I don’t normally read much non-fiction, but the topic of human trafficking spoke to my heart. It’s one of those things that’s so heartbreaking and horrifying that many of us bury our heads in the sand and try not to acknowledge it. We prefer to think that this is something that happens in far-off lands and not in our own backyards, and if we do feel led to do something about it, we often don’t know what to do. We need to wake up to the sad reality that human trafficking, and specifically sex trafficking of children, is all around us; it’s happening every day all over the world. But there are many different ways that we can make a difference. I will share a few ideas with you after my book review.
From the Back Cover:
There is HOPE, even on the darkest of days
Katariina Rosenblatt was a lonely and abused young girl, yearning to be loved, wanting attention. That made her the perfect target. On an ordinary day, she met a confident young woman—someone Kat wished she could be like—who pretended to be a friend while slowly luring her into a child trafficking ring. A cycle of false friendships, threats, drugs, and violence kept her trapped.
As Kat shares her harrowing experiences, her ultimate escape, and her passionate efforts to now free other victims, you’ll see that not only is sex trafficking happening frighteningly close to home—it’s also something that can be stopped. Stolen is a warning, a celebration of survival, and a beacon of hope that will inspire you.
Katariina Rosenblatt, PhD, is living proof of the promise she heard long ago at a Billy Graham crusade that God would never forsake her. Katariina has a PhD in conflict analysis and resolution and an LLM graduate law degree in intercultural rights, and she works closely with law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and Homeland Security to eliminate human slavery. She has also founded Stolen Ones—There Is H.O.P.E. for Me, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing other victims of human trafficking. [She has been featured on CNN and in Today’s Christian Woman and lives in Florida.]
Cecil Murphey has written or coauthored more than 130 books, including the bestselling 90 Minutes in Heaven with Don Piper and the autobiography of Franklin Graham, Rebel with a Cause. He was a collaborator on the bestseller Gifted Hands with Dr. Ben Carson, Cecil resides in Georgia.
In Stolen, Katariina shares her own personal story about how she became a victim of sex trafficking, as well as how she later became a survivor.
She explains how her early life experiences set her up to be victimized. She learned helplessness and powerlessness as a young child from the relationship she witnessed between her father and mother. She admits that a strong, determined part of her personality came from watching her father. But she absorbed a victim mentality by watching her mother’s submission to her dad’s cruel and demanding ways.
In desperate need of friendship and acceptance, Katariina was easily lured in by a woman pretending to be her friend who seemed to show an interest in her life. This was the first person who tried to take advantage of her vulnerability. She was also later lured in by kind daddy-like figures who, at first, seemed to be offering her a safe place, but once she became comfortable, they began to ease her into unsafe situations. She did what they asked of her because she didn’t want to lose what she thought she’d found … what she thought was love and a sense of belonging.
Luckily, her mother had told her about Jesus being God’s Son and God being her heavenly Father when she was about three years old. She later went to a Billy Graham crusade, where she heard him say, “God has a plan for you” and “God will never leave you or forsake you.” She never forgot those words. In fact, those words came back to her time and time again, often serving as the catalyst that reminded her to turn to God for help.
At one point, she had a moment of clarity where she knew some men were using her and they weren’t planning on letting her go home again. She called out, “God, I’ve been so wrong. Help me. … I’m lost and I want to go home. … I don’t want to do these things. This isn’t love. Lord, I want to go home.”
While in the deepest darkness, she said, “God reached down and rescued me.” She was able to go home but not before being threatened by the men who said they loved her. At this time, Kateriina and her friends didn’t even realize that they had become prostitutes. No one talked about trafficking back then.
Although she says, “God, in his faithfulness, saved me for a second time,” still in Katariina’s mind, the lifestyle she was leading had become normal, and so she kept finding herself in situations where the abuse and violence were repeated. Even after she would get out of a dangerous situation and get back home, she couldn’t really get free of the vicious cycle of drugs, sex, and violence.
“Despite God’s help, nothing had changed inside me. So it happened again …”
Kateriina goes through a lot of challenging times throughout Stolen. Sometimes you want to cry for her; sometimes you want to just shake her. But you definitely get a better understanding of the tragic circle and cycle that affects the situations children like Kateriina get stuck in.
The book does have a positive ending with Kateriina discovering that God has brought her to a place and a position where she can minister to those in the prostitution and human trafficking circles because she’s been there and she can relate to them firsthand. Her nonprofit organization—There Is H.O.P.E. for Me—strives to stop trafficking through the voices of survivors helping other survivors.
“We do our ministry on a biblical basis. We want to give hope to those who are enslaved. Alone, I may only be one survivor, but united we are stronger than all of the traffickers. Together we can stop human trafficking!”
If you have children, think about this: what you say, what you don’t say, how you act or react to situations, and the way you let others treat you—your children will begin to see these behaviors and patterns as acceptable and normal. If you have healthy relationships, this is a good thing; if you don’t, you are setting them up to experience a similar lifestyle. If you don’t have children, perhaps you can serve a role as a friend and an encourager to the children who cross your path. All children need to know and feel that they have value and worth.
For the trafficking problem in impoverished countries, there are missionaries going into those areas to teach the families what to watch for to avoid sending their children into these unsafe situations. You can go on a mission trip (as our friends Julie and Jason Daniel and their daughters did through e3 Partners) or you can support the missions through prayer and/or financially.
Meanwhile, I encourage you to check out various organizations who seek to shut down the destructive industry of human trafficking and the people who profit from it. Maybe there is one that speaks to your heart. Below is a little information from a couple groups and people who are doing just that.
Trafficking is just one of the critical social issues tackled by e3 Partners (a ministry formed to Equip Christians to Evangelize in other cultures and Establish churches in various regions). In some poverty-stricken cultures, families will send their children off with people posing as religious leaders, successful businessmen, or sympathetic paternal figures in order to give them a chance at a better life. Unbeknownst to them, they are often sending their children right into the arms of slavery. Many are smuggled into neighboring countries and sold into sexual slavery while others are forced into harsh labor environments —often for less than $100.
e3 Partners says:
“Let’s end modern-day slavery by cutting it off from the source. Venture into remote villages where human trafficking rings are convincing poverty-stricken families to sell their own children. Reveal what’s really happening and save the next generation by sharing the simple truth that every life is priceless.”
“Ever since I came across a 13-year-old girl being sold for sex on Backpage, I’ve wondered why we tolerate it. Some 100,000 kids a year are trafficked in the US, and a simple way to help them would be to stop Backpage from profiting on them. Now some brave girls are standing up to Backpage. You go, girls!” —Nicholas Kristof, Half the Sky
Sex trafficking in America is one of the issues tackled by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in the TV show “A Path Appears.” Follow A Path Appears on Facebook to learn more about the individuals and organizations working to end trafficking and other human rights violations.
There is a list of organizations that combat human trafficking on Wikipedia that you might want to check out.
There are many efforts being made to educate families and communities about what to watch for as well as organizations like the one Katariina Rosenblatt founded to reach out to current victims. If you know of other people or groups that are working to end this worldwide epidemic or have personal experience with one, please feel free to post your information in the comments section so that others might learn about them and their efforts. Thank you for your caring heart.
Disclosure: I received this book free of charge from the publisher, Revell, in exchange for my honest review.