On October 2nd, 2014, The Crown’s senior and junior reporters attended a human trafficking event held in Redeemer’s auditorium. “Buying Sex Is Not a Sport” is a movement seeking to alter our view of the sex trade. It emphasizes the severity of the issue in our own backyards and the immense role we play in either combatting or fuelling it. Seeing as the demand for the purchase of sex rises during populous events, the 2015 Pan Am Games, to be hosted by Toronto with some events coming to Hamilton, only adds to the urgency of our awareness.
“Buying Sex Is Not a Sport” consisted of four speakers: Katarina and Sandi, two women freed from lives of prostitution, Constable Beck of the Hamilton Police Service, and Dan Rossi of the Calgary Police Force. Each one stresses the participation of both men and women in this issue. Seeing as involvement looks different for each part, our reporters have decided to approach it from both male and female perspectives.
From the Men
Justin Eisinga | Reporter
Let’s be frank, men. Silence is the norm when it comes to actually doing anything about the pervasive sexuality of our culture. Sure, it has become easier and more comfortable for us in the Church to talk about pornography and sexual sin, but how many of us have had healthy conversations about sexuality with our friends outside of the Christian circle.
I recall far too many conversations with former co-workers who wanted to spend a night at the nearest strip club. I also remember the endless rude comments about members of the opposite sex, many of which make me cringe at the very thought that someone actually said such things. The worst part is that I did nothing to stop these conversations or to attempt to change the way these friends thought about women and sexuality. In fact, I contributed to these harmful dialogues.
The power of peer pressure and the desire to be accepted is strong; our culture is driven by a constant need to be liked. Yet, as a community of Christ-followers, we need to push against these tendencies and carve out a new way forward. This is what the people behind “Buying Sex Is Not a Sport” have a vision for: a group of men and women dedicated to changing the way we think and talk about the sex industry.
They also aren’t shy about targeting the main demographic that purchases sex in Canada (and throughout the world, for that matter): men. This collective of faith-based organizations is asking a bold question: have you asked the men in your life if they buy sex?
According to “Buying Sex Is Not a Sport,” 1 in 9 men in Canada buy sex at some point in their lives. These numbers shouldn’t exist at all, but they are real. The truth is, it is men who create the demand for the sex trade.
At the same time, men remain the minority in the discussion surrounding the sex industry, something Dan Rossi, a Calgary police officer, sees as a problem. “This is not just a woman’s issue, but a human’s issue,” says Rossi, who spoke via streaming video at the “Buying Sex Is Not a Sport” event.
Rossi pointed to Romans 12:2 as a foundation for men to build from, which encourages followers of Christ to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”. Ultimately, Rossi wants men to be reminded that “if you let culture dominate, then it will dominate your perspectives on women.” Instead, men need to let God renew their minds in order to change their perspectives and transform the culture around them.
Each time we don’t call out our friends who talk about a female inappropriately, we allow the oppression of women to persist. Each time we remain silent when our friends talk about purchasing sex (whether it is at a strip club or on a street corner), we allow a soul-destroying industry to exist. Each time we view pornography, we stunt the renewal of our minds and hinder our participation in the renewal of the world around us. If these are areas of your life that you struggle with, I encourage you to find mentors and friends who can keep you accountable and help you renew your mind.
At the end of the day, though, I implore you to pray about this issue and find ways that you can stand against the exploitation of women. “To fight this battle we need to start it on our knees,” says Dan Rossi. “You’ll stand tallest on your knees.”
From the Ladies
Elise Arsenault | Reporter
If I’m honest, girls, this evening broke me. Once back in my dorm, an overwhelming sense of helplessness overtook me. Never before was I so conscious of the horrendous expanse and complexity of this issue. It’s real, and it’s all around us. I can only begin to unravel it now with a kind of tunnel vision, focusing on one story at a time.
Katarina MacLeod deeply experienced the horrors of the sex trade, having taken part in it for 15 years before escaping. Her story is long and still unfolding, and while I won’t delve into its entirety, I will highlight some of her boldest words. She takes no time in correcting the claim that most prostitutes choose their line of work.
“Every woman I worked with came from somewhere broken,” says MacLeod. “The majority of women were abused in some way, shape, or form before entering into the sex trade. When you are abused and don’t get help, it changes things in you; it ruins you. I chose to be a prostitute for lack of choice.” Others claim that many enter the trade for a short time, pay off debt or tuition, and leave. Katarina stresses the contrary.
“It doesn’t happen. Because when you first start making fast, big money, your head blows up. You think ‘these men are paying me to be with me.’ But very quickly you learn that they’re only seeing you because you’re fresh meat. They’re trying to see how much they can get away with, and you soon learn that you’re nothing but another hole to these men. By that time, the shame and the guilt have taken over.” Katarina recounts her survival of sexual abuse (beginning at age five and lasting for decades), exploitation, drug addiction, kidnapping, physical abuse and domestic trafficking. She exposes the destructiveness of a glamourized trade and the peace that came with escape and complete surrender to Christ.
The issue of human trafficking is massive. We may never have the chance to stop the spread of a pimp’s prostitution ring, or to sit and speak with women whose stories mirror Katarina’s, but there are several ways to get involved locally. I urge you to prayerfully consider one of the following opportunities, or likeminded ministries.
- Helping Hands Street Mission’s A Place for Grace is a Christian-based peer group for women in the sex trade in downtown Hamilton. They are in need of volunteers for prayer, cooking meals and building relationships with the women who attend.
- “Buying Sex Is Not a Sport” is seeking volunteers to silently stand outside Pan Am 2015 venues and wear their t-shirt while games are being played. For more information, contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Educate yourself on Bill C-36, a law that may be passed to criminalize the purchasing of sex.
- Read the “Male Perspective” article. Examine yourself, and consider inviting the men and women in your life to discuss how we as individuals can be challenging the demand of purchased sex.
- If you suspect a woman you know is at risk of being, or is, involved in human trafficking, call the Hamilton Police Human Trafficking unit at 905-546-3885, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Restoration comes with action, and we are called to act. Look at the case of the adulterous woman in John 8. Plagued by shame, she is dragged to the temple courts beneath clouds as heavy as the stones of men. Jesus has the power to sentence her, yet draws in the sands that threaten to bury her. We don’t know the whole of her story before this moment, but He does. Jesus calls the teachers of the law to drop their stones before the adulterous woman.
Like the teachers of the law, we too must drop our stones. And, like Jesus, we too must stand. This means dropping judgment, apathy, blindness and separation. This means standing on love, righteous anger and unceasing prayer. This means yearning for hearts wrought by hard truths and thirsting for redemption. This means having eyes to see, and ears to hear the God whose ways are higher than our own, and by whose hands all things hold together.