BEND, OR -- The sale of human beings has never been more common in the United States than it is today. Tuesday, a coalition of clergy ran a full-page ad in The New York Times calling on Village Voice Media, owners of Backpage.com to close down their Adult services section. "Christians everywhere are beginning to realize that this sale of humans in our backyard must be stopped and that we can play a role in its defeat" says Nita Belles, author of the recently published book, In Our Backyard: A Christian Perspective of Human Trafficking in the United States.
Village Voice Media Responded to the clergy with allegations that they had tried to meet with the clergy group unsuccessfully. With an estimated revenue to Village Voice Media of more than two million dollars a month from Backpage.com’s Adult Services section, the speculation is that they will not easily shut down that section.
"Internet Sites such as Backpage.com have become the modern-day slave auctions for selling humans for sex." Belles says, "A common myth is that human trafficking happens overseas or in large cities, and the victims are foreign born nationals. Human trafficking is happening in every state and every city here in the United States and the majority of domestic minor sex trafficking victims are our American born children. Look hard enough and you will find it in our nation's small towns and countryside. It is everywhere."
Last week Nita Belles, the keynote speaker at a weekend seminar at College Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita Kansas, said "There is something every person can do to stop this atrocity in our midst, from praying to talking to their friends, to full time work against the sale of humans." Her message is uniting Christians to realize that they can and must be a part of the efforts to stop human trafficking, not just overseas, but within our borders.
Coincidentally, within a week of the above seminar, seven men, including a schoolteacher, were arrested in the Wichita area in a sting targeting human trafficking. "Kudos to Wichita's law enforcement for being very pro-active in stopping this crime" says Belles.
In her book In Our Backyard: A Christian Perspective on Human Trafficking in the United States, Belles encourages Christians to join the movement against human trafficking to effect change in our communities. The author is available to speak to groups and assist communities and Christians in linking arms to stop human trafficking in their local areas. She has been key in raising awareness and training citizens, first responders and social services in her own community in Central Oregon. "Awareness is the first step in helping to eradicate this crime on our soil and we can stop it in our lifetime."