Words of Life Blog

An Unlikely Trio

By Demetria Gilliam-Williams

At first glance, domestic violence and trafficking seem to stand at a distance from one another. But when we dig deeper into the logistics of traffickers and violent intimate partners, we see an unmistakable connection. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) highlights this intersection — “There is a marked overlap in the pattern of behaviors that both abusers and traffickers use to exert power and control over a victim.” Trafficking and intimate partner/domestic violence are often interconnected. This is clearly seen in the similarities among perpetrators, their tactics, and the trauma endured by victims.

One of the most common forms of trafficking occurs within an intimate partner or marital relationship. Therefore, many victims of trafficking within this context, who are also abused in other ways by their partner, may not identify as a trafficking victim. Many victims who are trafficked in an intimate partnership relationship do not realize the exploitative component of their abuse as a distinct form of victimization.

Whether a perpetrator is abusing a partner physically, emotionally, or sexually, they are abusing with similar tactics and from the same motivation – the need for control and power (NNEDV). Those who abuse partners or exchange their partner’s sex acts for profit are engaging in similar tactics for compliancy that include threats, mental and physical abuse, starvation, isolation, and rape/sexual assault.

A further but accurate stretch of connection, is the interplay between domestic violence, trafficking, and pornography – making this an unlikely trio. How is the use of pornography related to abuse in relationships and trafficking? Of the many effects of porn use, porn is a major contributor to violence in relationships. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation make the intersection between pornography and perpetration with the ultimate conclusion that because porn normalizes violence and sexual degradation, those who view porn are more likely abuse an intimate partner (NCOSE).

Individuals in abusive relationships can also be threatened with sextortion or revenge porn. Revenge porn occurs when images or videos of sexual encounters are recorded and the victim is threatened with the release of those images/videos (NCOSE). Perpetrators can use these tactics to keep partners silent and submissive in an abusive situation (NCOSE).

When dissecting the crossover between three experiences, domestic violence, human trafficking, and porn use, we can also see similar effects to victims. All victims exposed to these types of abuse are affected in some form and experience long term impact on mind, body, and spirit.

There is no room for domestic violence, sex trafficking, and porn use in a healthy, thriving community. You can stop the cycle of violence and help victims who are experiencing abuse and exploitation. 

  • If you know a child who is being exposed to domestic violence, call Law Enforcement or DSS.
  • If you are experiencing domestic violence, reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
  • If you know someone who is experiencing domestic violence, reach out to them and offer to help make a path out of the situation.
  • If you suspect a person is being trafficked or sexually exploited, offer help or give a tip at the National Human Trafficking Hotline : 888-373-7888

Works Cited:

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)

The National Center On Sexual Exploitation

The Good Shepherd Never Forsakes the Bummer Lambs

By: Maureen Hager @ www.MaureenHager.com

Author of: Love’s Bullet

Scriptures have a lot to say about sheep. I love all the Bible references referring to the sheep and the shepherd. The Good Shepherd will never forsake His flock of believers. The only color God assigns His sheep is crimson red. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18 (NKJV)

White Sheep – How many images have we seen where cute, cuddly, woolly creatures joyfully follow the shepherd? While this may bring a smile to your face, I know the reality is that sheep are stubborn and intent on their own way. Does this sound like anyone you know?

Too often, we leap and follow our own plan, or we follow others. The white sheep must depend on the Shepherd to hear His voice and be led by His Spirit.

Black Sheep – We’ve heard the expression, the black sheep of the family. What a miserable label to have pinned on yourself. Have you shamed or embarrassed the family because you have strayed from their standards? Perhaps, your heart is rebellious, and you have disappointed the ones you love, including yourself.

The black sheep must depend on the shepherd to live the abundant life the Savior has bought for them. Every one of us, at one time or another, has been lost. The shepherd searches for his lost sheep and extends his arms wide open in welcoming him home with unconditional love. “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7 (NKJV)

Bummer Lambs – Occasionally, ewes will give birth to a lamb and then reject it. An orphan lamb cannot be raised by its mother and needs to be fed on a milk replacer. At times the ewe may reject the lamb simply because it cannot produce enough milk. Other times the mother refuses to care for her young. These rejected and abandoned lambs can be seen hanging their heads low – their spirit is broken.

