By: Harmony S. Vuy
Our world is experiencing a love drought of epidemic proportions these days. Elicit billboards with sexy imagery line the highways in anticipation of men wanting a pleasure break from their long and lonely drives. Women (and even girls) get caught up in the industry of temporary satisfaction in search of the seemingly elusive concept called love. They are on the receiving end of an unwanted demonstration of imposter love that reveals itself through association and expectation. Someone lied to them and led them to believe that they had to work for it. And the only thing that is going to stop their accidental pursuit of unhealthy love is a purposeful response of healthy love.
“Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other;
let us show the truth by our actions.”
1 John 3:18
Love by Association
Fifteen-year old Susie turns to Facebook when things get tough at home. She lives in a nice neighborhood and has everything she needs but her relationship with her parents isn’t what it used to be. Her dad never asks her how she’s doing when he picks her up from school. When she skips dinner to cry in her room over bad grades or last night’s argument with her best friend, he just assumes that’s what teenage girls do: they thrive on drama. He isn’t trying to ignore her. He just doesn’t know how to talk to her about her feelings so he leaves it be. And Susie feels neglected and sad. However, her new Facebook friend, John, does listen to her complain about school and friends. He messages her at just the right time of day, when she’s the most likely to be in her room trying to tune her parents out. And he promises her that he can give her what she wants as well as what she needs. He promises to love her the way she DESERVES to be loved. So she believes him. She turns from what she’s always known as safe and familiar to something new and exciting in a desperate attempt to feel loved and wanted. To feel heard. She associates his offer of fancy things and freedom from her house rules with childhood dreams of Prince Charming and fairy-tale endings. The season of romance is short, however. John lures her away from home with promises of forever but takes off the mask of protector and loving boyfriend when she leaves her safety net. Now she’s trapped in a strange place doing awful things for money that she never sees with men that are twice her age. She’s disgusted and ashamed but she can’t walk away now. What would her friends and family think? Why didn’t anyone tell her that love doesn’t look like dollar signs or feel like an obligation? Love that was once seen as picnics and roses is now seen as threats and debt. She’s trapped.
Love by Expectation
Tracy needs $500 to pay her past due rent this month. She’s waitressing at the diner close to school so she doesn’t have to waste gas on driving back and forth between shifts, but she’s still not saving enough to pay the bills. She can’t ask her mom for money because she’s also struggling to make ends meet herself. She always has. That’s why Tracy moved out as soon as she turned eighteen. She knew she had to make something of herself or else she would end up like her mom. Always dependent on someone else. But lately, her minimum wage paychecks weren’t cutting it and her grades were dropping as a result of agreeing to work longer shifts. Enter Buddy. One night after an extremely grueling 8-hour day, Buddy walks in and orders some french fries and a coke. He makes small talk with Tracy, trying to lighten her mood. He has a way with words that make her feel special somehow. Noticed. He knows she’s been slaving away at this place for months now. He says he wants to help her out and that he manages the strip club down the street. She’s too beautiful to be hiding behind an apron with ketchup stains on it all day. She could be working less and making more, Buddy says. After all, with her looks, guys will be falling in love with her at first glance. Her tips could be triple what she makes at the diner. Tracy feels a knot in the pit of her stomach as Buddy tells her how the guys at the club would drop hundreds of dollars a night on her. She hates to even consider it but she doesn’t know what else to do to make rent. She tells herself it’s only temporary. She’ll be graduating in a few years and then she can actually make money doing what she loves. This is just a necessary part of growing up she thinks to herself. We all have to sacrifice to make ends meet at some point, right? Her independent mindset brings expectations that she must fulfill. I mean, actresses sleep with movie directors all the time to get the part. This is just her way of paying her dues. Pay now, play later?
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
You may think that these scenarios are uncommon but, unfortunately, they’re not. The first situation represents Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and it is happening, on average, about 275 times a day right here in the United States. The typical age of a girl being trafficked is 12-14 years old. (Think Freedom Campaign)
The second situation represents fatherlessness which, according to the National Center for Fathering, “is the most significant family or social problem facing America.”
Why do girls like Susie and Tracy end up making the choices they do? The answers vary but one thread remains the same through them all: There’s always more to the story than what we see on the outside.
Church, we have to rise to the occasion before us. We must respond to these situations and those like them with heartfelt love and compassion. It’s not enough to just tell these women that we love them. That’s what the traffickers and clients do. We have to show them. And it has to be the all-in, messy, get our hands dirty, no matter the cost, kind of love. No judgement or condemnation for the paths they were on. If we, as Christ’s chosen representatives don’t step in, then who will? How can they ever hope to be healed without divine intervention? Aren’t we supposed to lead the way to the Healer? Rescue is not just a single act that takes place once to remove someone from a dangerous situation. It’s daily. It’s hard work. And these girls need to know that they’re worth it.
To get involved in the fight against human trafficking,
check out some of these amazing resources:
Liars and Posers
By: Harmony S. Vuy