1. Tell me about Exodus Cry.
a. Exodus Cry is an international anti-trafficking organization committed to abolishing modern day slavery through prayer and awareness, and assisting the victims of human trafficking and slavery through rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration into society.
b. We began as a prayer meeting on February 5th, 2007. Benjamin Nolot had received a burden from God for Human Trafficking. Several hundred intercessors joined the call and together they cried out to God for a breakthrough. The very next day, one of the largest human trafficking busts in history occurred involving 2,400 arrests in 77 countries. That prayer meeting has evolved into a movement of intercessors and abolitionists that is today called Exodus Cry.
2. What spurred you to become an abolitionist?
a. My journey into abolition began as a 19 year old while I was spending the summer in Cambodia on a mission trip. I wasn’t doing ministry related to human trafficking and I had no understanding that trafficking was a global issue generating billions of dollars a year. I remember several times seeing older western men on “dates” with young Cambodian girls. I would see them fondling these teenage girls on the beach, walking hand in hand down the street and eating together in restaurants. Although I didn’t understand the extent of the issue, I knew that what I was seeing was very wrong! Through those early experiences in my young adult life, I became aware of this burgeoning issue. Throughout college I devoured every book, every article, watched every dateline special on the issue and was just hungry to learn and understand what was happening with, what I soon learned, was a modern-day slave trade.
b. After college, in late 2007, I moved to the International House of Prayer and began praying with Exodus Cry- which was just launching. For a year, I simply prayed for the issue and volunteered in any way that I could, with Exodus Cry. It was during this time the Lord was teaching me about the power of prayer, and that this was the first and primary way he wanted us to share His heart for the broken and combat the epic proportions of this injustice. In 2009, I went through a significant shift where I knew God was inviting me to become the answer to the prayers I had prayed for so long, He was leading me to take action, not separate from the place of prayer, but in conjunction with it. Within a three-week period I quit my full-time job in real estate and joined the ranks of Exodus Cry.
3. Do you think there has been a rise in human trafficking of teens in the USA over the last 5-10 years?
a. Yes. Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. This is consistent in the US. The rise in the demand for sex and the easy access to it online, with limited liability for both pimps, traffickers, and johns has made trafficking relatively easy.
4. What ages are most affected?
a. 13-14 years old is the average age that girls enter into prostitution. When you look at who these young girls are you see several trends. 95% have been sexually abused by a family member or someone close to them. 90% of girls who are in prostitution have been in or out of the foster care system at some point in their life. This is a powerful statistic and shows the break down of the family as well as the poor quality of care in our government-run foster care systems, which leave girls vulnerable to sex trafficking.
5. What do you think is the best way to educate parents about the issues?
a. Unfortunately, parents who care to learn about sex trafficking are probably the ones whose children aren’t likely to be trafficked. Girls who are trafficked often come from abusive families, sexual abuse, single parent households etc… Its their longing for love in the absence of attentive parental involvement in their life that leave them so vulnerable to the cunning of pimps who use advanced techniques of manipulation and control to lure these girls into a web of abuse that leads to prostitution. Giving parents the facts without hype or emotionalism is key. They need not be afraid, but they do need to be aware; become involved in their children’s life and be proactive about knowing their friends and who is influencing them outside of the home.
6. What do you think is the best way to educate teens about the issues?
a. Education is important. Teaching teens early on, the techniques that pimps and recruiters use is beneficial. However, knowing who these young girls are – that almost all of them have previously been abused – teaching them their worth and value is key. More than anything they need healing. They need someone to be present, to tell them they’re not alone, that the abuse they suffered wasn’t ok, and that it doesn’t have to continue. One woman in our documentary, Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, shares her story of abuse as a young child, by her father and many other men. She ran away from home at the age of 13 and was on the streets of London when she first entered prostitution. She describes the following: “when a man first offered me money for sex, I was shocked – I couldn’t believe he would pay for something he could just take. I didn’t think I owned by body or my sexuality”. This is the state of mind for most girls who are vulnerable to traffickers and so that is the place we must meet them. We need to instill the value and dignity that they inherently have, even if their innocence has been robbed.
