"Brittany Lewis," (a pseudonym for a woman now studying to become a nurse practitioner), thought she grew up in a "normal" family. She lived in suburban Minneapolis, attended a Baptist church—her dad even served as a deacon there. She recognized that her family wasn't perfect. Her dad was an alcoholic and would steal her money—but she assumed that was the kind of thing that happened in other people's families too. After she hit puberty, though, her dad started to rape her. Frequently. Almost every night.
One day, Brittany's dad took her for a drive to his friend's house. She didn't think much of this, until they put her in another room and she saw the friend giving her dad money. "It was supposed to be a party," she said. "We all started drinking, then they all raped me. My dad held me down while they did it."
Though her dad expressed remorse afterward for doing this to Brittany, it wasn't the last time he would sell her for sex.
Sadly, while Brittany's story is horrific, it isn't unique. Trafficking in women is the second largest global organized crime today, generating approximately $12 billion a year. There are more slaves in the world today than in any other time in human history. Studies estimate nearly 27 million people are in bondage across the globe—for manual or sexual labor.
Thankfully, though sex trafficking is at an all-time high, there are tireless warriors fighting to end this modern-day slave trade. In Brittany's case, it was her high school basketball coach who sensed something amiss in her life. Read Brittany's story for an inspiring look at how she moved from victim to victor, and how she's working to help others come out of the shadow of sexual abuse and exploitation too.
In this issue, we take a look behind the sex industry curtain. Along with Brittany's story, Lesa Engelthaler looks at lessons she learned while ministering to former prostitutes. It turns out everyone—ministry workers and prostitutes alike—are all trying to do the best they can in life. Kimberley Gehring, a missionary in Amsterdam, shares why she now can identify with the prostitutes she works with in the Red Light District, and how God has stirred her heart toward the men who prey on these women.
Prostitution, as they say, is the world's oldest profession. But it's work that's based on coercion, victimization, and exploitation. Some argue that many prostitutes choose to sell themselves for sex. Granted, not every prostitute has been manhandled across state or international lines and sold into the sex trade, but for most women in the sex industry, selling their bodies was not what they dreamed about doing as young girls. At some point, their vision of life and the possibilities it held became skewed and impossibly limited. Whether these girls and women have entered the sex industry freely or by force, many have been called to rescue them from this life, both here and abroad.
Brittany's story reminds us that sometimes the woman who needs rescuing may live right next door. May we be attentive to the sometimes silent cries for help being sounded around the world.
Marian V. Liautaud