Last weekend in my quiet city of 37,000 people, a shocking sexual assault case made the headlines. A man from a neighboring state met a local girl online, came to town, rented a hotel room and sexually assaulted her. The crime was extra-ordinary for our quiet little town, but sadly not all that uncommon for cities and communities of all sizes.
Over 73% of abuse victims do not report the crime for at least a year. Another 45% do not tell anyone for at least 5 years, while others never disclose. Because of this, the actual rate of abuse in our society is difficult to tally accurately. However, most researchers and professionals suggest over 20% of our population under the age of 18 have been molested. This means that every year in the USA there are over 500,000 babies born which will be sexually abused before they turn 18.
Personally, as a one-time victim, I feel that percentage is gravely conservative. For instance, the Catholic Church has paid out over $13 billion to victims in the past 11 years. And many Protestant Church leaders are beginning to warn that the Evangelicals are sitting on a ticking time bomb that is greater than the Catholic priest scandals of recents times. Clearly, the devastating stats and costly reparations are ever escalating.
The toll that abuse takes biologically, psychologically and spiritually is staggering. As it specifically concerns the monetary toll on our economy, recent stats estimate that the annual mental health costs related to sex abuse exceed $20 billion annually in the US alone. Once again, the actual numbers are difficult to estimate because many researchers feel the costs exceeds $90 billion!
To put this in perspective, the annual costs associated with sex abuse far exceed the $12 billion the US spends on border security each year. Just in health care alone the yearly costs cast a long, dark shadow over the US dollar amounts of 500,000 college student loans, 8 million iPads, 600 million frozen meals, 26 major sports teams and franchises, and the research monies exhausted to find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I wonder how differently our economy would look today if we could put an end to sexual abuse and exploitation—in our society and within the church world?
Making impressive, sexy profits from our sexually charged society is the porn industry. Right now in the USA, an estimated 30,000 people are watching a porn video—this amounts to over 68 million people! And yes, many are doing so while at work—70% of all Internet porn traffic occurs during weekday/workday hours (9am – 5pm; Sex Tracker, 2012). To meet this demand, a new porn video is produced every 39 minutes in the USA. And here’s another staggering fact: porn actors are 80% less likely to contract a STD than those of the general public who are watching the videos! Basically, porn stars are laughing all the way to the bank while their customers are crying all the way to the doctor’s office.
All in all, the sex industry’s profits far exceed the costs associated with child abuse, making it the most profitable industry in the world. And why do I mention child abuse specifically? Because, 20% of all internet pornography involves child abuse!
The Unknown 99.6%
But there’s another component to this tragedy that often goes unmentioned. And that is the topic of human trafficking. It has been estimated that there are over 27 million slaves in the world—people bought and sold into the sex trade and forced labor. Because this is an illicit, black market industry, once again the numbers are difficult to calculate. Complicating the statistics further is the fact that less than 0.4% of victims have been identified, and less than 8% of offenders have been prosecuted.
The human trafficking industry is growing faster worldwide than the sale of illegal drugs and weapons. Apparently, people are more profitable than drugs or weapons—I wish that could be a positive statement. Some experts estimate the sex trade profits are greater than that of Google, Nike and Starbucks combined.
Let that sink in for a moment…
So What Can You Do?
First off, you can educate yourself on the signs of sexual abuse and exploitation. Secondly, you can refuse to label, exploit or objectify any and everyone. Thirdly, you can say no to the porn culture—It’s rather simple; it starts by not clicking on porn sites, pics or videos. Fourthly, you can make a difference in the world by supporting organizations like IJM and Polaris. Fifthly, you can share this article to help raise awareness.
And last but not least, you can pray—especially every time you hold a newborn baby, pray they will not be molested by the time they reach the age of 18. I would also encourage you to pray every time you use Google… every time you put your Nikes on—pray… and every time you drink a cup of Starbucks coffee—say a prayer for the victimized and enslaved.
It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Before closing the window to this article, take a moment to really look at the following pics: