Fighting Evil with Love

 

Last week I attended the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta. Rotary is a huge, global organization devoted to service. Rotarians excel at pulling resources together to tackle challenges from small to so large that they would seem insurmountable. One such challenge is ending slavery and human trafficking.

Florida is a state with lots of coastline and many ports—a key entry corridor for trafficking people into the country. Of course, not all people are trafficked from foreign lands. I personally know of two gentlemen who were “recruited” from Maryland when they were homeless, offered jobs working farm fields in sunny, warm Florida for “wages” that would never cover the “living expenses” of staying on the farm camp and relying completely on food, clothing and other supplies sparingly, but not inexpensively provided by the camp boss. Of course, they didn’t know this when they accepted the “job offer.” Once on the truck to Florida, with no money or transportation or even a cell phone, they were trapped. They are now free, but the practice continues in our own county and communities across the country.

All over the nation, places as common as truck stops perpetuate the practice of selling sex falsely advertised as “massage” services. I’m proud of the work that the Florida State Massage Therapy Association and the State of Florida have done and are doing to combat this problem. Law enforcement does what it can, but they are busy, there are sneaky ways around most statutes to make establishments just barely legal on the surface and hard to catch in the act. And there seems to be a never-ending supply of people willing to buy and people willing to profit off of the victimization of others.

Even in Las Vegas where prostitution is legal, it would be a mistake to assume that the women participating in the sex trade are doing so of their own free will. One of the speakers at the Rotary Convention was a woman who was lured to Vegas by someone she thought was a love interest. He wooed her for over a year during a time when she was emotionally vulnerable, and she traveled with him to start a new life. Once in Vegas isolated from her family and support network, she was immediately sold for rape, beaten into compliance, repeatedly moved around and taken over by new handlers until she was rescued in a police raid some seven years later. Another aspect of ending this practice is helping the survivors. With physical and mental scars, a huge gap in employment AND a criminal record, these victims have a very hard time moving forward.

One of the panel discussions I attended at the Rotary Convention featured a law enforcement official, an elected government representative, and none other than Ashton Kutcher, an actor-activist who founded an organization called Thorn dedicated to fighting sex trafficking via the internet.

The law enforcement officer talked about seeing people at their absolute ugliest, and the need to devote more resources to combatting this challenge and imposing harsher punishments. The politician talked about working on tougher legislation and finding ways to fund services for survivors.

And while these are worthwhile efforts to be sure, it was Ashton Kutcher who inspired me the most. He acknowledged most honestly that we’ll never be able to arrest our way out of this problem. We have to go to the source, the buyers of sex. But how?

Kutcher admitted that when Thorn first started, and discovered a way to find online sex offenders, they badgered them with messages like “we know who you are,” and “we know what you’re doing.” But this was not successful. Instead of feeling ashamed or changing their ways, the perpetrators got angry and pushed back.

So Thorn changed tactics. Learning that it doesn’t help to get angry or frustrated in return, they decided instead to reach out with compassion.

They started educating the customers about what they were really buying. They shared images of battered women who had been forced into the trade. They shared resources for people to get help overcoming sex addiction.

And it’s making a difference! Here is a link to their page reporting all the progress they’ve made, and new programs they continue to implement: https://www.wearethorn.org/impact-report-2016/

Just when a problem seems too immense to tackle, the answer becomes beautifully clear—and this came up again and again in different presentations throughout the convention—the best way to fight evil is with love. My favorite speaker was civil rights activist Andrew Young, who preached a compelling message of love and personal responsibility in reflecting on how best to fight prejudice and end discrimination.

If you’re inspired to learn what you can do to end slavery and human trafficking, the State Department has a page listing 15 ways we all can help: https://www.state.gov/j/tip/id/help/

And here’s a link to many different agencies fighting this horrific issue: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_organizations_that_combat_human_trafficking

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth Posted on June 21, 2017

Leave a Reply