Hello beautiful readers. My name is Nicole, I am one of the twins that my mom, Teresa, has mentioned in previous blogs. You may know some things about me from stories my mom has shared, which helps me to feel more at ease knowing I am not a complete stranger to you. If I am, (you can read more about our family on the About page!) that’s okay too. Either way, thank you for taking the time to read this.
Here is a little bit about myself, to maybe help you connect with me better.
I am 28-years-old, a wife to an amazing, imperfect man (we just celebrated our seven year anniversary a couple days ago!). I am a puppy mom to an awesome, energetic, crazy lab/heeler (yes my pup is very spoiled). I have been doing ministry in various ways for seven years, and I am passionate about sharing the love, light and hope of Jesus in whatever way He calls me to. I love Jesus, riding horses, singing, hiking, playing sports, writing and one-on-one deep conversations with people. Jesus, my husband and my family are my world. I am far from perfect, and I am convinced that I will never have anything fully figured out—but I am learning to be okay with all of that!
I know each of you are individuals with families, stories, passions, dreams, pain and loss on the other side of this screen. It is often challenging to humanize someone when they are not seen. I want to start off by letting you know, I may not know you, but you are seen. You may not know me, but I pray you can catch a glimpse of my heart and the heart of God through these words.
Some of you may already know, but for those of you who do not, January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month. So my lovely mom has asked me to write for her this month to help bring attention to this heinous evil.
For the past two years, I have been a part of serving alongside an incredible anti-sex trafficking organization called Zoe Ministries. They take action against sex-trafficking specifically in the state of Delaware. Zoe does many things to aid in this fight against trafficking. They have education and awareness programs, preventative programs, they host fundraising events, and are committed to providing therapy for victims. Currently they are setting up a residential safe house for victims, and they run mentorship programs including an equine mentorship program (which is where I serve).
In this equine mentorship program, I get to spend one-on-one time with a girl or a woman who has been trafficked, or who is vulnerable to being trafficked. We meet for twelve weeks at a farm where we spend time with horses and other animals, discussing topics such as worth, purpose, forgiveness, healing, and love. This allows the girls space for healing.
For those who are uneducated about trafficking, we take time to educate them about the “who, what, when, where, why and how’s” of trafficking so that they can be empowered and aware. I have witnessed God working in these girls’ lives in amazing ways, and I have seen how healing is possible for these girls (though it is a long journey) —no matter what they have gone through.
What do you think of when you hear those words: “human trafficking”?
Maybe you picture the movie ‘Taken’. Maybe you imagine some rough-edged men smuggling kids from Mexico to work as child laborers. Maybe you think of girls wearing next-to-nothing gazing through a window in Thailand or Japan in the red district. While all of those would be accurate pieces of the larger picture that is human trafficking, I want to let you know that there is much more to it than that. There are hundreds-of-thousands of pieces to this puzzle. Pieces that many people are completely unaware of. Pieces that maybe you don’t even know exist.
What do you think of when I say words like, “stripper”, “prostitute”, “boyfriend”, “father”, “porn-star”, “online”, “America”? I am sure each of you have a plethora of thoughts that come up when you read each of these words as well.
Let me invite you to consider this: Trafficking happens EVERYWHERE. It can happen to ANYONE. And traffickers can be ANYONE.
You might ask, “So then, what is human trafficking?” That is a great question. The US Department of Homeland Security defines it as this: “Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act; or, commercial sex involving a person under 18 years of age.”
I want to add, there are thousands of men and women being trafficked that are over the age of 18 as well. Let us not forget them.
This is no small deal. Human-trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise, valued to be an estimated $32 billion-a-year global industry. Close to drug trafficking, human trafficking is the world’s second most profitable criminal enterprise. This is a larger enterprise than weapons trafficking. (Human Trafficking Department of Justice)
Please let that sink in for a moment. The same way drugs and weapons are being traded, sold, valued and used, is the same way human beings are being traded, sold, valued and used. The estimated value of this industry is not even completely accurate, because the vast majority of trafficking goes under the radar.
Specifically, when family members are trafficking their own children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren, it sadly goes unnoticed by so many.
