

But the issue didn’t seem to be on the minds of the American people until after a landmark case in 1982 following the kidnapping and prostituting of 11-year-old Johnny Gosch of Des Moines, Iowa. After being declared a runaway by local officials, it was discovered that Gosch was a victim.

Since that time, laws have been put in place to protect trafficked victims. “In America we do have good laws; the problem is that they’re not always enforced well.”

Brisbin shared the story of one CRTEC child who was unable to testify against her kidnapper. The prosecutors for her case knew that the sentence for the crime could only bring up to six months in jail – not enough time to justify the expense of the flight. So her kidnapper went free.

What is human trafficking? There are two avenues that the CRTEC deals with – labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Both of these are defined by the victim being used commercially against his or her will. Though the trafficked are often thought to be weak or vulnerable in some way, victims are consistently taken from all races and social circles.

There are government-run organizations seeking to help the victims of trafficking, but often they can only mask the problem or cover the wound with a Band-Aid. CRTEC provides more than a dressing. They bring Jesus Christ, the one who can heal the wounds and restore the broken.

When an audience member asked, “What can we do?” Brisbin encouraged the audience to step up and shine a light in the darkness by simply sharing the story. But she warned of the pain that can ensue for those who try to fight against such gross injustice. “If there isn’t grace on your life for this industry, run as fast as you can the other way. But if there is, it is amazing! You get to watch Jesus fight for these hearts with a gentle fierceness. He makes it worth it every time.”

Dordt College’s Justice Matters Club will continue to host events on campus through April 15 to raise awareness of oppression. Events include a letter-writing campaign where students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to write letters to members of congress to call more attention to children facing oppression. To further draw attention, several people are wearing t-shirts that read “ORPHAN” to represent the one in 20 children in sub-Saharan Africa that are orphaned by AIDS. Duane Postma will speak on Wednesday, April 13, at 7 p.m., in the Dordt College library, about immigration in Sioux County.

In addition, the Dordt College library and Justice Matters Club have teamed up by using all the money collected from fines this week to “give a learning library” through the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. They are also collecting children’s books for local agencies such as The Bridge in Orange City.

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