The Fight to Stop Child Sex Trafficking Far From Over

Whenever I see progress of any kind in the fight against the trafficking of children, teens and young women, I truly rejoice! Such was the case last week when the United States Congress passed the legislative package of the FOSTA-SESTA. Thank you Representative Ann Wagner (R-Missouri), Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) for sponsoring the most aggressive bill against trafficking in U.S. history.

The legislative acts sailed through the House on a 388-25 vote and the Senate on a 97-2 vote. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Rand Paul (R-Ken.) were the only two dissenters in the Senate. We need to vote them and the 25 representatives who voted against the bills out of office. These acts should have been unanimous!

FOSTA stands for Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. SESTA is the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. Combined, these two bills target the sleazy websites that were responsible for enabling and profiting from prostitution and sex trafficking. Many of the victims were teen and even pre-teen girls.

Within forty-eight hours a number of websites used by traffickers shut down their personal ad sections. Overnight some of the busiest prostitution portals in the country went dark. Being a realist as well as someone who has been fighting the evil of human trafficking for more than a decade, while thankful for steps of progress, I must ask how long will this victory last?

Is this just a vacation for traffickers? Will many of them have secret meetings to discuss the various options in bypassing the new laws so they can (and I can assure you they will) continue their sordid business of exploiting these precious girls and young women?

The website owners plead innocence, but in reality they are either fully complicit or wink knowing what kind of transaction they facilitate. These site owners have a lot of money to work with and I have no doubt they will find another way to profit from the sexual exploitation of the girls.

In 2016, the CEO of perhaps the most nefarious of the websites was arrested for pimping. In the end, the charges didn't stick and the website simply shifted where it placed ads that subtly and not so subtly offer sex. Will this happen again?

You notice that I don't name the websites. I struggled with whether to cite them or not. It is a real catch-22. Let me explain.

One night a few years ago I was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I was with a former pimp who had joined the fight against child trafficking. We were searching brothels for children and teens who had been forced into the sex trade. Some of the girls were as young as four. Our mission was to rescue them and get them into safe houses.

While driving through a village renowned for trafficking small children, I realized it was the village my wife and I had seen featured on an American news show. I told the former trafficker now rescuer that a very popular fighter against crime in America had hosted the expose and it was being rerun that very night.

I smiled thinking he would be impressed. He wasn't. His response surprised me.

"Jeff," he said. "That show is a very bad thing.”

"What do you mean?" I asked. "Why is it bad? I thought it would be good to have this crime exposed.”

He explained: "This is what happens after the show airs. First, the brothel owners take all the minor girls and hide them. They go deep underground. They stay hidden for a few months. Their regular customers that they trust have to pay more money to be with a girl so the situation actually benefits the brothel owners. The show also reveals the name of the city where trafficking is happening. Pedophiles and predators watch the show and think, 'Oh wow! I didn't know about this city!' After a few months, when all uproar dies down, the pedophiles come to this village. They travel from all over the world and the demand increases. With increased demand, the traffickers seek more girls, coercing and forcing them into this cruel life. And they raise their prices. Rather than helping by spotlighting the village, the show actually makes things worse. It is a vicious cycle."

I was taken aback. But it made sense. When I got home, I wrote to the host of the show and the producer. I never got a response.

I wonder if revered abolitionist William Wilberforce had similar struggles as he fought to end the British slave trade two centuries ago. His Emancipation Act of 1833 made owning another human being illegal in the British Empire, but slavery did not end. Neither did it end 30 years later after the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.

Slave traders simply found alternate routes to bring slaves to buyers in America. It didn't stop there either. In various shapes and forms, slavery thrives to this day: we have child soldiers, sweat shop workers and children in brothels, just to name a few. While estimates vary, it is no stretch to say there are tens of millions of people in bondage today. More people are in one form of slavery or another in 2018 than there were enslaved during the hundreds of years of legal slavery in America! In other words, it has grown.

So my questions are, how long will the website shutdown caused by the new FOSTA-SESTA act last? How long will the prostitution ads be gone? Will new ones eventually pop-up? If history is an indicator, unfortunately we can be sure that they will. With all my heart, this is one time I hope I'm wrong. But now is not the time to rest. The perpetrators will not.

