By Jay Wonacott
Marriage for Life
This summer I joined millions of others in watching a movie called “The Sound of Freedom” starring Jim Caviezel, Eduardo Verastegui and Mira Sorvino. The “Sound of Freedom” is about Operation Underground Railroad (ourrescue.org) and its founder Tim Ballard, who combats human trafficking. A major success at the box office, already garnering nearly $175 million, the movie portrays the rescue of two children (a brother and sister) from child sex traffickers in Columbia and has brought a much-needed spotlight to this shadowy criminal underworld.
In my opinion, it is a must-watch movie for every adult. I walked out of the theater asking myself how I can personally combat this evil. The answer comes, in part, from being unafraid to talk about it and being willing to raise awareness about this dark reality. To do that, we need to be better informed.
Pope St. John Paul II, in his 2002 letter “Twenty-First Century Slavery - The Human Rights Dimension to Trafficking in Human Beings” stated human trafficking “constitutes a shocking offense against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights. In particular, the sexual exploitation of women and children is a particularly repugnant aspect of this trade and must be recognized as an intrinsic violation of human dignity and human rights.”
According to the U.S. Bishops website (scan QR Code), “Nearly 40.3 million people are victims of modern slavery, of whom 24.9 million are entrapped in forced labor and sexual slavery and 15.4 million subjected to forced marriage. Through coercion, deceit, or force, they are trapped in jobs and situations from which they cannot escape.”
The U.S. Bishops also note modern-day slavery has become the fastest-growing source of illicit profit for criminals worldwide.
I recently met with Holy Apostles parishioner Stanlynne Mixaphone, whose mission is to raise awareness of this issue in our larger community. She spoke about sharedhope.org, an organization that fights child and youth sex trafficking, and grades each U.S. state according to its response to such human slavery. Grades are awarded based on the effectiveness of state criminal provisions, identification and response to victims, care for victims, access to justice for survivors, prevention, and training. Idaho received an “F-grade.” This should be a wake-up call to everyone.
In addition to sharedhope.org, Stanlynne shared with me five other websites that people can access for more information.
• Protect Young Eyes: protectyoungeyes.com
• Million Kids: millionkids.org
• U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking: sistersagainsttrafficking.org
• National Center to End Sexual Exploitation: endsexualexploitation.org
• Untrafficked: untrafficked.org
I asked Stanlynne how we might take action in our own lives. She told me the two greatest things we can do are to offer prevention and awareness opportunities and to end the demand.
When more kids, students, parents, family members, businesses and churches are informed of the dangers of human trafficking, the “trafficking world” becomes smaller for buyers and perpetrators. When we are better equipped to look for signs of grooming and engage in open conversation within our families and communities -- especially with our youth -- we can defeat this evil.
In addition, open and honest conversations with the men in our lives will have a great effect, helping them avoid and fight against pornography, prostitution, and all forms of the commercial sex industry. Holding friends and family members accountable for their actions and words against women and children will help diminish this destructive market. Pledges can be found at sharedhope.org and untrafficked.org.
Stanlynne will be part of a panel at our upcoming Respect Life Conference on Saturday, October 14, and will speak on the topic of human trafficking. I encourage you to reach out to Stanlynne for more information by contacting Holy Apostles Catholic Church.
Though we might not be able to do what Tim Ballard has done to save children through Operation Underground Railroad, we must do what we can.
If you see something suspicious, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at
1-888-373-7888 or the National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.
If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.