Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Women To Go - Video

Many of you may remember the awareness event that some friends & I took part in a few months ago called Women To Go.  ATZUM's Task Force on Human Trafficking has compiled this video with highlights from the day, facts about sex trafficking, & a link to our petition to to take down their adult services section of their website.  So far there has been no response from at all.  Check out the video, then sign the petition & make some noise!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Women To Go

Today I had the opportunity to take part in an event to raise awareness about the problem of sex trafficking in America.  The event was called "Women To Go," & was previously put on at a busy shopping mall in Israel in 2010.  That event earned media attention in 22 different countries, & inspired one woman to re-create the event here in Chicago.

Here's a video of the event in Israel:
As you can see from the video, women volunteered to pose as models & stand in store windows, looking as if they had been abused...& as if they were for sale.  I had the opportunity to be on both sides of the window today, first as a model & then as someone handing out information & asking people to sign our petition to asking them to remove the "adult services" section from their website.  First things first; makeup to make me look as if I'd been beaten.  I smiled & chatted with my makeup artist, & told her I hadn't worn much makeup so she'd have alot to work with.  "Well, you're about to get hit in the mouth," she replied solemnly as she smeared purple eyeshadow on her finger & began to apply it on my chin.  Her makeup application was so convincing that several people stopped to ask if we were really okay...they couldn't believe we were just volunteers in makeup!

From behind the window, I noticed several things.  Within the first couple of minutes I realized that if I made eye contact with people it made them uncomfortable enough to slow down at least long enough for one of the volunteers to explain what we were doing.  The next thing I noticed was how many people would glance over at us & keep on walking as if there were nothing strange at all about having women for sale in an expensive boutique in the middle of Chicago.  It was interesting to see people's different reactions, everything from shock, to disgust, even to laughter.

On the street it was an entirely different experience.  Some people pretended they didn't hear me talking to them, or quickly waved me away before I even had a chance to tell them what we were doing there.  Others stopped as soon as they heard the word "trafficking" & immediately wanted to sign the petition.  Some got angry at us.  "Are you aware of the problem of sex trafficking in America?" I asked one family walking by.  The man said, "I am, unfortunately," & continued walking.  "Would you like to sign a petition to stop it?" I asked.  The woman with him angrily turned around to me & pointed to the girl she was with: "She's FIVE," she spat at me, quickly flipping me the finger before ducking away into another nearby store.  All of the other volunteers quickly swarmed me.  "What did she say to you?!"  "Did she really just flip you off?!" "It's okay hon, don't let it get you down!"  None of them could believe how rude she was, & I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little shocked as well.  But more than anything, her response & so many others' made me sad.  Firstly, I wondered what sort of things a 5-year-old would be learning from her mother's behavior, but above all it made me sad that she didn't realize her own child could be susceptible to the horrible fate that we were all out there to stand up against.  As they walked away, I began to pray silently that their eyes would be opened to the danger that's out there to girls even as young as five.  Her response was the most unfavorable of the day, but I couldn't believe how many others ignored our efforts all together simply because they didn't want to take on the responsibility of knowing.

All in all though, it was a successful day, with pages & pages of signatures acquired - 643 total!  And there were many positive experiences as well.  One man who signed the petition was a former sex buyer; another woman the owner of a shelter for trafficked girls ages 12-18 in Taiwan.  One of the other models even saw a man pointing to the girls in the window & explaining to his young daughters what human trafficking is, & the dangers they could face.  It was so encouraging to see such positive response, & made the whole afternoon entirely worth it for us all.  I've always said that knowing is half the battle, & there are hundreds of people out there now who know what trafficking is & how it looks in America.  It may not seem like much now, but if it's all I can do I'm going to pour my heart into it!  It was so wonderful to work alongside so many others who are as passionate about this horrible injustice as I am.  It's definitely inspired me to be as involved as I can in any other event that helps people learn what trafficking is & how we can stop it.

If you want to know more & see photos & videos of the event, check out the Women To Go Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

iPhone App Contributes To Trafficking?