7. What is the most important thing for teens to be wary of?
a. My answer to this would be related to toxic culture. Men do not just wake up one day and decide to fly half-way around the world to purchase sex from a child, as we see in Cambodia. I would warn teens that this is a slippery slope that begins with casual pornography use. The average age a child is first exposed to pornography is 11 years old. Pornography is like a drug, casual usage leads to the need for more graphic images to find fulfillment. For the first time in history we are seeing the rise of a generation who has fed their spirits with instant access, at the click of a mouse, to sexual images. The porn industry is fueling the “demand” side of the issue of sex trafficking – and that is generally coming from men who purchase sex. I would warn young boys of where porn can lead (although 25% of porn users are women – so this isn’t strictly a male issue).
b. On the flip-side of this, everything in media today is teaching young girls that they are for sex! The objectification of women in the media as sexual objects is fueling demand for sex and teaching young girls to find their value in being sexually desired by men at a very early age. Although, this doesn’t always lead to prostitution- it does lead to promiscuity, to girls who have low self-esteem and are vulnerable to being used for sex by young and older men.
8. What should a teen do if they or their friend is in a place where they are in danger of being exploited?
a. Take your suspicions seriously, don’t brush it off or think you are over-reacting. Speak up and quickly. Tell an adult who is able to offer care, protection, and long-term attention to the teen who is in danger.
9. What is one way a teen can help within the abolitionist movement?
a. Use their voice. Raise awareness in their school and be a voice for those all over the world who don’t have a voice. As teens spread the story of what is happening with among their peers, awareness will grow, and ignorance will be shattered, the darkness of this issue will be flooded with light and less girls will be vulnerable to trafficking.
b. I would also encourage them to make a personal stand to not go with the flow of the “pimping culture”. Very popular among teens is the hip-hop language where it’s very common to talk about “pimps and hoes”; this normalizes prostitution and justifies the exploitation of girls. The most effective way a teen can get involved in the abolitionist movement is their personal stand to separate themselves from this mindset and the behaviors that follow it, which is rampant in today’s culture.
10. How does an abolitionist remain hopeful in the face of horrible statistics?
a. I’m first a follower of Christ, He alone is my source of hope. There is nothing that man can do to truly end trafficking and modern-day slavery apart from Christ. This social-justice issue is a moral and spiritual issue first. We need awareness, we need education, we need rescue, but first we need the revelation of Jesus as the source of justice. Education, awareness, all the social services we can muster will always come up short in defeating evil. Christ alone, and Him crucified is where justice is released and true healing and redemption for the victims of trafficking is found. That’s where I find my hope as an abolitionist. And I have so much hope!!!
11. Can you share one or two rescue stories?
a. Here is a story of street-outreach we were involved with in South Africa during the World Cup in 2010. Names have been changed.
Stella: We saw her as soon as she walked out of the house. She was small-framed, with huge-brown eyes and an innocent face. On this cold night, it was clear what she was up to in the hot pink mini-dress that barely covered her bare legs and a pair of boots. Shy and hiding behind the older girl she was with, she hesitantly began to tell us her story.
She was 23 from Mozambique and had come to South Africa to find a job. Unable to find anything better she had ended up in prostitution under the control of a Nigerian pimp. We prayed with her that first time and spoke the truth of the hope of Christ and the worth that He saw when He looked at His precious daughter, Stella. We saw her several times throughout the night as we walked the streets. She would leave the house to pick-up customers and would return briefly after each one. At each encounter
her defenses came down a little more and she warmed up to us.
The last time we saw her we told her of her options with a safe house nearby, shared a cup of hot coffee together, and ended up laughing and giggling over silly things like friends do. The following day, we heard from the local safe house that Stella and her friend Vicki (18 years old) phoned the helpline saying they wanted out and were picked up shortly thereafter and taken to the safe house. Both young women were under the control of this same pimp and both were rescued.