The author does a good job of casting the issue and its contextual realities in a compelling way. He does not shield the reader from abusive language or from the horrors of the lived experience of traffickers and their victims. He does not gloss over the collusion of social media sites nor minimize the lucrative nature of “the business” of the commercial sex trade. In juxtaposing a recent court case alongside 19th century slave trade anecdotes, he sets the issue of modern sex trafficking in a context that helps the reader understand it as a more recent iteration of what has been a very long American story of dehumanization. For me, the most long-lasting insight from Bechard’s book came from the 65th chapter:
In order to justify the continued ownership of slaves during the first two years of North American colonization, its settlers—and later its government and people—looked upon the individuals they owned as not quite “men.” The logic: how could slaves enjoy the freedoms of men—especially the ownership of property—when they themselves were property? Certainly, if they were property, they could not receive the benefits of others. They were not, therefore, quite human enough to be included in the life and liberties of the new nation. The same logic is used today… (Bechard 199-200)
Just as slaves in pre-Civil War America were considered “less than fully human” and thus not warranting the rights of a human being, so now victims of the commercial sex trade (substitute for “victim” any slang or pejorative word our culture and media proffers) are perceived somehow as “less than fully human,” and thus unworthy of the same attention, advocacy, opportunities we would demand for ourselves or others. To understand our own prejudices and ignorance, then, is the first step in making any significant change in our collective cultural consciousness with regard to this issue of modern slavery.
To say that this book gave me much to ponder and consider is an understatement, but more than the horrifying nature of the content disturbed me. As I made my way through the text, it seemed to me that the path along which the author was leading me had no clear destination. The anecdotes and the excerpts of testimony chosen were helpful to a degree, but I was left sensing something was missing. Upon completion of the book, I was curious about how others had received it, and found that there exist a handful of reviews which can articulate what the text lacked in ways much more comprehensive than I. When I finished the book, I wondered, “So where does this leave us?” The author, for all his good intentions and breadth of knowledge on the issue, does not give a good sense of how to move us forward (either individually or collectively) in combating the evil of human trafficking. To be fair, there is certainly no easy answer to the issue, but I have found in my limited experience of working with other organizations in the area, that there are avenues to pursue and ways to become involved that actually do make a positive difference, small as it might be. I would like to recommend this book to others, but although I am not sorry that I read it, I believe there are other resources available that would better educate, exhort, and galvanize those who wish to dedicate time, prayer, or any other resource to ending the horrors of human sex trafficking.