JuST Conference 2015

by Belinda Johnson

As a therapist with Agape, I had the privilege of attending the JuST (Juvenile Sex Trafficking) Conference in Washington, DC November 11-13. Agape has the core belief of being a witness for the gospel and is actively engaged in giving a cup of cold water to all who seek it.

Sex trafficking is a huge industry in our world and in our backyard. Charlotte is number 6 in the country for human trafficking (sex and labor), and NC is in the top ten in the nation. The United Nations defines sex trafficking as recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by force, fraud, or coercion for sexual exploitation.

The JuST Conference was attended by 700 people from 40 states and Canada. The attendees included therapists, lay volunteers, law enforcement, attorneys, and 70 survivors. Trafficking is big business. Human trafficking is a $150 billion dollar industry world wide (Polaris Project).

Sex trafficking, in particular, is about exerting abusive power over human being. It has been around for as long as humans have populated the earth. Victims are usually from broken families that have experienced divorce, addiction, and/or abuse. Young girls and boys are vulnerable to the manipulation of their traffickers who prey on the basic human needs of love, security, and family. Victims may be forced or coerced into the sex industry. Victims are groomed by the traffickers through manipulation and may then be susceptible to the traffickers’ demands. Once the order has been given, the victims either comply or the violence begins until compliance is obtained. Even when the victims comply, violence is still used to create a double bind situation. The victim never knows when or for what he or she may be beaten. Trauma bonds ensue. For those who have been around a while, think Patty Hearst. This is also called Stockholm Syndrome.

The journey for survivors is long and complicated. Once rescued they have a long healing process; most have complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Education, therapy, and community form the structure of the healing process. Agape is privileged to join the fight against sex trafficking by offering therapy to survivors.

Would you like to help these victims that you read about here? You can make a difference by contributing to a scholarship fund to provide counseling for the victims of human trafficking.

For more information on the problem of sex trafficking and what is being done about it, visit Shared Hope International‘s website.