I pause my dialogue as I notice the older gentleman next to me begin to go red and his eyes begin to water. “Are you okay?” I ask, thinking he is choking. He merely shakes his head as tears begin to spill down his weather-worn face. I remain silent, dumbfounded. I’ve known this man for over 2 years and have never seen him cry before. “It’s just so heartbreaking.” He whispers as more tears splash down his cheeks. I pause and reflect. It is heartbreaking, isn’t it?
I had just been telling him about the work I do with women who’ve been sexually abused and sex trafficked. It has become so much a part of my everyday life that I have begun to numb myself from the horror I encounter daily. However, that does not stop the reality of how truly heartbreaking the stories from these survivors are. The situations that millions of people find themselves still in today. It is estimated that 70-90 % of sex trafficking victims have been sexually abused as children prior to exploitation. Let that information sink in for a moment.
70-90 % of sex trafficking victims have been sexually abused as children prior to exploitation.
For many children, the traumas of childhood continue into adulthood. The trauma of their youth gives way to their mindset that “sex is all I’m good for” or “I’m worthless”, “no-one could love me”. These thoughts make them so vulnerable to sexual exploitation from pimps who know exactly what to look for, who know exactly what to say.
Abuse Happens in the Mind and the Body
I observed this pattern happen in the movie Forrest Gump, which I originally thought was only about the achievements of a boy everyone thought would never amount to anything. Jenny, Forrest’s best friend from childhood, was sexually abused by her father and she ended up being sexually exploited in magazines and on stages. She was used and abused by men for years and years because she didn’t know her worth. She didn’t know she was worth more than her father showed her. Her pain was so obvious as she stands on the edge of the balcony, wanting to jump, or as she sees her father’s house, years later, and begins to hurl rocks at it. All the pain and anger begin to come out.
I’m right there with her in that moment. I know many survivors who are also feeling that same pain and rage. But the moment that tears me apart the most, is the moment Forrest asks her to marry him. Forest is obviously head-over-heels in love with this woman. Most would assume she would say no because of his low IQ, but instead she says, “You don’t want to marry me.” In her mind, someone so kind and loving could never want to marry someone like her. She believes she is worth absolutely nothing. She believes she is unloveable.
God Heals the Brokenhearted
I once believed the same things. I once thought the same thoughts. But God, in His great mercy, brought me to a point of healing where the words of my now-husband broke through the lies. I was able to believe his love for me as he knelt on one knee before me. I was able to shout above the screams from my past, telling me that no-one would ever want me, and say “Yes!”.
The reality of sexual abuse and sex trafficking is heartbreaking, but I know a God who is in the business of healing the brokenhearted. I know a God who brings beauty out of ashes. A God who can heal, restore and set free the captives. Do you know Him?
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” – Isaiah 61:1-3