A Letter from our Programs Director, Julie Rigsby
Each time we stopped for gas or to eat, her face would turn white as she recognized a man who had paid to have sex with her. We would rush back to the safety of the car and work through the nerves. I sat next to her in the back seat on the long journey to the safe house. Her only possessionsâ€”the clothes on her back and her pre-paid cellphone. Her phone was continually blowing up with texts and calls. She looked at me with embarrassment and shame. â€œAre those tricks (buyers)?â€ I asked. She nodded and silenced her phone. I wanted to throw it out the window, or yell at each buyer, â€œDid you know she didnâ€™t sign up for this? Do you know what the pimp did to her? Do you know that he beat her, left her hungry and sick, made her service strangers 24/7 without any rest? Do you know that the night she was rescued she posted on Facebook, â€˜Iâ€™m sick. God, please send someone to help meâ€™?â€
We've often wondered who exactly is driving this industry; is it the ones buying sex? If there was no demand, there would be no pimps systematically preying on the young and vulnerable. We decided to conduct our own research to get answers. We let local police know what we were doing and placed two different escort ads online in our area. We expected to receive maybe a few replies to our ad per day, but thatâ€™s not what happened.
We ran our ads for two weeks and received over 950 solicitations from men in our community: pastors, therapists, fire fighters, doctors, real estate agentsâ€”people's fathers, husbands, and brothers. The findings broke us. It broke apart friendships and caused uncomfortable exposure. We found ourselves dealing with the overwhelming pressure of stewarding the results of our research. We realized just how ingrained this issue is in our safe, church-on-every-block community. It's been hidden for so long by the anonymity online prostitution provides and the lack of enforced punishment.
We communicated with buyers, telling them â€œweâ€ were being controlled by a pimp. Did it make a difference? No, it didnâ€™t. So, if itâ€™s not a matter of men being unaware that prostitution and sex trafficking are interrelated and how they themselves are fueling an industry of abuse and exploitation of women and children, what is it about? We're forced to look at the results of a lifetime of porn addiction, our cultureâ€™s sexualization of youth, and the normalization of buying sex. They've bought the lie that â€œboys will be boysâ€ and that sex with the prostituted is a low-risk, non-committal way to have your needs met. How do we fight that kind of cold-heartedness and entitlement? What is our response?
I pray that we will begin talking about porn addiction with our boys in church, in schools, and at home. Letâ€™s throw off fear of being uncomfortable and begin fighting this culture battle with them while they're young. We donâ€™t want to shame them but call them to their true purposeâ€”to value, protect and defend girlsâ€™ worth. Letâ€™s war for our boys and teach them to war for our girls, and maybe one day theyâ€™ll be the ones answering the call â€œGod, please send someone to help me.â€
Programs Director, For The Silent