The connection between the orphan crisis and human trafficking cannot be denied. Whether a child is living in an institution or in a foster home, the likelihood of them being exploited or trafficked is incredibly high. For example, the head of Florida’s trafficking task force estimates that 70 percent of child trafficking victims are foster youth. A study in New York found that 75 percent of children who were sexually exploited for commercial purposes had spent time in foster care. With having personally heard from some of the exploited youth in New York City myself, I can assure you that this is true. I’ll never forget the story of a young girl who had been living on the streets. She shared with us that the first time she had ever received a hug from a man was from her pimp. You can imagine the emotional bond that was forged in that moment. For the first time in her life she felt loved, safe, and secure. Unfortunately, it was in the arms of the man who later exploited her.
Related to the orphan crisis is what’s often referred to as ‘the fatherless generation.’ The amount of single parent households or children being raised without their father is truly astounding. It is also one of the recurring themes in victims of sex trafficking in the west. Growing up without a father often leads to many emotional and relational issues. The pain that exists as a result of this can be a catalyst for that child to then attempt to fill those voids in someone else.
All humans possess basic emotional needs. We all have them; we can’t get around them. These needs have to be met so if we, the caregivers, don’t step in and meet those needs in a healthy way, someone else with ill intentions will. The thread of unmet emotional needs is one that is too often woven into the lives of these children and is usually the thread that is used by traffickers to lure them into captivity. Playing on emotional and psychological wounds, their exploiters often become everything to them. The psychological chains that are developed while being exploited can be extremely difficult to break as they are dependent on the man or woman who is abusing them.
Traffickers, or those who set out to harm and exploit, are truly some of the greatest psychologists that exist because of their ability to manipulate. They know exactly what to say and how to act in order to wiggle their way into the lives of the girls and boys they intend to exploit. They are so committed to their craft that it has become a science to them. For those of us on the opposing team, we must be even more committed and work to prevent this from happening in the first place. And, we must be ready to receive the shattered hearts who have faced great pain and fulfill the promises their exploiters could not: to be a safe place to mend, heal, and find freedom.
We cannot tackle an issue like human trafficking without addressing the vulnerabilities that put people at risk for exploitation. While this issue may seem bleak, there is always hope. We have the ability to love children near and far who are growing up in these situations. And a loving presence is not only what these children need, but what they desire. Loving the vulnerable is how we can end exploitation so I challenge you to take up the cause of the fatherless and transform their lives. We must extend our hearts and be willing to embrace these children and their vulnerabilities before they fall into the traps of injustice.