by Macaylah Mutchler
Human trafficking is an example of modern-day slavery.
In 2019, the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline Report released information revealing the reality of sex trafficking. Since 2018, this report showed a 19% increase in human trafficking. Furthermore, approximately 70% of those enslaved in human trafficking have been identified as females. On a personal level, my home state Pennsylvania was listed 9th nationally for the number of human trafficking cases reported by each state.
“The thing that’s most frustrating to me is how blind people are to it [sex trafficking],” commented Kaylynn Bert, who holds an avid conviction toward advocating against sex trafficking. “It’s happening everyday all around us, and the majority of us have our eyes closed to the reality of it. Predators don’t discriminate; anyone could be a target. It’s becoming more and more prevalent in the world, and we all need to wake up to the unfortunate fact of life that it is.”
In conjunction with Polaris, an anti-human-trafficking movement, the Human Trafficking Hotline found that survivors reported an overwhelming aftermath of psychological burdens they deal with as a result of being enslaved. Fear, shame, self-blame, traumatic bonding with the trafficker, distrust of law enforcement, isolation, psychological trauma and normalization of exploitation are all examples of these paralyzing burdens.
In Pennsylvania, North Star Initiative is a Lancaster-based non-profit designed to support women who have escaped and survived the sex trafficking industry. Their goal is to provide physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual help while housing them at The Harbor.
Throughout the process of building relationships with these women, North Star Initiative stated on their website that “sex-trafficking survivors require healing including complex-trauma therapy, counseling, mental health support, peer and community support.”
With this in mind, Jesse Mutchler’s experience as a volunteer at North Star Initiative can be understood at a deeper level. While reflecting on his experience at The Harbor, Mutchler recalled that “some of the survivors would come outside from time to time, and they seemed very dismissive or avoidant of me, which I completely understand why they may feel defensive with a man on the property.” Based on the psychological burdens they face on a daily basis, the survivor’s hesitant reactions toward Mutchler can be understood and empathized.
“When I think about sex trafficking, I think about trauma, pain, and hopelessness. But then mercy and redemption,” commented Mutchler.
It is mercy and redemption that North Star Initiative, as well as organizations such as UNICEF and Polaris, seek to instill and restore to those who have survived the sex trafficking industry.
The dangerous presence of this industry looms around you — perhaps more than you realize. Both the supply and demand are high. It is crucial that we study who, where, when, why, and how this industry takes over. It is even more imperative that we use the knowledge we obtain and take action toward changing the tide.
Macaylah Mutchler is a Communication Major (’21) at Lancaster Bible College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.