Yes, let's be thankful for the stepping stone of FOSTA-SESTA, but remember that nefarious online advertising is only one front in this battle. Consider this, in January, the Polaris Project released a report concluding that 9,000 brothels masquerade as legitimate massage businesses. There is probably more than one such "business" in your city! That is only in the United States. Come with me to Southeast Asia and I will show you brothel after brothel after brothel.

Let's be thankful, but continue to press hard—hard in prayer, hard in writing to congress, hard in supporting organizations that are on the frontlines, hard in doing anything and everything we can to stop this evil in our day. In Matthew, Jesus tells us to remember "the least of these." While exactly who He refers to in that passage can be debated, there is no doubt from the whole of Scripture and from Jesus' life, we are to remember the lowest of the low.

Who is any lower than a child who is enslaved and forced into a life of prostitution? 

How can we not take action?


Police Teams, Women & Girls TRAINED.

We've had an unbelievable week in Cambodia and couldn't wait to share all that YOU are doing to fight trafficking in Cambodia and around the globe.

The JOY International Tactical Operations Training (TOT) team has provided its third successful training to the Cambodian Anti-Human Trafficking Juvenile Prevention Police (AHTJPP) Departments and AIM SWAT team.  We are so excited to share that five female police officers participated in all aspects of our Defensive Tactics. Some of these women out-performed the men!  This is the first time female officers in Cambodia have had the opportunity to receive such training. If JOY International was not providing this vital training, these female officers would most likely never be trained in the tactics they most desperately need.  Two of the female officers performed so well we added additional sessions today specifically training these officers to be assistant trainers as well as preparing them to serve on the AIM SWAT Team—this is unprecedented! 

In addition to the police training, our TOT Team will be providing Self Defense Training for 60 girlsworking with AIM over a 2-day period of time in the town of Svay Pak. Many of these girls have been victims and others are vulnerable to being victimized. Our team will provide training that will better protect these precious girls. This too is unprecedented and can literally save lives. 

Each time our JOY International Tactical Operations Team provides training in Cambodia, we are amazed at how effective the training is and how it is developing a new generation of police to combat trafficking in their own country. These young officers are hungry to learn and eager to put their newly learned skills to work on behalf of those who cannot protect or defend themselves against those who feed upon the weak and vulnerable.

15 Rescues and we're just getting started...

Dear friends of JOY, 

I am thrilled to share how your generosity is already changing lives in 2018. 

During the month of January our Tactical Operations Division trained teams that were responsible for 2 raids and the successful rescues of 4 minors (one only 12 years old) and 5 adults who were all being sold for forced sex. Along with the rescues, there were 3 traffickers arrested who are now being held for trial. 3 of the minors were trafficked from Viet Nam and sold for sex at a brothel fronting as a massage parlor which has now been shut down. All girls are now safe with the minors being sent to the AIM Restoration home where they are now receiving rehabilitative and aftercare services while the adults were sent to the AIM Transitional Home for the same care. All the girls will be represented by the AIM SWAT legal team for any upcoming court proceedings. Already In February, we have seen 6 minors rescued and 2 more traffickers sent to prison. 

THIS my dear friends is the heart of what we do at JOY International and why we partner with such a wonderful organization like AIM. All facets of the rescue and restoration are extremely important. Rescue is primary, but the aftercare and legal proceedings to ensure the perpetrators are arrested, prosecuted and convicted is the best form of prevention. 

I am excited to be heading back to Cambodia with Robert and his highly skilled team: Flint, a 30 year Army Combat Veteran and Randy a 7 year Marine Special Forces veteran. Together, these 3 men are giving much needed training to the Anti-Human Trafficking Juvenile Protection Police units in Cambodia. They are making a huge difference in the fight against evil, perpetrated against precious, innocent young girls and women. 

This police training is very expensive, but on top of 3 trainings we’ve already done, JOY International has made a strong commitment for several more trainings in 2018. It’s YOUR support that makes it happen. As such, when you hear of these successful rescue operations, you can feel good knowing that your support was instrumental in making it happen! 

With Sincere Gratitude,

Dr. Jeff Brodsky