Many of you know that Safe Church Ministry's awareness topic for 2017 has been "The Sex Industry and the Church." We hope you have had many conversations about this and you have been able to take some solid steps forward in your congregations and communities.
While I was at the National Conference of the Christian Community Development Association I met Christine Cesa when she joined our group over dinner. Christine led a workshop called "Do You See Them? The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) in Our Neighborhoods." After hearing part of her powerful story I asked if she might be able to write a blog for Safe Church Ministry. So glad that we are able to learn from her through her writing for us! -Eric Kas, Safe Church Associate (Safe Church Min. Facebook Page).
"In her heart she is a mourner for those who have not survived. In her soul she is a warrior of those who are now as she was then. In her life she is both a celebrant and proof of women’s capacity and will to survive, to become, to act, to change self and society. And each year she is stronger and there are more of her.” - Andrea Dworkin
“The Sex Industry and The Church.” There couldn't be a more relevant and needed topic that also addresses so many other issues in our current times (race, poverty, abuse, homelessness, trauma and mental health, etc.). Maybe you are a bit uncomfortable with this topic and you don’t feel it should be talked about in church. I am truly sorry you feel that way. However, there couldn't be a better place to talk about these things than in the church.
Friend, there has never been a more needed time than now for the church to be what it was supposed be (even if it is messy and broken): to represent the person of Jesus and His heart. Let me share with you a few things about the sex industry and those in it.
- 70-90% of people in the sex industry have previously been sexually abused.
- The sex industry makes more money (income off of those in it) than all three major sporting industries put together.
- 98% of women in the sex industry want to leave but see no means of escape.
- 69% of people who have lived through the sex industry experience PTSD or C-PTSD – this is at the same rate as war veterans.
I am a survivor of the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC). As a child, I was sex trafficked by a family member. I lived in a normal looking community, went to school and even church from time to time, yet no one ever noticed what was going on in their community. As a result of the demand that was present in the community, and the fact that no one ever spoke about these issues, I would continue to be exploited throughout my childhood ‘right in my neighbor’s backyard.’ I was being exploited while people came and went, shopped and simply lived their lives; they simply never saw me.
There is a high demand for minors to be sold for sex whether online, in motels, backrooms or other places. Those that did see me, because they were purchasing me, simply didn't care that they were buying a minor for sex. I was captive to my situation and experienced abuse (emotional, sexual, physical) and was almost killed many times. I had no choice but to do what I was told or I knew that I would lose my life – such a common thread among survivors.
Eventually, when I did come into the church and became part of a faith community, I thought I was the only person that this had ever happened to. I remained silent for a long time about what I went through – I had been taught to be silent.
I still was processing the trauma that every survivor experiences. The church expresses love and acceptance, but also that people have to be pure and I knew that wasn't me, and immediately I felt like an outsider.
There is an “us” and “them” mentality that is intrinsic when you are a survivor and this plays out in the church. There was a huge part of my life I knew that I could never let people in on. “If they (the church) knew what I lived through or what I have done, people would never speak to me again”, I thought. I could never find healing because I thought I was the problem – especially in the church – in fact, two churches asked me to leave as a result of my past.
We, the Church, must love people. It is in fact, the only way they and we will heal and grow.
People who have a past in the sex industry often have been abused, neglected, abandoned, and exploited. They are often waiting for others to reject them and feel like they are on the outside. The Church must address these issues fully and love those who have been most hurt by the exploitation because that is what Jesus would do. He wouldn't be the one to further hurt, exploit and use the marginalized individual – in fact He would love, go to her/him and heal their broken heart. The church must address these issues, face them fully and welcome those fully who have experienced exploitation.
So, what can you and your church do?
- Commit to loving those who are marginalized (no family, foster youth, poor, previous abuse, etc).
- Sponsor a night for vulnerable youth: Bravegirlsoc.com.
- Commit to loving those in your life and not porn: Fightthenewdrug.org.
- Join a local Human Trafficking Task Force in your community and/or support a local anti-trafficking non-profit in your community: Humantraffickinghotline.org/training-resources/referral-directory.
- Bring groceries, small gifts, or other acts of kindness to a local safe house for women/individuals who have come out the sex industry or human trafficking in your community (they may need to see there are a kind people in the world): Safehavenministries.org (local Grand Rapids, MI safe house).
- Value yourself through this magazine focusing on the "art of being a woman": Darlingmagazine.org.
- Connect to the movement to "Demand Abolition." This organization is "committed to eradicating the illegal commercial sex industry in the US — and, by extension, the world — by combating the demand for purchased sex. We are catalyzing social change to reflect the dignity of all people, insisting that an inherent human right is that no person can be bought or sold": Demandabolition.org.
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