During my time with Zoe, I was told of a young girl who was sold for sex by her own mother—a trade for a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of Coca-Cola. This is not in our $32-billion-a-year statistic. But it is trafficking.
There are statistics of millions of people who have been trafficked and are being trafficked, but there are thousands, and I would dare say millions of more people who are not counted among the statistics because their situations are not known. Or their situations are known and those in power have been paid off by trafficking lords or pimps to keep quiet (yes, this does happen more often than we could even imagine).
Throughout my time with Zoe, I have met women who bravely shared stories of their life in trafficking.
Some were being sold by their own parents as early as the age of 3-years-old. They grew up with that life being the only one they ever knew. They were taught that their worth is in their body, in what someone would pay for to do unspeakable things to.
Most girls who grow up with this as their reality, are vulnerable to being trafficked as teenagers and adults. They know nothing else. To survive they are turned out by pimps and sold just as they were when they were children. They might end up as strippers who are sold after the show, porn-stars (who despite what the media wants us to believe, are not in control of what happens to them), or prostitutes on the street—judged and condemned by people who know nothing of their life, pain, struggle or soul.
Here are some signs that someone may be a trafficking victim, or someone who is being abused (the majority of trafficking victims are victims of abuse).
- Visible signs of physical abuse (bruising, burn marks, scratches, bite marks, cuts, etc.)
- Suddenly has a bunch of nice, new clothes, jewelry, accessories, shoes, etc.
- “Tramp stamp” (these are not always just located on the lower back) – tattoos of a man’s name, nick-name, street name, branding.
- Runs away from home a lot
- Always tired
- Signs of being “drugged up”
- Drug abuse/alcohol abuse
- Has a “nightlife”/ “night job” that she/he cannot tell anyone about
- Never on time, often cancels plans, shows up late for school, absent from school, etc.
- Does not have control of their own phone/computer/bank account/passport/documents
- Has a “boyfriend” no one else has met or who is much older (we typically see this in girls eleven-sixteen years old who have boyfriends ranging from eighteen years old and up.)
- Appear to be monitored by another person
- Offered a job that is too good to be true without many details or too many details meeting their exact desires/requirements
- A minor who is often staying with someone who is not their parent or legal guardian
- A minor who never wants to go home after school
- A minor who is “not allowed” to be involved in any extracurricular activities or sports.
- Someone who often says things like: “I can’t say”, or “I am not allowed to say” when asked questions
This list is not all-inclusive, but it is a good place to start when we are learning how to become aware of the signs of a potential victim.
I want to share with you another way that you can help take action against this evil. The first course of action is AWARENESS. The first step to seeing change is to make noise!
Maybe you have a social media platform and you can simply repost this blog, or make your own statement against trafficking. Perhaps you host a women’s group and you can do some research together and discuss what is really happening in the world of trafficking. Maybe you want to share with your family at the dinner table what to look for in a potential victim (there are more kids in school that are being trafficked than you may realize). Empower your children by informing them about the dangers of online trafficking, pornography and movements like “onlyfans” (For those of you who may not know, “onlyfans” is an online platform that allows people to create and share their own homemade pornography for profit.)
I will say it again, it is often hard to humanize someone you cannot see. So let us open up our eyes to these precious human beings who are prisoners in darkness. And let us speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
And so now you know. Let’s make a noise so loud, the world cannot ignore it and help others find their moments to treasure!
If you are interested in learning more and want to help combat this evil, I have attached a few links at the bottom that are a good place to start! There are several organizations doing a lot of great work to end human trafficking. Maybe there is a local organization near you that you can stand beside in this fight. Battles like this often seem intimidating, it feels as though we could never truly make a difference. But I promise you, in this fight, every voice matters—even if it is only a whisper.
Each of these organizations below have helped aid in the fight against human trafficking in various ways. They educate, bring awareness, allow survivors to share their stories, work with local authorities to bring justice and break stigmas, provide shelters for victims and survivors, provide therapy and rehabilitation for victims, mentorship for victims or potential victims, and even rescue victims from brothels, massage parlors, underground trading, and so much more.