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Sex Trafficking in America: One Survivor's Story of Sex Abuse in Small-Town USA (Pt 1)

Sex Trafficking in America: One Survivor's Story of Sex Abuse in Small-Town USA (Pt 1)

Note: This is the first of a four-part series.

For reasons that will become abundantly clear, I will refer to my friend as "Z." Please consider using your social media influence to share her story.

Readers of this column know my concern for biblical justice issues. I remain convinced our loss of substantial believability as followers of Christ owes to our wrongful pursuit of political power. In this pursuit believers have allowed issues addressed throughout the Bible to go unaddressed. For too long, too many have allowed or expected the government to do the work of the church. Others, doggedly chasing partisan positions, have ignored the poor, the hungry, the orphan, and the abused. Like the Pharisees we tithed from our herbs but left weightier matters undone: justice, mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23).

Nowhere is this more evident than the slug-like pace with which some have responded to the issue of human trafficking.

My friend Bucky Elliot, a Community Group Leader with End Slavery TN, says this:

"Trafficking is the wider term for modern slavery, so it entails any act or attempted act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person by means of force, abduction, fraud, coercion, purchase, sale, threats, or abuse of power for the purpose of exploitation (involuntary servitude, debt bondage, slavery or any commercial sex act)."

This international "business" rivals Fortune 500 companies for profitability and eclipses them all in the sheer numbers of people involved.

What few Americans seem to realize is human trafficking, including the commercial sex trade, is not an issue relegated to exotic, distant lands like India, Thailand and Indonesia. It exists, in its single shade of evil, in our own back yards.

A number of years ago God allowed me to meet a young lady who at the time was in high school. Owing to a mutual love of reading we kept in touch via text or periodic phone call. She was inordinately quiet, saying almost nothing at times on the phone but always glad to stay connected.

Years later after she started college there would be times of total silence, months without contact. I marked it up to the same introversion I had always known.

Then, a little over a year ago, a cryptic email from someone I did not know read: "Z wants you to know she is safe and ok." I really did not know a reason she would not be either safe or ok. I knew her family situation was a little messed up due to the separation of her parents and some strange extramarital affairs. Her mom, I knew, had some emotional issues, but I had no reason to think Z would not be safe.

What follows is an interview with Z. She decided to tell it because of the erroneous assumption the sex trade is only an international or urban problem. She is concerned her experiences may be being repeated because people are not suspicious enough or aware of what might be happening next door.

Z is from Small Town, USA. It is a place with churches of every denomination on every corner. She attended one of the churches with her abuser. Her hometown has a high school. It has farms and convenience stores. It is the kind of place this kind of thing is not supposed to happen.

Introduction from Z

One thing I've learned through all that I've experienced in life is that being known is vital to having a healthy life. Secrets cultivate death, but transparency life. My story is full of secrets. My story was only secrets and death until a few years ago. For the first time in my life I'm in a pretty stable and safe place. I don't fully understand or know why I've had to live the story that I've lived, but I do know that I don't want it to continue to be secret. I also know that my story has not yet ended. My story is continually being redeemed.

I want to share what I've lived for several reasons. There has been a lot of bad in my life – a great many secrets and lies. I'm ready, now, to see something good. I don't know what that good thing is yet, and I may never get to see the bigger picture of God's goodness, but I do know a way that I can help is to share my story.

We, as humans, experience life through story. It's how we learn. It's how we connect. It's how we relate to each other. Without hearing a story of someone who has survived trafficking, the problem may seem like a vague and distant notion. It may feel like it has nothing to do with you. That isn't true. My hope is that by hearing my story it will motivate you to be a part of making a change. In whatever form that may take for you.

Also, I think that many people think trafficking is a problem that only affects third-world countries – maybe, also, some of the bigger cities in the US. That also isn't true. It can happen anywhere. And probably is.

I'm from a very small town here in the states. This is my story.

Z's story continues tomorrow.

This column originally appeared at

Marty Duren is a former pastor, Christ follower, husband, father, writer, social media strategist and general provocateur who lives in Hermitage, TN. His blog, Kingdom in the Midst can be found at

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