The orphan lambs must depend on the shepherd to live. He nurtures the lambs just like a mother ewe. Without Him, the lambs would die. When the lamb is strong enough, the shepherd returns it to the flock. As a result, when the shepherd calls to the flock, the bummer lambs run to him first. They have received the blessing of having been personally cared for by the shepherd. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27 (NKJV)

You may be broken and rejected today. You may feel like a bummer lamb. Rejoice! The Good Shepherd will hold you in His arms and hold you close. Listen to His heartbeat and rest there until you are healed and become whole again.

Brokenness is a gift from the Good Shepherd. Those of us who know we are broken and loved by God eagerly run to Him for His grace, His mercy, and His goodness. What a blessing!

You may be broken and rejected today. You may feel like a bummer lamb, but there is good news for you. The Good Shepherd will gather you in His arms and hold you close so you can hear his heartbeat. And you can rest there until you are healed and whole again.

~ Maureen Hager is the author of “Love’s Bullet,” inspiring speaker, and a Life 107 Mentor.

Every 10 Seconds

by Laura-Beth Rimmer, Life 107 Board Member

April 22, 2021

There are many “hot” topics today, one being sex trafficking. But like so many of these arenas we can quickly get lost in the facts and statistics and forget that each one of these pieces of information represents an individual who has been exploited. 

Exploitation comes in many forms and when it comes to sex trafficking some of those who are worst off are children. April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month and with abuse at a high, it makes sense to highlight this issue right now. Every 10 seconds a report is made about child abuse in the United States (according to Child Help). 

Every 10 seconds. 

Many of those who are trafficked will tell you that it all began with abuse, and often it was inflicted by someone who was seen as “trustworthy”, whether that be a guardian, a family member, or a friend’s parent. So let’s talk about one of the roots of trafficking: child abuse. You see there are many children living in homes of instability, where they walk on egg shells not knowing what sort of reaction they might receive for doing well in school, not being home on time, or for doing something “out of the ordinary.” They might also be in a position where they consistently anticipate a sexual act or a violent response, hence staying silent and not letting anyone in on their home life. 

If we continue on the thread of things being unstable another aspect to look at is the foster care system and how many times it sets kids up for failure. There are many incredible foster parents who love tirelessly on children who came from backgrounds of hopelessness. However, there are many children within the system who have had horrific experiences both through temporary housing situations or from their families. Blood family many times wins the foster care cases in the court system, and while there has to be something like this in place, the amount of children that are placed in homes that are less than satisfactory is astronomical. 

Teachers, nurses, and flight attendants are some of those on the front lines to notice that abuse and/or child trafficking is going on. But what if we trained children on the signs to look out for? Children have one of the greatest avenues of reporting what is happening, because they are a child. We’re scared of telling children too much because we don’t want them to be afraid, but we all have children present in our lives and have opportunities to teach them. Instead of viewing it as children becoming fearful and living on edge, what if it actually made them more courageous, because you told them how lives are being preserved and that they can be a part of the solution. 

Sometimes the simplest actions can be the very things that create the biggest impact. You hear stories of people who were going to commit suicide but someone simply stopped and took time to smile or talk with them and it completely changed the outcome.  Let’s help make the newest generation aware and vocal about abuse. Silence is the enemy.

Things to teach your child:

  1. Encourage them to befriend the lonely child at school
  2. To be aware of bruises on their friends and to ask how they got them
  3. Trusting their gut, if they feel that something is off, it probably is
  4. To not keep secrets. According to a therapist: “privacy is good but secrecy is not”. If they hear about a parent/guardian hitting someone, or emotionally/sexually being abusive to come have a conversation with you or their teacher. 

