A human trafficking info session featured, from left, Ali Hearon (CLC), Emily Freeborn (Children at Risk), Tomi Grover (TraffickStop) and Laramie Gorbett (Texas Association Against Sexual Assault). (Photo: EthicsDaily.com)
This week the Super Bowl provides a single event where heightened attention is given to human trafficking.
Many advocates focus their energy to bring awareness, many work with local law enforcement intentionally for appropriate interventions, others come to the scene with much more of a vigilante approach to "rescuing" victims.
The groups run the gamut of appropriate engagement to misguided practices that jeopardize them and the victims.
Our understanding about working in this arena must be biblically informed by wisdom and the narratives that give us direction. Moses' story is a good place to start drawing tension between Acts 7's description of his vigilantism and his response to God in Exodus 3 at the burning bush.
The various teams on the ground in Houston have been working since the announcement was made that Houston was hosting the Super Bowl.
Several groups are coming from across the country with years of experience working during the Super Bowl since about 2010. They have proven methods of what has helped in the past and have refined their methods over the years.
Many other groups in Houston are on the ground all year-round. They work continuously to bring awareness, work with the city and law enforcement officials consistently, and work with survivors coming out of the industry.
The approach to anti-trafficking endeavors must focus on the parts of the sex trafficking equation. This includes the demand, the supply and the product.
Much of the efforts focus on the arrest of the supplier (pimp/trafficker), the rescue of the product (the victim), and often a slap on the hand for the demand (buyers).
Several of the anti-trafficking organizations have found their niche to actively engage. Some of the key players from around the country have seen great success in partnering with the local folks to support their work.
Here is a prime example: Nell Green with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has been working with South Main Baptist Church in Houston for several years in education and advocacy on the issues of human trafficking.
She has been a great help for Nita Belles from "In Our Backyard" out of Oregon in tapping local assets, and the synergy has allowed South Main to play a greater role in specific ways.
Belles has worked in anti-human trafficking efforts surrounding the last seven Super Bowls, partnering with law enforcement, local churches, nonprofits and government.
Working together creates the opportunity to accomplish more than we could on our own.
Both of these groups have also been a part of the national conversation of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation's "Tackle Demand" project to saturate social media with information about how demand must be addressed to curb sex trafficking. You can join this from home, too!
One of the ways that we can help is to grapple with the public health aspects of human trafficking as a whole. We can use the word PIER as an acrostic to understand the areas that must be addressed.
Each of these four areas gives us avenues to engage on the issues of trafficking as a whole: Prevention, Intervention, Education and Restorative solutions. I focus on each of these areas and give a biblical framework on the topic as a whole in my book, "Compelled."
You can join the effort to address human trafficking by praying this week for all those that are on the ground in Houston.
Pray for wisdom, favor, protection and prudence for all of them! Prayer is the work!
Tomi Grover is director of education and training at TraffickStop, an anti-trafficking educational initiative based in Texas, and an adjunct faculty member at Howard Payne University and Dallas Baptist University. She served previously as director of community and restorative justice at the Baptist General Convention of Texas and is a member of Grace Church in Burleson. Her writings also appear on her blog, and you can follow her on Twitter @TomiGrover.
EthicsDaily.com published in January a seven-part series on how local churches and nonprofit organizations are working (and can work) to address human trafficking:
A Baptist Report Card on Human Trafficking by Robert Parham
The Thin Line Between Prostitution and Sex Trafficking by Valerie Carter
One Church's Role to Put Dent in Sex Trafficking by Duane Brooks and Jen Whittenberg
Stopping Human Trafficking Begins in Our Churches by Pam Strickland
4 Steps You Can Take to Thwart Human Trafficking by Stacy Blackmon
What Your Church Must Know to Combat Human Trafficking by Elizabeth Goatley
How Baptist Women Fight Against Modern-Day Slavery by Candice Lee