"Back off, dude!" and other ways to fight the sex trade

To begin with, you should know that I am only 5'4" tall. If you met me in person, you would understand how unimposing I am. Except when I am riled. Today was one of those days.

While helping a woman in crisis, one whom God calls beloved, I found myself outside of a gas station after just realizing the man loitering outside had propositioned my friend: sex with me for drugs. You give out, and I will give it up. 

And I was livid.

Turning on my heel, I spun around and yelled "Back off, dude!" I pointed my index finger his direction and yelled: "And I am serious!!" 

I am telling the truth when I say he smiled, almost laughing. It was so unexpected, and I am so unassuming, that the whole thing was apparently  hilarious. My friend laughed, too. Why would you do that? she asked.

And here is my response: "When Jesus' love comes into your heart, and you see injustice, you want it to stop. You have to do something about it!"

Now I realize that what I did was not really heroic, that it didn't make much of a dent. No matter; I would do it all over again. I have ministered to hundreds of women in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction over the last 3 1/2 years through a weekly Bible study, and I have heard things I never imagined could ever be true. Except they are, brutal and painful as the facts may be.

And what I know is that millions of women in the world see themselves as unworthy, as worthy of abuse of all kinds, and that abusers sense this instinctively. And so these precious ones made in the image of God— young girls, teenage girls, young women, old women (and yes, boys, too)—are being bought, raped, abused, harassed, and beaten.

I have concluded that prostitution is the world's oldest oppression. No group in society is so victimized, so brutually terrorized and abused, as the women and children who are trapped in the vicious cycle of prostitution. And what is so baffling is this exploitation continues to be one of the most overlooked human rights abuses on the planet today.

For the last four years, I have been coauthoring a book that "unleashes women in God's Kingdom," and I have realized anew that each precious daughter is made in God's image, a "strong power" or ezer (Hebrew word) as it states in Genesis 2, and that God weeps when women are sidelined and stomped on, when they are not fulfilling the purpose for which they are created.

One of the main ways this happens is through gender-based violence: when men use up women and spit them out. 

And though I may be small, and my voice unimposing, I will raise it up on their behalf: "Back off dudes—those of you who are using pornography that objectifies women, which so often leads to sexual abuse or buying sex for thrills, those of you who have participated in the sex trade by frequenting places in which you can find women of all ages for sale. Back off, in the name of Jesus!"

And here is what is breaking my heart tonight, even as I type. The realization that the millions of women who trade sex for money or drugs or who are sex slaves for someone else's profit are being used by men who are also made in the image of God. These men who have twisted and distorted their strength for evil, for selfish gratification, for addictive power: God loves you. He made you to reflect him. Your actions distort his image, but you are not beyond hope and not beyond repair. Repent. Grieve, mourn and wail. Find help and move towards hope.

I am talking to men in the church pews and outside the church. To men dressed up in power suits and men twisting wrenches in a factory. I am talking to well-educated men and men without a GED.

Hear me well: I am not just asking you to back off from using women as objects. I am not just asking you to stop consuming media that cheapens the female sex or to stop exploiting them through strip clubs and prostitution rings.

I am asking you to step up to help set these women free.

God is mobilizing women around the world to fight on their sisters' behalf, but to be frank, we ladies can't do it without you. This alliance, male and female, that God created in the beginning is most powerful when men and women are working together, side-by-side. Now is the time for you to stand up and use your power, your strength, your abilities, your smarts and your God-given instinct for justice.

Guys, I realize that some of you have already heeded the call. But for the rest of you, I'm pleading: Please, step up.

Resources: Porn Addiction Recovery: XXXChurch.com Stats and Facts on Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence Against Women (World Health Organization) New York Times: "Nearly 1 in 5 Women in US Survey Report Sexual Assaulted" List of organizations opposing human trafficking

Call the Anti-Trafficking hotline at 1-888-3737-888 to report a tip; to connect with anti-trafficking services in your area;  or to request training and technical assistance, general information, or specific anti-trafficking resources.

Thoughts? What are some creative ways men and women can partner to speak up and act on behalf of those who are sexually exploited each day in our own neighborhoods and cities?