For the rest of this month (and continued on) may we focus our time, attention, and prayers to the children in our nation who are in a pit of hopelessness, struggling to make sense of the trauma they are dealing with, and feeling that this is all there is to their life. Use the wisdom and position that you have to show children that abuse will not be tolerated and that you hold them in high regard. Who knows if a child’s future will be altered because you weren’t afraid to share the truth?

~ Laura-Beth Rimmer

Check out this simple infographic below, by NCJTC to understand child abuse in America.

Safeguarding Virtual Classroom Kids from Sexual Exploitation: Tips for Teachers

March 30, 2020

As children are relocated from classrooms to homes across the U.S., many organizations are discussing the stark reality that online predators are taking note (NCOSE endsexualexploitation.org). It is overwhelming to consider the present danger to children and youth in our nation, state, and our hometowns. The good news is that teachers are on the frontlines of protecting their students even through virtual classrooms!

If you are a teacher, you are likely preparing digital materials to stay connected with your students and you may have concerns for their wellbeing while away from school. Thank you for being who you are to your classroom kids/teens. Your trusting relationship with children could be the relationship that gets them through a difficult time; and this may be that time. You are in a privileged position for influence as you encourage them and reinforce positive behaviors while they are at home – including protection against online predators and sexual exploitation.

Both girls and boys (young ladies and young men) are at risk for exploitation and as they utilize digital devices with more time in hand, there will be an uptick in online solicitation (NCOSE). Girls are most at risk for grooming and sextortion. Grooming occurs when a predator or trafficker coerces victims into an exploitative situation through flattery, manipulation, and/or lies. Sextortion occurs when a predator obtains pictures of a minor and holds those pictures for ransom and threatens to expose them (Thorn.org). The victim is then forced to either send more pictures or commit sex acts. Half of all sextortion takes place on social media outlets (Thorn).

Boys are most at risk for being exploited by exposure to pornographic material. Children are exposed to online images of sex acts (pornography) at an alarming rate, whether intentional, unintentional, or peer shared. We also know these exposures are happening at an early age – some research shows an average age of 11 for first exposure (endsexualeploitation.org). The evidence is undeniable that internet images of porn are destructive and addictive for any gender or age. Girls, boys, and teens are all at risk for exploitation, sextortion, and pornographic exposure!

Bottom line – these interactions are a major threat to the innocence and wellbeing of precious lives. Thankfully, you can protect your students by reminding them of online safety. Below are some tips as you remain one of the most influential adults in their lives.

Encourage your classroom kids and teens to:

  • Only research online or view material that they would feel comfortable viewing, with you (their teacher) sitting beside them.
  • Avoid interacting with any new “friends” online. A friend is not an online profile picture of someone they don’t know well. Predators often manipulate children and teens with lies and flattery.
  • Not send pictures of themselves to others – even to friends. These pictures can be used against them in threats and entrapment. If they already have, encourage them to tell a trusted adult. It’s important they know they will not be judged or punished.
  • Never attempt meeting anyone they are connected with online.
  • Avoid conversations on social media, texting, video apps, or online gaming systems with anyone they don’t personally know. “Personal” means a person they have had multiple face-face interactions with and has proven to be trustworthy.
  • Trust their gut. When something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. Be courageous and leave or exit any interaction or material that instigates a gut reaction.
  • Always remember their immense value, worth, and promising futures and that you are always there for them.

Thank you for the commitment you show daily to your classroom kids/teens and for your presence during virtual learning. The Life 107 team supports you in this time of transition. If we can be of assistance, please email director@life107.org or visit us online at Life107.org.
Demetria Gilliam-Williams, MACM
Executive Director, Life 107
& The Life 107 Team

Sex Trafficking’s Response to COVID-19

March, 19, 2020

The trade of humans for sex has temporarily slowed as society hibernates under pressure of the recent pandemic, however the pain, destruction, and alienation of victims is still very much a reality.

In the past couple days concerns about society’s shutdown have provoked thought about this unprecedented response to disease and how it will affect the commercial sex trade – an industry with billions of dollars at stake. We would be amiss to assume the safety and wellbeing of victims, simply because they aren’t actively being sold to buyers at this brief point in time. So what happens now that the second most profitable illegal industry, is seemingly placed on hold?