It's been a couple of months since I've written here, & I apologize. Usually when I blog, I have an idea rolling around in my head for a week or so, & God will continually speak to me about something specific for several days on end before I actually sit down to collect my thoughts & compose a post. Lately there hasn't been anything really pressing that I've felt the need to write about, but in wasting time browsing around the internet this evening, I found an article that made my skin crawl & had to write about it right away.

Practically everyone has a smartphone these days, & we all have applications on them. From Angry Birds to Flixster to Key Ring to Facebook, apps are the quickest means of finding the nearest restaurant, movie showtimes, or...girls to hook up with? Enter the creepiest app I've probably ever heard of: "Girls Around Me." Basically, here's how it works: After pinpointing your exact location, Girls Around Me will show you a map, & on that map there are thumbnail pictures of women who, you guessed it, are around you. How does it know this? Facebook & Foursquare users who have publicly visible profiles & "check in" on either of these social networking sites can automatically be seen; they've essentially (often unknowingly) made their phones into GPS tracking devices for any Joe Schmoe looking for a one-night stand. As if it's not bad enough that anyone who has this app can see where you are at any given time, it actually gets worse: by tapping the photo of whatever girl you decide you fancy, the app will actually give you all of her Facebook profile information.

The writer of the article gives an example:
“So let’s say I’m a bro, looking to go out for a night on the town and pick someone up. Let’s say I’m going to the Independent [a bar] around the corner, and checking it out ahead of time, I really like the look of this girl Zoe — she looks like a girl I might want to try to get with tonight — so I tap her picture for more information, see what I can find out about her. ... Okay, so here’s Zoe. Most of her information is visible, so I now know her full name. I can see at a glance that she’s single, that she is 24, that she went to Stoneham High School and Bunker Hill Community College, that she likes to travel, that her favorite book is Gone With The Wind and her favorite musician is Tori Amos, and that she’s a liberal. I can see the names of her family and friends. I can see her birthday. It looks like Zoe is my kind of girl. From her photo albums, I can see that she likes to party, and given the number of guys she takes photos with at bars and clubs at night, I can deduce that she’s frisky when she’s drunk, and her favorite drink is a frosty margarita. She appears to have recently been in Rome. Also, since her photo album contains pictures she took at the beach, I now know what Zoe looks like in a bikini. So now I know everything to know about Zoe. I know where she is. I know what she looks like, both clothed and mostly disrobed. I know her full name, her parents’ full names, her brother’s full name. I know what she likes to drink. I know where she went to school. I know what she likes and dislikes. All I need to do now is go down to the Independent, ask her if she remembers me from Stoneham High, ask her how her brother Mike is doing, buy her a frosty margarita, and start waxing eloquently about that beautiful summer I spent in Roma. And if that doesn’t work on Zoe, there are — let’s see — nine other girls at the Independent tonight.”

If you are a woman reading this post & you aren't freaked out yet...maybe you should get your head checked. By now, you've probably deduced that if any random guy can get ahold of this information, any predator can too. How many traffickers out there are sitting on their iPhones tracking potential victims? The thing about the app is that it technically isn't doing anything wrong - it's simply pulling public data & consolidating it for your convenience in the same way a movie app can find out where you are, tell you where the closest theater is, tell you what time The Hunger Games is showing there today, & with the tap of your finger you can have tickets waiting for you at the box office. All Girls Around Me is doing is giving you that same access to women based on information they've allowed to be public, whether they realize it's public or not.

Since this article was posted on March 30, the Girls Around Me app has been pulled from the iTunes store. But how long before someone else comes up with something just like it? Whether you're 13 or 30, CHECK YOUR FACEBOOK PRIVACY SETTINGS & make sure that none of your personal information is public. And seriously, stay away from Foursquare. Just don't use it. Why do you need a social networking site to let your friends know where you are? Ladies, please hear me on this & don't advertise what isn't on the menu & become a victim.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Radiant Cosmetics.

