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Not in My Town

How 3 women (and you!) are fighting sex trafficking

Stephanie Voiland prayed one day, "God, I feel like I'm just going through the motions." The next words of her vulnerable prayer surprised her: "Make me radically obedient." She wasn't quite sure where those words came from. Perhaps God gave them to prepare her for an invitation she'd receive later that day, shattering her spiritual lethargy.

Sandie Morgan went to Athens, Greece, 12 years ago to serve as a missionary and a nurse. In that ancient city, she discovered that the world's oldest profession still thrived—exploiting women and children in terrible ways.

Sandra Bass traveled to Bombay, India, where she saw the brothels of the commercial sex trade. "Until I was there, I had no idea how horrific this evil is," she says. Soon after that 2005 trip, Sandra learned that sex trafficking doesn't just happen overseas, but right in her hometown of Houston, Texas.

Partnering for Prevention

After returning from Greece, Sandie Morgan worked as an abolitionist in the U.S. The former director of the Center for Women's Studies at Vanguard University, she now heads the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, a federally funded coalition of local and federal agencies. She's building a team to educate and enlist her local community against the modern slave trade.  

When Morgan began taking educational materials to local medical clinics in Orange County, helping them learn to recognize the signs of commercial sexual slavery, they rescued five women trafficked from outside the U.S. within just a few weeks.

But the girls who are seduced into trafficking aren't always from foreign countries. Morgan tells of a public high school in Orange County, where most of the students are from low-income families. Girls are approached outside the school by sex industry recruiters who offer money or other jobs (which often are only bait to trap them). Sometimes these recruiters threaten the girls. "One might say, hey, I know your uncle is here illegally, and if you don't want me to report him, you'd better come with me," Morgan explains.

Morgan focuses on prevention. "We need to intervene before a girl gets recruited," she says. "Instead of building another rescue center, we should be building a job training center right across the street from that high school. Teach a girl other job skills before she gets lured into commercial sex."

Because of the scope of the problem, Morgan favors working both inside and outside the church to combat trafficking. "We need to join existing tutoring services and community programs, rather than start our own in the church. We need to keep working through our churches, but also work in the public sector. We need not just an either/or effort, but a both/and effort," she says.

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Keri Wyatt Kent

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