A Driving Force

Today my guest blogger is Leslie Eischen. Leslie describes herself as A Christ following, Midwestern wife and homeschooling mom who enjoys learning as much as teaching.  With an affinity for ‘narrow passages’ (Matthew 7:13-14).  Leslie has a ministry focused on the issue you will read about today, human trafficking. You will find her blog here

It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. ~ Luke 17:2

Society is becoming aware of the plague of human trafficking.  Citizens are rightly appalled by the enslavement of women and children as though they are chattel to be consumed for profit and self-indulgence.  Yet, what was once marginalized in society, we now tolerate, embrace, celebrate and even defend the prolific dissemination of pornography.  If we are going to combat trafficking we must grasp its connection to pornography.

Many believe that pornography is harmless entertainment.  That simply isn’t true.  Pornography drives the demand for trafficking.  It is the prominent industry that keeps human trafficking in business promoting the purchase of humans for commercial exploitation.

Porn is much more than an individual decision—it is part of a system that preys on women and children, and its viewers are participating in, contributing to, and being shaped by that destructive, enslaving system. ~ Dr. Justin Holcomb

As a culture, we are saturated with hyper-sexualization.  Everywhere we turn we are bombarded with images and opportunities to partake in the reprehensible world of exploitation.  We have become unable to recognize what is happening around us because it permeates every aspect of society and has become mainstream.  The sexualization of our society is steadily encroaching on our freedom to eschew participation. 

It’s this sexualization that feeds pornography and builds a demand for trafficking and in turn creates the supply to support the demand.  Rough estimates, because companies are disinclined to expose their profits from the industry, suggest that it is a ten to twenty billion dollar a year industry and that’s just in the United States. 

The word pornography comes from the Greek words porne, meaning “prostituted woman” or “prostitution”, and the word graphos, means “writings.” If we realize that commercial exploitation is being represented in pornography, we will begin to understand the insidious effects of its content.

Pornography is advertising for traffickers.  Traffickers use images of their victims to solicit consumers.  Many of the women and children used in the production of pornography are being exploited and trafficked.  Victims are photographed or filmed without consent and that material distributed for profit. 

Many levels of production in this industry involve variations of force, fraud and coercion.  Even initial consent does not preclude individuals from being victimized.  Pornographers, as with other traffickers, demonstrate ways of exploiting the vulnerabilities in their victims to obtain and maintain their compliance in the industry. 

Pornography is devastating marriages, families, communities and targeting our children.  It’s estimated that one in five pornographic images online is of a minor.  Twelve years old is the average age of minors being exploited through pornography.   

“Ending child pornography is as much a matter of vigorously prosecuting those who distribute adult pornography as it is a matter of prosecuting child pornographers...The link between adult and child porn is observed globally, and it is nothing new… The congressionally-created Child Online Protection Act (COPA) Commission saw the need to curb adult obscenity as a necessary precursor for combating child pornography… Since the advent of the Internet age, millions of federal and state tax dollars have been channeled toward fighting Internet child pornography. Like many government programs, those targeting child pornography are on autopilot, gobbling up ever-increasing resources with no critical evaluation of effectiveness. Rather, “success” seems to be counted by the number of arrests and convictions. By that measure, law enforcement successes climb every year, regardless of the safety of our nation’s children. No credible claim is made that children are safer today than at the beginning of the Internet age. The number of child pornographers is increasing, not decreasing. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics…child pornography matters accounted for 82% of the growth in sex exploitation matters referred from 1994 to 2006…. Children are harmed not only by child pornographers, but also by the consumption of adult pornography. The average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is 11. A total of 90 percent of children ages 8-16 have viewed pornography online…Since the Internet came into its own nearly 20 years ago, Congress has tried to protect children from online pornography through the Communications Decency Act (CDA) and COPA. Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court has declared both laws unconstitutional… When these acts were stricken, Congress seemed to give up on attempts to protect children from pornography on the Internet. Remarkably, it seems that no one at the top level in the Department of Justice has considered that the one effective—and constitutional—way to protect children from harm would be the vigorous prosecution of illegal adult pornography. Federal laws prohibit distribution of illegal adult pornography… Even when parents utilize pornography-blocking software in their own home, kids will have access to the material at friends’ homes or even at many public libraries. The predatory pornography industry targets children… It is time to reconsider this informal grant of immunity to the porn criminals and think first of the welfare of our children…” ~ Patrick A. Trueman, ~ The Witherspoon Institute

People ensnared by pornography aren’t necessarily the seedy characters we see on television or in the movies.  They are college professors, policeman, bus drivers, teachers and even former Library of Congress researchers. 

