Pornography: A Personal Connection with Sex Trafficking

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By Jessica and Jeremy Zerkle

My husband and I were first made aware of the reality of human trafficking in 2009 while we were both in the middle of graduate studies in Wilmore, Kentucky. Our introduction came through Not for Sale, an organization devoted to combating human trafficking. Through research, interviews, books, and conferences, we learned countless stories of peoples’ lives affected by human trafficking on a global scale and, in particular, by sex trafficking. The feeling we had was likely the same feeling many of you have experienced as a result of hearing similar statistics and stories—“What can I do? What should I do?”

It reminded us of the time when we were packing up to move from Wilmore, to Danville, Illinois. One room in particular had become the “collection” room. On the day we set aside to tackle the packing of that room, Jeremy stood in the middle of it feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed about whereto even begin. Where do you begin with tackling such an overwhelming task? The same question can be asked as we examine the much greater and more significant issue of human trafficking.

For us, one response was much closer to home than we realized. Pornography.

Pornography can be a bit of an awkward topic, can’t it? Anytime that word is mentioned, we often feel uncomfortable because, the truth of the matter is, a lot of us either have consumed it, or have been directly affected by a loved one’s involvement with it. It’s a part of our story. As individuals. And, in our marriage. Thankfully, by the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, ongoing accountability relationships, and counseling, we are at a place where we can talk about personal pornography use as part of our past story, and not our present. Yet, our fight for purity continues.

In part of our healing journey, we certainly saw and grieved the spiritual and personal consequences of our sin. Our relationship with one another suffered. But it was not until we were confronted with the reality of human trafficking that we realized that our sin had further consequences beyond our marriage.FreedomSundayalternategraphic_FORWEB

The church has somewhat confronted pornography use and its negative effects upon personal and relational purity. There is certainly more conversations to be had in this area. However, the link between pornography and sex trafficking is something that has not been addressed with much attention to date. The fact remains that the supply for sex trafficking is fueled by the demand for pornography.¹

Because human trafficking is such an “underground” industry, accurate statistics are difficult to find. However, recent reported cases provide heartbreaking glimpses into the connection between pornography and sex trafficking. For instance, in 2011, a couple from Missouri was charged with forcing a girl who was mentally handicapped to produce porn. To get her to comply, they beat, whipped, suffocated, electrocuted, drowned, mutilated, and choked her. One of the photos of the young woman ended up being used on the cover of a major porn publication.² In that same year, two Miami men were charged with spending five years luring women, through the advertisement of modeling roles, into a human trafficking trap. When women showed up to try out, the two men drugged, kidnapped, raped, and videotaped their acts of violence against these women. These men then sold these videos to pornography stores and businesses throughout the country.³

Why should this supply-and-demand connection matter to the church? Simply put, both male and female Christians are viewing porn with competing regularity to society. According to Covenant Eyes, a leading Internet accountability and filtering software ministry, 50 percent of all Christian men, and 20 percent of all Christian women, are addicted to pornography.4 Recently our church had the opportunity to host Donna Cox, the executive director of OneHeart Dayton (Ohio). She shared a story about meeting with a group of pastors and the question was raised, “What can we do to combat human trafficking?” Donna’s response was, “Stop watching porn.”

Accessibility to porn is extensive. If you want to find porn, it is easily found. But, you don’t even have to be looking for it, as commercials, print ads, and Facebook ads proactively find you. Refusal—choosing to turn away—has to be a bold step. It has to be an intentional step.

So, as believers, are we willing to intentionally pursue personal and relational purity which defends the vulnerable and oppressed caught up in sexual exploitation?

We want you and your church to be involved with Freedom Sunday. But we don’t just want your involvement to be corporate. We want it to be personal. Be intentional about making it personal. Be bold. Jesus desires freedom for the captives and freedom for your heart. In light of the link between pornography and sex trafficking, we discover that as we pursue freedom in our heart, we are in fact pursuing freedom for the captive.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me….my sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”—Psalm 51:10, 17 NIV

Jeremy and Jessica Zerkle live in Danville, Illinois, where Jeremy serves as the lead pastor of Community Church of God. Jessica serves as the executive director of Global Bazaar, Inc.

1. http://fightthenewdrug.org/porns-dirty-little-secret/#sthash.lv2p8tZC.dpbs
2. Peters, R. W., Lederer, L. J., and Kelly, S. (2012). “The Slave and the Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking and Pornography.” In M. Mattar and J. Braunmiller (Eds.) Journal of Human Rights and Civil Society 5: 1-21; U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri. (2010). “Woman Tortured as Slave, Victim of Trafficking and Forced Labor.” Press release, September 9.
3. U.S. Department of Justice. (2012). “Two Men Sentenced to Multiple Life Sentences for Enticing Women to South Florida to Engage in Commercial Sex Acts and Distributing Date Rape Pills.” Press release, February 17.
4. http://www.covenanteyes.com/pornstats/

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