Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Post 6: Sex Strikes and Human Trafficking (plus book giveaway)

Part 1: An Apology for Women in Ministry

(Heads up, there is a book giveaway at the end of this post.)

I came across a disturbing news story not long ago. The opening line read, “An Oklahoma City man kidnapped a 20-year-old woman, then forced her to watch another woman's torture and death, so that she would cooperate with a human trafficking ring, police say.” The story gets more heartbreaking and gruesome from there.

Earlier this month reports were splashed across the Internet of a sharp increase in sex-trafficking surrounding the Super Bowl and high profile sporting events in general. Indianapolis area churches joined together to make sex-trafficking education available to hotel workers in order to help spot the signs of women and girls in distress. Some hotels had help-lines printed on soap wrappers for young girls to grab hold of. Again, heartbreaking.

When I started this series on women in ministry there was something bigger going on in my mind. I care about women in ministry. I care about women in ministry a lot. But there’s something I care about more. Women. I care about women.

I wish I could say it was hearing of the multitudes in human trafficking that got me moving on this subject. Yes, it got my blood boiling, and has prompted me to increase giving to certain organizations, but I’m embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until this hit a bit closer to home that I was prompted to move from “sympathizer” to “advocate.”

Not long ago I got a letter from a young woman whom I love.* Someone I look upon as a little sister. She was living out on the west coast working as an intern and she was writing to tell me that she had recently gotten out of an abusive relationship. The kind of abuse that sends you to the hospital and leaves inward scars long after those on the outside had healed.

I was honored she would share her story with me. I was struck by the courage and strength she exhibited to be free. And I felt a raging, keep-me-up-late-at-night anger towards her perpetrator. I was seething. How dare he manipulate this girl, intimidate her, control her, threaten her, beat her.

After reading her letter I could not look at a daily news cycles without seeing stories of violence against women screaming out from the pages. I know this is obvious to so many of you, but for me, I think I was seeing something for the first time: most of the violence that occurs is directed towards women and children. It’s everywhere.

Within the past two weeks abused women have been all over the headlines: Elizabeth Smart got married. The young man dating Yeardley Love was found guilty of her murder. A 9-year-old girl died after being forced by her family to run for three hours. And it seems like you can’t go two weeks without hearing about a young mother who has suspiciously disappeared.

If you’ve tracked any of these specific stories, you will know that all the victims I’ve mentioned are Caucasian. Were local news medias to give equal attention to the violence done to African American women we would be even more overwhelmed (this is often referred to as “Missing White Women Syndrome”. For more, see this report on white babies getting more attention than minority babies who go missing).

Just when I was beginning to despair for the fairer sex, Leymah Gbowee, the 2011 National Peace Prize Laureate came to speak at IWU. Gbowee explained how one night, while she slept, she was given a dream for peace. She went to her pastor to share her dream, urging him to carry it out for her. He (rightfully) declined, explaining to her that the bearer of the dream was the one who was to carry out the dream. Gbowee took his advice, followed her dream, and mobilized the women of Liberia to end a 14-year war. The Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace participated in public protests consisting of loud prayers cried out in the streets. They handed out flyers in streets reading, “We are tired! We are tired of our children being killed! We are tired of being raped! Women, wake up—you have a voice in the peace process!” They also handed out drawings depicting their cause for women who could not read.

When government officials and negotiators met at a posh hotel to discuss peace terms, Gbowee and her fellow women pushed into the hotel and sat in the hallways, blocking doors, telling the government they would peacefully hold them hostage until peace could be agreed upon. When men tried to leave the women threatened to rip their clothes off. Gbowee explains: “In Africa, it’s a terrible curse to see a married or elderly woman deliberately bare herself.” The women sat there for days.

What brought world wide attention to Gbowee’s story, however, was the women’s decision to withhold sex from their husbands until peace had been achieved (something I imagine was extremely dangerous in a country where rape had become commonplace). In a move resembling Arisophanes’ Lysistrata, this sex strike went on for months. “It had little or no practical effect,” Gbowee says, “But it was extremely valuable in getting us media attention.”

Their efforts did not go unnoticed and many credit the praying women of Liberia for ending this war and ousting Charles Taylor, Liberia’s corrupt leader.

I sat in my seat transfixed by her words. I loved the thought of these women capitalizing on what little power they had to see national change. Even more, I loved how the Gospel was so tightly infused with Gbowee’s advocacy.

I’m giving away a copy of Gbowee’s book, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War. If you would like to win a copy, please leave a comment in the comments section with your name and the words, “I’d love a book!”—I will pick one person at random on Friday (of course, men are welcome to put their names in the hat as well). She also has a documentary out on her life entitled, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.”

I care about women in ministry. I really do. I also care about women. Full stop.

See you Friday for the drawing and closing comments.

*I've changed some details out of respect for her privacy.


no2h8 said...

Awesome. The documentary is a good one. She hung out with Ecumenical Women at the UN today for the 56th CSW meeting. Love your series Amanda. Oh and "I'd like a book". ;-) Molly

Sarah Sanderson said...

Enjoying your series so far Mandy! I'd love a book too!

Raul and Catie said...

Enjoying every post of this series, Mandy! And I'd love a book too :)

Jody said...

Thanks for sharing. I'd love a book! :)

Sarah Derck said...

"I'd love a book!"

My students are still talking about Ms. Gbowee's visit and film, and on a college campus, two weeks' longevity is saying something!

I've been loving your blog for months now. Thanks for thinking in public about these crucial issues.

Sarah Derck

Sutherlun said...

I'd love a book!

Thanks for thoughtful, and often entertaining posts. I'm now outed as a stalker of your blog :)
- Amy Sutherlun

Marilyn said...

I'd love a book. May you find your place in this fight.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed all your posts. I recently went to a conference on human trafficking and was shocked. I would love a book! Ann N

Jess said...

Thanks for this post! It's amazing how it often just takes one incident closer to home to make a passion come to life for us. I'd like a book!

Erin Crisp said...

I joined a group of seminary wives to attend a public showing of the documentary and the prayer and discussion time afterward was almost as good as the film. I'd love a book. :)

Erin Crisp said...

I joined a group of seminary wives to attend a public showing of the documentary and the prayer and discussion time afterward was almost as good as the film. I'd love a book. :)

Dina said...

I'd love a book! Thanks for your inspiring words.