Federal agents arrested a computer specialist who worked for the Department of Homeland Security, calling him “one of the nation’s most prolific disseminators of child pornography.” 

The former national head of programs for the Boy Scouts of America admitted and was charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.

The former spokesman for the Florida Department of Children and Families was arrested and charged for child pornography including a child in the agency’s care.

NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Love Association states that their mission is simple, they want the abolition of age of consent laws that classify sexual relations with children as criminal.  The ACLU has represented NAMBLA, Pro Bono, in the murder case involving a ten year old boy on the basis of free speech. 

On a separate occasion, four members of this group were arrested in an FBI sting.  One of the men worked for his county’s circuit clerk office in the civil division as a deputy clerk.  All received varying degrees of child pornography charges.  One member, so far, was sentenced to nine years in federal prison.   According to court documents, at the time of his arrest, agents found twelve hundred images and one hundred videos of child pornography in his possession.  These members stated that they found their victims anywhere from Xbox Live Web site to public restrooms. 

Predators are vying for our children in the most horrific ways.  A recent undercover investigation exposed that the giant of social networking services worldwide, Facebook, is also a hotbed for child predators.    

“It is common for producers of child pornography to groom victims, or cultivate a relationship with a child and gradually sexualize the contact over time.  The grooming process fosters a false sense of trust and authority over a child in order to desensitize or break down a child’s resistance to sexual abuse.” ~ US Department of Justice

According to the investigation there appears to be little policing by the network of these groups and individuals.  State law enforcement officers and FBI agents report that Facebook has been “most uncooperative” in assisting them in stopping the illicit activities.

It’s important to comprehend that if these images are being produced and distributed, people, specifically minors, are being assaulted.  They are being trafficked. 

Perhaps you are unaware that this alarming aspect of Facebook exists.  This is the malevolent side.  Social networking in general has become a magnet for the evils of our time.  It has changed the way in which we engage one another.  It is a powerful tool for good but just as powerful for evil.  These predators are brazen and unapologetic, flourishing under the anonymity that the internet provides. 

The social networking predators use key words and codes to solicit other predators to their groups and pages.  According to the Facebook investigation, a cartoon-like character called “PedoBear,” is used by the predators to identify each other on the social networking site.  At the time of their report, there were over a quarter of a million “likes” for groups containing the term “PedoBear.”  Predators even profit from placing outside links to their groups and pages for other predators to consume. 

What can be done?  Some have suggested PhotoDNA that creates a digital code of an image, like a fingerprint and locates that exact image for removal in large data sets.  But it has its limits.  It is only capable of finding and removing known images.  It does not find and remove new photos that have not been previously identified in the database.  Furthermore, it isn’t capable of locating videos for removal. 

We need to bring pressure to social media networks to prevent these images and videos from ever appearing in the first place.   As a private business, sites like Facebook, have the financial means and technological savvy to protect themselves and their users but have chosen not to and allowed criminal activities to pervade their site. 

People, who are contemplating investing in Facebook’s initial public offerings, may want to pause and consider that this is a company that is involved in the commercial exploitation of women and children.     

Obscenity and child pornography are illegal and not protected by the First Amendment.  There is no legal protection simply because the images are exchange via the Internet.  Some experts are not satisfied with allowing the FBI or the Justice Department to determine whether or not social networks, like Facebook, are doing enough to prevent the images from being uploaded and distributed. 

“All of this should be blatantly illegal.  Those who run Facebook should face court action. Let’s let a jury decide. That’s what I want to see happen. I’ll come in and testify.” ~ Dr. Judith Riesman

We must resolve to have a clear and explicit understanding of the correlation between human trafficking and pornography.  To obtain justice for those who have been exploited we need to understand that any form of pornography is unacceptable.  We need to be relentless in the truth about pornography and act accordingly.

What to do if you suspect someone is being trafficked:
If the situation is imminent, call 911.
National Center's CyberTipline at 1-800-the-lost or online at www.CyberTipLine.org