I don't know about all you other ladies out there, but I buy alot of makeup. Especially eyeshadow. I'm all about it! My bathroom counter is always a mess of powders, moisturizers, shadows, brushes, pencils, & only God knows what else. I. Love. Makeup.

SO, of course when a friend showed me Radiant Cosmetics, I was super excited. It isn't just another makeup store; it was built around a passion by its founders to fight human trafficking. Here's a letter from the founder:

"For as long as I can remember I've been enamored with makeup. I grew up wanting to be a beauty editor at a fashion magazine. I pursued this goal, eventually finding myself in New York City working for a fashion house on 5th Avenue. I was living the dream, or so I thought. Inside I was miserable; something was missing.
After leaving New York City and graduating college I felt called overseas and wound up on a crazy year-long adventure, doing missions work with an organization called The World Race. 9 months into my journey I became friends with a prostitute in Thailand.
My heart broke for this woman. Walking Bangla Road, home to over 200 bars and countless women who've been trafficked or are trapped working in the commercial sex industry (which feeds the beast of trafficking) to provide for their families, I felt alive. Like I belonged. I was filled with an overwhelming sense that something had to be done and I was going to do it. A vision began to form.
I was given a new dream; to run a makeup company that partners with human trafficking organizations financially as well as getting people involved in their own communities physically. Especially in the United States, where trafficking happens in our own backyard.
The cosmetics industry generates $170 billion annually. Women dominate this industry and of the over 2 million human beings trafficked each year, 80% are women and girls. My dream is to awaken a generation of women to not sit back and allow this injustice to happen to our fellow sisters.
My dream is to set the captives free, one lipstick at a time."

You can shop & learn more at

This is just one more way we can do our part to fight trafficking in practical ways. Their products are moderately priced (& not tested on animals!), with a variety of options for face, lips, & eyes; they have brushes available as well. Definitely take some time to check out the site, learn about their products, & find out how they contribute to the fight against trafficking in the United States & overseas.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Sometimes I make two posts in one day. Just to keep ya'll on your toes. ;)

My friend Ben Kasica has a recording studio called Skies Fall, & he's recently worked with the band KaelumWay, who have put their voice into the fight against trafficking by writing an incredible song called "Overthrow." You can listen to it, check out some awesome organizations, & even download it for free by clicking here. It's so awesome to know that people in the music industry are raising awareness this way! And in addition to listening to & giving your friends some really amazing music, you're actually doing something to raise awareness as well! What could be better.

Stones Cry.

As I was browsing through our Twitter followers the other day, I stumbled across "trafficking survivor" & her blog. I read the entire thing in a day, & cried pretty much the whole time. It is so humbling to read the stories of someone who has actually lived through it, & it is such a testament to how precious life actually is & the many, many things we take for granted.

This survivor writes her story anonymously & encourages other survivors to share their voices, but also has much to say about those of us who are invested in trying to help her & others like her. If you want an inside look at what it's like to be trafficked, or you just have a heart to help those who have been, take a walk in her shoes & check out this blog.

I think it's amazing that she has the courage to share what she's been through, & try to shed some light into an area that still remains so very, very dark.

Also, for those of you who have been reading consistently each week, THANK YOU!! My sitemeter tells me that there are several people reading from Colorado, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida, & even have had a few people reading from Germany & Sweden! It is just so encouraging to know that people care about this issue & want to learn more. I appreciate each & every one of you for taking the time to read what God has put on my heart about these things.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mobilise USA.

I had the great privilege of going to the Mobilise USA conference through Newfrontiers this weekend in St. Louis. The theme was "Pushing Back Darkness," & the reason I wanted to go was specifically for a seminar they offered called "Push Back Darkness By Fighting Slavery." Matt Sweetman from Destination Church in Chicago spoke on the topic, & he said something that really stuck with me:


This is what God has been speaking to me, & this is what I'm passionate about. Matt spoke out of Isaiah 58:3-9, & I want to take some time to summarize what he had to say.

