By: Sarah Hurley

Do you ever feel like you live on an island? Like your morals and beliefs and core values are different from the rest of the world’s?

Sometimes I have to turn off the news because I have a physical and emotional response to the constant barrage of scandal, tragedy, and division. I have to be diligent about the shows my daughter watches on Netflix and channels that are allegedly children’s channels and the nearly exhaustive amount of content that is available to her. Even something as mundane and seemingly innocent as checking out at the grocery store elicits the need for vigilance as women’s magazine highlighting articles like Best Sex Ever or Positions That Will Make Him Go Crazy In Bed surround my children and me as we wait in line—not to mention the bare-midriff, full cleavage model or actress on the cover. Then we pile into the car and nearly every song that comes on the radio is a direct reference to sex or activities in which I would not encourage my children to partake.

When I really pay attention to my surroundings, when I’m present and not distracted by my own thoughts, my To Do list, or my phone, and I actually see the world going on around me, it’s easy to feel like I’m a stranger living on an island unto myself and to become discouraged. Admittedly, working with women who have been sexually exploited may make me more sensitive to such things.  Someone recently posted a Facebook meme showing the girl who became famous on Dr. Phil for saying “Cash me ousside…How bow dah?” and intimating her next step would be doing porn, to which another person commented, “I hope so.”

It has now become socially acceptable to laugh at a troubled, thirteen-year-old girl doing porn.

There has recently been debate as to whether the increased number of trafficking cases has been a result of actual increased activity or increased awareness. I don’t know that we know the answer to that, but much like what we’ve learned about nature versus nurture (epigenetics), I think it may be a little of both. The increased awareness of sex trafficking has certainly led to more arrests and convictions that previously went unnoticed or were solely focused on the person performing the act as opposed to the context and circumstances of the event. However, as we watch the line of “propriety” get pushed farther and farther, it is easy to see how sex has become casualized to the extent that many believe selling their bodies is actually a viable option. Everything we see points to this lie; we accept the lie as truth; and then we’re left wondering how our children are being lured by predators.

Combine our hyper-sexualized culture with the breakdown of our families and you have a recipe for disaster.

Sad girl at bus stopWe all have the need and the desire to be seen and to be known. When that is not done at all or in a healthy way, we fall prey to what the world tells us how to pursue that desire and what will provide it. A child doesn’t have to be in a foster home or have suffered terrible abuse to be vulnerable to exploitation. The victim may very well be from an affluent, two-parent home where work and materialism were more valued than interaction and emotional safety.

As of March 30, 2017, the Top 5 songs on the Billboard Charts are listed below, along with some of the lyrics. This is what you and your kids are most likely to hear at any given time right now:
1. Ed Sheeran – Shape of You (this excerpt is a woman talking to a man she just met in a bar):
Say, boy, let’s not talk too much
Grab on my waist and put that body on me
Come on now, follow my lead
Come, come on now, follow my lead

2. That’s What I Like by Bruno Mars:
Hey, hey, hey
I got a condo in Manhattan
Baby girl, what’s hatnin’?
You and your ass invited
So gon’ and get to clappin’
Go pop it for a pimp, pop-pop it for me
Turn around and drop it for a pimp, drop-drop it for me
I’ll rent a beach house in Miami
Wake up with no jammies (nope)

3. I Don’t Wanna Live Forever by Taylor Swift (from Fifty Shades Darker – this is the attraction to a violent man she can’t seem to escape emotionally):
Baby, baby, I feel crazy
Up all night, all night and every day
I gave you something, but you gave me nothing
What is happening to me?

4. Bad and Boujee by Migos (this requires no explanation):
Raindrops, drop tops (drop top)
Smokin’ on cookie in the hotbox (cookie)
F*ckin’ on your b*tch she a thot, thot, thot (Thot)
Cookin’ up dope in the crockpot, (pot)
We came from nothin’ to somethin’ nigga (hey)
I don’t trust nobody, grip the trigger (nobody)
Call up the gang, they come and get you (gang)
Cry me a river, give you a tissue (hey)
My b*tch is bad and boujee (bad)
Cookin’ up dope with a Uzi (blaow)

5. I Feel It Coming by The Weeknd (this could be the script of a predator):
Tell me what you really like
Baby I can take my time
We don’t ever have to fight
Just take it step-by-step
I can see it in your eyes
‘Cause they never tell me lies
I can feel that body shake
And the heat between your legs
You’ve been scared of love and what it did to you
You don’t have to run, I know what you’ve been through
Just a simple touch and it can set you free
We don’t have to rush when you’re alone with me

This doesn’t even touch on television shows, movies, advertisements, and video games.

Our kids are exposed to porn, at average, by the age of 11.

Is it any wonder that we begin to think that sex is not only casual, but that the kind of graphic, often-violent, depiction of sexual encounters, and the role the woman plays, is “normal”? And this applies to adults, let alone children whose minds haven’t even fully developed—young people who are desperate for love.

Can you visualize the girl alone in her bedroom, behind closed doors, living in a land of virtual relationships who is excited by a charming stranger who, after a while, promises to love her and convinces her to run away with him? Or the girl who meets another girl who tells her she’s been doing “dates” to make money, raves about how great it is, and encourages her to join; or she escapes through self-medication to numb the feelings of loneliness which sometimes leads to the giving of her body as a mere commodity—which she has learned is not precious or valuable or worth honoring, anyway—it is a means to an end. Even the woman who is not trafficked, but has a long history of casual and/or empty sexual encounters, exposes her body and her self-worth multiple times over an extended period before she finally learns it was all a lie. By then the damage is done.

We must remain vigilant. We must remain in community with like-minded believers. We must remember that He who lives in us is GREATER than he who lives in the world. We must fill our eyes with whatever is good, and pure, and true and persevere in a world that is increasingly hostile to that belief. We must love God, love our neighbor, and love ourselves well.

For the next week, become more aware of the shows you and your children watch, the music you listen to, the content you view online, and talk about it as a family. It starts at home. If that’s solid, go out into the world. Be a light in the dark. If we’re going to live on an island, let it be an island of refuge where we can pull others to shore who may be drowning.

Sarah Hurley earned a degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of Indianapolis in 2005. She managed and directed various teams in the U.S. and India at JP Morgan Chase and Defender Direct before leaving corporate America to start Kristy’s House in 2011. An overcomer, herself of trauma and commercial sexual exploitation, Sarah pursued ongoing studies in Counseling at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and is also a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. It is her passion and purpose to serve women with similar stories. 

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