by Kezia Hatfield
I recently attended The Call to Community Action Conference which focused on child prostitution. I come from a background of Clinical Psychology and overseas missions, so I already was already familiar with the subject matter and many of the standard elements of a solution. But the conference brought me clarity on an important part of the effort to reach out to victims. While child prostitution, human trafficking, and psychology are all vast subjects, the foundational issue is profoundly simple: relationship. Throughout the conference, the subject of relationship stood out to me as the common thread. Whether it was in a survivor’s story, an account of a criminal case, or a result from an outreach program, the opportunity for a supportive relationship was always the introduction of hope.
At the opening of the conference, Senator Sam Brownback stated that the solution to this cycle of abuse begins with the rebuilding of relationships, one by one. The fact is that every girl or women taken captive is vulnerable in some way, and that vulnerability is usually the result of a lack of supportive relationships.
We were created for relationship with the Living God and relationships on earth are intended to reflect the beauty of the Trinity. Yet when sin entered the world, relationships outside the knowledge of God became grossly perverted. The deterioration of family relationships in particular is most often the genesis of slavery victims’ vulnerability. The perception of a friend, father, or husband to these children and women is most likely distorted before they are trafficked. Yet when they are bought and sold by men who were believed to fit this “relational” role, their perception of relationship becomes one that is utterly violent, manipulating, dehumanizing, and self-serving.
Over the past several years, I have been involved with ministry outreach in Ukraine to girls and young women. The breakdown of families is rampant in Ukraine. Fathers are usually alcoholics and abusive through violence or neglect. Additionally, the post-Communist society contributes greatly to the sense of desperation and despair. Many girls want to escape not only their family life, but Ukraine as a whole. They believe anything and anywhere is better than where they are. At the age of 16, girls are finished with the U.S. equivalent of high school. Sometimes they have an opportunity to attend college, but others are immediately forced to seek employment and often the only employment being offered is international. These young women are prime targets for those who would want to exploit their dire situation. Yet in the midst of all these pressures, I can attest to the impact of even just one supportive relationship in the lives of these precious girls. Through forming covenant with them by demonstrating the love of Jesus in word and deed, we can provide a new experience of relationship that overcomes the most desperate of circumstances.
When children and women are repeatedly degraded psychologically, they can develop learned helplessness. This is a psychological term used when victims believe they will always lack control over the outcome of their life and they give in to despair. There are numerous psychological disorders that could easily be developed as well, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder. Yet when one person breaks in with a beam of light to their oppressive reality of fear and trauma, it can revive hope that had died inside them. It is through long-term covenant relationships rooted in Christ that reforming identity, establishing a sense of safety, and holistic healing is made possible.
Even the slightest gestures of kindness can impact someone with severely distorted patterns of relationship. I learned this from a beloved client of mine, a young woman with a history of abuse, while I was practicing therapy in Southern California. After one of our sessions, I sat with her in the lobby as she waited to be picked up. She was shocked that I would do that and quietly thanked me. This simple courtesy paid massive dividends in our relationship. At our next session, she began to open portions of her heart to me, and over time we were able to develop a very strong therapeutic relationship. What seemed to make the shift was that I simply related with her as an important person to me outside the therapy room. I had shared such a small piece of my life and heart with with her and yet it had deeply communicated to her that she was worth my investment.
I believe the beginning of the healing process for girls coming out of slavery is to relate to them as the beautiful, unique, and valuable individuals that they are. Sergeant Byron Fassett, of the High Risk Victims and Trafficking Unit of the Dallas Police Department, described the way he interviews trafficking victims as always looking at them and speaking with them as though they were his daughters. Even though they may fight him, test him, or altogether reject him, he and his unit keep reaching out as though these girls were their own flesh and blood.
Sergeant Fassett is a magnificent picture of the relentless pursuit and heart of God for His daughters. The ultimate new experience of relationship comes through personal revelation of Jesus as their Loving Husband and of Father God as their Tender Abba. As the Bride of Christ, we join with our Bridegroom in a resolute commitment to fight for their hearts, for their minds, and for their souls to know Him who is Holy. While the rebuilding process comes through many tears and many years, every moment of it counts toward the breakthrough. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, who ever lives to intercede on behalf of those being saved that they may be saved to the uttermost.
Kezia Hatfield is an Exodus Cry Associate