So we're in Isaiah 58, where basically the people are saying to God that their fasting should be good enough, & God comes back & says, "When you fast, you make up your own rules & mistreat all of your workers! How do you figure that's what I want from you?" God then has this to say on the matter, which I just love, in verses 6-12:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

I love this! This is what we are called to! But understand; this is going to require some effort & probably inconvenience on our part. Share your food, provide shelter & clothes...these things are a big deal! Whatever is "ours" is actually the Lord's anyway - if He says to open up your home to the homeless, you do it, because it's God's house anyway, & God loves the homeless man as much as He loves you. If He says to reach out to prostitutes on the street & show them the love of Jesus, you do that too because God loves the women on the street just as much as He loves you. And who needs salvation & life more than the hungry & dying? These people are made in the image of God, just like us.

We see justice & mercy so often linked together in the Bible. That's because JUSTICE is an ACTION of the HEART of MERCY. If you don't have justice, you don't have mercy! If the Church would stand up in justice, I believe we could eliminate need entirely! When we open our eyes, we WILL see need. So what do we do about it? The Gospel is always the answer. If you think about it, Jesus Himself was "trafficked" in a way so that we could become the children of God. He knows all about slavery & pain & suffering, & we are called to be like Him. If our lives are pretty great, we have the means to help others. When you enter into someone's pain & suffering, it definitely can be a little bit uncomfortable, but it puts life in perspective, that's for sure.

I'm aware that in all of this time I've been writing about the need to DO something; so what can you do?

Destination Church saw a need, & saw a way to meet it by using their own God-given talents, so they created Buy Art Not People, where artists in their community team up to create art they sell for most of the proceeds to go towards fighting human trafficking by supporting Anne's House, a residential program for women & girls who have been victims of human trafficking. Check out BANP's gallery & see what's still available for sale; if you find something you like, you can buy it & contribute to the fight!

Maybe you don't have alot of extra money to spare to buy artwork or donate to organizations; that's okay too! One of the most powerful & effective tools we have is Christians is prayer. We can spend time on our knees praying & interceding for these girls in need, & change WILL happen!

I want to leave you all with this quote from William Wilberforce:
"You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know."

Let's be the Church that sees the need, & chooses to meet it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Carina Saunders.

I'm writing tonight with a very heavy heart.

This past October, in Bethany, Oklahoma, there was a body discovered stuffed into a duffel bag behind a Homeland grocery store. Within the first few days, police were unsure whether or not the deceased was male or female, as the body had been dismembered. Five days later, she was identified as 19-year-old Carina Saunders, & she had been reported missing on September 28. Her body was believed to have been disposed of at least 2 days prior. So many details of this case are still blurry & unclear, but what IS certain is that Carina Saunders was the victim of a sex trafficking ring. Another girl (who remains anonymous) came forward to police stating that she had been kidnapped by these people as well, & that she actually witnessed the torture & murder of Carina, & that she was told, "This is what happens to people who don't cooperate." Several people have been arrested as "persons of interest" in the case, & one man believed to be involved is still in custody under drug charges. At this point in time, the timeline of events is still being pieced together, & while it's unclear how Carina became involved with this sex trafficking ring, it does seem that she was chosen at random to be made an example of.

I grew up in Oklahoma. Bethany isn't a big city. We always joke in Oklahoma that there are two cities - OKC & Tulsa - & the rest is farmland. It isn't that far from the truth. It's the heart of the "Bible Belt," & it seems like everyone you meet is a friend.

I wish I could say that it's shocking to me that this happened to a girl in small-town Oklahoma, but sadly, nothing really surprises me anymore. Even so, it absolutely devastates me that a beautiful young girl with a whole life ahead of her fell victim to human trafficking in the worst of ways. How can people have become SO cruel that they are actually able to torture & dismember a young girl...for the sake of selling sex?

When I hear of cases like these, it makes me wonder how I can make a difference. I am just one person, & the fact that there is such evil out there discourages me alot, if I'm being honest. But then I remember that even the smallest light can penetrate the darkest of night. And I feel empowered to go out & to fight; to fight for Carina, that justice may be served for her, & to fight for the others who could just as easily wind up like her.