It is said that victims of trafficking are sold (raped) on average 10 times a night (icmec.org). Sold to buyers acting upon the conditioning of their desires, often driven by pornography, to purchase these girls/boys and commit violent and dehumanizing acts of rape. But now, with the US on pause from going much of anywhere (especially to hotels and large gatherings) what is happening to these precious girls/boys who have been stripped of their humanity and turned into objects for sale?

When we think about the industry and its victims, we must recognize the mechanics of the illegal business. The system of trafficking is threaded with deceit, deception, danger, control, and suppression. The entire network and capacity of a pimp to sale their commodity is literally held together and dependent on a pimp’s skill and craft at keeping a victim so unattached from their own self-identity, that she/he adopts the pimp’s reality as her own (inferred, The White Umbrella). This business is knit by men and women who are willing to strip other humans of their freedom and identity to sale them for personal profit.

Most often, in US domestic minor sex trafficking, a pimp retains all (ALL) profits made by their victims. If the victims don’t return “home” with their quota – the set amount of income required per night – a pimp uses anything necessary to make sure she/he knows this is not tolerated. Beatings, rape, starvation, withholding of contraception for their next night out, or sending them back out to be sold again, will be induced until the victim HAS made the pimp’s quota. We are forced then, to recognize two realities:

  • A pimp is the only benefactor of the income brought by the rape of a victim.
  • A victim is the one who suffers most when profit from her/his quota isn’t made.

Reasoning would conclude that although trading humans for income has temporarily slowed, victims will still surely suffer. As objects, victims have made revenue an easy asset for a pimp; one which purchases his cars, his rent, and his necessities. If she isn’t being sold, there will be no income. What now for a victim whose pimp has no substance in which she was unrightfully held responsible for? She/he will bear the response of an angry, desperate, and deceitful master who will no less, place her needs at the bottom of the barrel. 

If anyone eats, it won’t be her.
If anyone bathes, it won’t be her.
If anyone has basic needs met, it won’t be her.
And when anyone gets angry or loses control, she will take the blow.

As if not being cared for or fed isn’t enough, keeping a victim suppressed and seasoned to handle the industry’s hazards of continual violence and rape, will still be a pimp’s main objective. For a victim will not be allowed any sense of power or identity, which would risk a pimp losing his main source of income. And their commodity cannot be tendered or lightened to the heaviness of continual rape. Therefore, a pimp will do anything it takes to make sure she doesn’t forget what it means to be violated. Anything it takes to remind her she is dispensable, of no worth, and that she has no place to go. And we can bet that has become her truth. She is stuck in a place called “home,” with a man/woman who inflicts intense pain harm in order to keep her conditioned for the industry while it waits for her return.

Stuck with no other place to go, not even to an outcall where a john (buyer) will rape her for money, but at least pay her at the end of his abuse. As a survivor has once stated, she often would rather be pimped out to johns at night than go home to her pimp (Rebecca Bender). This is the reality for victims; those stuck in a dark place, while the world stands still for COVID-19. 

But there is hope. We can actually do something as we are redirected from our daily routines and have a bit more time to offer.

  1. If you see a young lady/boy on the street or someone who seems to be suffering, buy them a meal or purchase their items while in line at a store! Help others in any way which you feel safe.
  2. Pray for victims/survivors as they hope daily for the next day to be better: PROTECTION, SAFETY, CLARITY, NOURISHMENT, HOPE.
  3. Pray for pimps and johns. That is hard to perceive, but if we pray for the heart change of the heart of the industry, we might get somewhere.
  4. Post the National Human Trafficking Hotline on all your social media accounts. Most trafficking victims are allowed to use social media outlets. You are welcome to use the image below for social media posts.

Thank you for taking the time to read these extremely difficult words. Words that are hard to absorb, but once heard, can illuminate a light in us to shine for those in darkness.
There is hope.
It’s you.