Almost two years ago, I was asked to serve on an advisory board for the rescue and recovery efforts of American children and teens enslaved in sex trafficking. In my examination of the available literature on this topic, I came across a small book by Linda Smith, a former U.S Representative from Washington State and more recently the founder of Shared Hope International and War Against Trafficking Alliance (WATA). This brief, but powerful text was not written for the scholar but for compassionate individuals from all walks of life.
The title of the book, Renting Lacy, was derived from a conversation Smith had with her husband who stated, “…these girls’ young bodies are being rented out by the hour” (p. v). Typically, these child victims are required to service between ten to twenty men per night. Until quotas are met, basic needs such as food and shelter are often withheld. In addition, violence fills their lives and escaping is not an option.
Smith begins with a glossary of terms that the reader will frequently refer to since the language used in the trafficking world is unique to those involved in child prostitution. Each chapter offers a glimpse into the lives of the children, the perpetrators, and those who purchase these children for sexual gratification. For Smith, understanding the world of trafficking is fundamental to helping the victims of this crime. To further assist the reader, Smith offers comments throughout the book – insights gained from decades of experience in working with this population.
As the plight of these victims unfolds, the reader will undoubtedly look for a clearly outlined solution to the problem of trafficking; however, a solution is beyond the scope of this work. Renting Lacy was written to raise awareness of the epidemic of the commercial sexual exploitation of American children. As someone who has reviewed the literature in this area, I am well aware of the paucity of information on children enslaved in the sex trade. In fact, in a recent search for information on treatment modalities, there were no empirically based articles on methods of counseling for this population. To date, it seems the task is one of defining the problem. What is known is that human trafficking is the fastest growing international crime with perpetrators making approximately $32 billion a year and will soon surpass weapons smuggling and drug trafficking in profit. The United Nations found that 99% of trafficking victims are never rescued. According to the U.S. government, an estimated 300,000 American children and teens are currently being used as commodities for sale or trade across our nation. The average age at which one enters into trafficking is eleven years old and once a child enters into the word of sexual slavery, their life expectancy is only 7 short years (Traffick911.com).
So why highlight child sex trafficking in the SCP newsletter? Christian mental health professionals and theologians alike must be part of the effort to end this heinous crime as well as lead the way in restoring these young victims to health. Efforts to understand the scope of trafficking as well as the devastation it causes is only the first step in helping the survivors of sexual slavery. Methods of healing have yet to be developed and empirically examined. Finally, when considering Christ’s charge to care for the least of these, surely enslaved children are included in that group – children who desperately need our help (Matt. 25:45).
Smith, L. (2009). Renting Lacy: A Story of American’s Prostituted Children. Vancouver, WA:
Shared Hope International.
Traffick911. Accessed on December 6, 2011. http://www.traffick911.com/page/what-is-human-
Shannon Wolf, PhDDallas Baptist University
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