We can't forget that Carina isn't a minority. Maybe there are many girls who have been victims of trafficking that haven't been brutally murdered in the way that she was, but we have to remember that many of these girls DON'T make it out alive. Many die of AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases they contract while they "work"; others involuntarily overdose on drugs; others are killed trying to escape. The point is that so many never live to tell their story.

I am so sad for Carina, & to think of what her last few weeks of life must have been like makes me feel physically sick.

But we can do something.

We can pray, & we can intercede on behalf of those who can't speak for themselves. WE are the light of the world; a city on a hilltop cannot be hidden. God has spoken to the Church across the globe about this matter, & He's certainly given me His heart for it. So today, in the last few hours of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, please take some time to pray - for the victims, & for the families of girls like Carina, that they would know peace that surpasses all understanding.

Carina Saunders

Monday, January 9, 2012

It's In Our High Schools.

I recently met with my friend Katy, who works with Youth For Christ in the high schools & middle schools in a neighboring city. I wanted to get together with Katy because I heard about a really disturbing new fad amongst high schoolers here - "Get-Down Girls." These are girls who are the "property" of boys in gangs, & any of the gang members are allowed to do any sexual act with "their girls." Katy was unsure of any payment offered or received for these "services," but it seems that the boys are the ones calling the shots for the who, the where, & the when. The most disturbing thing of all is that other high school students actually know who these girls are, & it almost sounds like it's a status symbol of sorts; it certainly isn't seen as anything out of the ordinary.

There was a study done recently at Boston University's School of Public Health, which found that one in thirteen teenage girls have had a "multi-person sex experience" - often initiated by boyfriends who had been watching pornography. More than half of these girls were pressured or coerced into threesomes, or victims of gang rape. (Source)

THIS IS A FORM OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING, & IT IS HAPPENING IN OUR HIGH SCHOOLS ACROSS AMERICA. If this isn't enough to prove the severity of this problem, I don't know what is. The sad thing is that most of these girls have no idea that they are victims of trafficking. For those of you who have kids in high school - especially public high school - it is SO important to talk to them about sexual abuse in its various forms, & make sure that they understand what sex trafficking is & how it can affect them. I can't stand to see such young girls in our own country being sexually exploited by young men their own age. We so often think of traffickers as being creepy, scummy old men, but that isn't always the case.

I read a statistic awhile back that 1 in 3 women has been coerced into sex or sexually abused in some way. (Source) The thing that has stuck with me since I first read that is that if 80-90% of trafficking victims has been sexually abused prior to being forced into prostitution (Source), that means that 1 in 3 women are susceptible to sexual exploitation & the potential of becoming victims of human trafficking.

Think about that the next time you're sitting in an airport, or a busy restaurant...or even when you're sitting in church on sunday morning. Take a look around you. 1 in 3.

Don't forget that this Wednesday, January 11, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. What are YOU going to do to shed some light on the problem?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

National Awareness Day.

Happy New Year everyone!

Did you know that January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day? Most people don't know that this date was actually designated in 2007, & the state of Wisconsin has declared the entire month of January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. (Source)

So what does it mean to raise awareness? What can you do? Beauty From Ashes Ministries has compiled a list of 20 things you can do to help raise awareness, the #1 on the list being "Refuse to be part of the problem by being apathetic & doing nothing." I think sometimes we forget that raising awareness means just TALKING to others about the problem. Most people aren't aware that trafficking happens in the United States, & some people don't even know what it is. Start conversations with people & tell them what's going on in our own country. Even sharing the link to this blog (or to any of the other organizations we've posted about previously) via Facebook or Twitter is doing something to help raise awareness!

Another way you can help out is to simply pay attention to what's happening around you. Know what the red flags of human trafficking are, & if you see anything suspicious, call the trafficking hotline toll-free at 1-888-3737-888. (Source)

Who knows; maybe this will be the year where we see this problem put to an end. If we all do our part, & trust in what God has spoken, nothing is impossible!