A lot of strange men come to visit us and wait in our living room. I don’t like them. Mom always tells us to go play outside when one of those men come over. And then she and the man go into her bedroom. Sometimes after a man leaves, it looks like they’ve hurt her, and sometimes I find her crying. She always says she’s fine and she just wants to take care of us, her babies. I hear other kids say that my mom is dirty, but I know she’s a good mom.
I go to this Kids Club in my neighborhood, and the adults that come are really nice, even the men. Even though I’m a kid, they pay attention to me. They tell me that I’m smart, a strong leader and a good kid. One day I want to have a good job and take care of my mom, so she doesn’t have to get money from those men. At Kids Club, they tell me that I’m smart enough to do that. It’s nice to have someone really like me and ask me how I’m doing even if I act bad sometimes. It makes me not feel so alone.
This is the experience of a nine-year-old boy named Tyrese whose family’s primary source of income is through prostitution. Tyrese is also a part of NightLight International’s Prevention Program in Atlanta.
NightLight is an international organization committed to addressing the complex issues of commercial sexual exploitation through prevention, intervention, restoration, and education.
NightLight’s mission is to do “whatever it takes” to effect change within the global sex industry. Our local offices build relationships with victims of commercial sexual exploitation and those who are at-risk and provide hope, intervention, rescue, and assistance by offering alternative vocational opportunities, life-skills training, and physical, emotional, and spiritual development to those seeking freedom. NightLight builds support networks internationally to intervene and assist women, men, and children whose lives are negatively impacted by the sex industry.
I specifically work for NightLight Atlanta’s Prevention Program, in which I have the opportunity to serve at-risk children who live in red-light district neighborhoods. Because the average age of entry into the commercial sex industry is 11-14 as reported by the US Department of Justice, and approximately 1.2 million children are exploited every year worldwide, we highly value prevention.1 We foster healthy, positive relationships with the children in our Kids Club, which is our weekly prevention program. We have an average of 50 children each week, who range from infancy to age 18. Through games, music, drama, crafts and Bible lessons, we seek to provide hope, a safe place to hear the Father’s voice and opportunities to encounter His heart for them. It is in these experiences that they come alive, learn their worth and grow in their God-given identities. Albeit difficult at times, it is an absolute joy to walk alongside these dynamic and gifted children, rejecting what they world has constrained them to and looking ahead to their God-appointed destinies.
The millions of abused and hurting women and men we see currently trapped in the cycle of exploitation were once innocent, vulnerable children, but their dignity and their destinies have been stolen.
I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed – with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power. Ecclesiastes 4:1
But the power does not have to be on the side of the oppressors. The battle has already been won in the Kingdom of Heaven. So it is we, who carry the Light of Heaven, who have the responsibility and the privilege of bringing Heaven and its victorious power to earth. Will you join us?
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
1 International Labour Organization, Every Child Counts, New Global Estimate on Child Labour, 2002.
When we learn about something that really touches us, the first thing we want to do is to share with others. So yes, please tell others and spread awareness! But we also must act, for word without action is devoid of meaning. Each of us has unique gifts and abilities, so here are some simple, tangible ways that you can apply your skills to work for freedom where you are right now. It can be as easy as doing a little research and joining in with what is already being done in your area. Here are seven categories of opportunities to get you started.
1. Mentorship: As adults, we have the responsibility to nurture the next generations. Affirming their identities, supplying positive adult support, and providing spiritual guidance can significantly prevent or interrupt the cycle of exploitation.
2. Tutoring: Lack of quality education is a high risk factor for exploitation.
If you have attended school of any kind, you have the resources to tutor teenagers and adults to obtain their GED’s or higher certifications and degrees. You are also able to tutor children in their academics. If you know another language, you can help provide English Language Learners with the necessary language skills for life in the United States, which also reduces their vulnerability.
3. Job Preparation: One of the greatest hindrances to women exiting the commercial sex industry is lack of access to alternative employment. If you currently hold a job, you have the resources to assist others in writing resumes, conducting job searches and preparing for interviews.
4. Decrease in Demand: If you or your friends support the sex industry, whether by watching porn, attending strip clubs, buying sex, etc., recognize the harm it causes yourself and others. You can find freedom from these activities! Your freedom releases sex workers into freedom as well.
5. Policy & Advocacy Work: You can engage in mobilizing or lobbying for legislation that provides increased risk to traffickers, prevention measures, or safety and restoration for victims.
6. GIVE! There are many outstanding organizations who address exploitation of all kinds. Most of them are nonprofits that rely on your support! Even giving a small amount on a monthly basis can make a notable impact. If you are interested in giving to NightLight, you can visit donate.nightlightinternational.com (hyperlinked) and specify your intended office (each NightLight staff member raises their own financial support).
7. Shop: We all make purchases, so why not make informed purchases? You can research product manufacturers in order to buy from companies with fair wages and treatment. If you would like to shop for jewelry from NightLight Designs, you can visit store.nightlightinternational.com (hyperlinked)
There is a myriad of resources available, which provide accurate information and data regarding the complexity of human trafficking across the world and how to address it. This list, which is not exhaustive in any way, includes some resources that can be helpful to learn more.
End It Movement: Slavery in Numbers (provides links to many other information sources)
Girls Like Us – Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale: A Memoir
by Rachel Lloyd, GEMS – Girls Education and Mentoring Services
Not For Sale
by David Batstone, Not For Sale Campaign
A Piece of Cake: A Memoir
By Cupcake Brown
The White Umbrella: Walking with Survivors of Sex Trafficking
By Mary Frances Bowley, Wellspring Living
God in a Brothel: An Undercover Journey into Sex Trafficking and Rescue
By Daniel Walker