Bringing Shalom to the City….

stories from CityTeam International in Oakland, CA

A Battle for Our Sexuality

Written by Samuel Garcia


“Being a prostitute is such a shameful thing in the Philippines that there is no Tagalog word for it.  Instead, sexually-exploited girls are called kalapatid mababa ang lipad, or, low-flying dove.”

-Laura Joyce Davis, Samaritana

Yesterday for Program Day we talked about Sex Trafficking, and how that plays out here in Oakland.  I thought this would be a time where I could, for the first time, sit back, and just listen with an attempt to be more informed of the situation.  I thought this would be an easy Program Day for us all.  This has nothing to do with me, right? I  was sooo wrong.

The first speaker that came to talk was a Mills alumni named Laura Joyce Davis, who dedicated a year of her life working with sex-trafficked women in the Philippines.  Yes, Philippines.  I started to feel a little tense when she said that.  They seem like such innocent people!  From what my mom tells me, the Philippines was a good place to be, where people were generally happy and free from the dangers of things as morbid as sex trafficking.  Unfortunately, I learned yesterday that this is not the case.  In fact, the Philippines is one of the top countries in the world that provides trafficked victims for the rest of the world.  Isn’t that crazy?  From Laura’s stories, many young girls are sold by their family members in order to pay their way out of poverty.  But still, the idea of even being some kind of sex victim is looked down upon by society.  The lucrative enslavement is so shameful that there is not even a word in the Tagalog dictionary that is synonymous to prostitution.  Instead, girls are called kalapatid mababa ang lipad, or, low-flying dove.  This does say a lot about the innocence of the girls who, many times, don’t know what they are getting themselves into at first.  Based solely on the desire to provide for their families, they work in the cities under employers that one day just take away all their money and threaten them to stay.   In essence, the girls have flown so low to the ground that they unknowingly begin to sully their wings.

So what does this have to do with me?  For one, I was surprised to hear how rampant this happened in the Philippines, where people are generally known for their kindness and courtesy.  Especially the girls.  How can they be taken advantage of?!?!

Later that day, however, a representative from Motivating, Inspiring, and Supporting Sexually Exploited Youth (MISSEY) came to talk to us about what really happens on a domestic level, especially here in Oakland.  MISSEY has it’s building probably 4 blocks away from where I live here in CityTeam, so again, I was surprised to hear what was happening in this community.

Apparently, the average age of entry into the trafficking industry here in the United States is 13 years old.  They are only children!! How could anybody even take advantage of that??

We heard stories of how girls from traumatizing homes are taken advantage of by pimps exploiting their vulnerability.  Before they know, they are locked up and forced to sell their bodies every night on the “track”, one of which is International Boulevard, a main street we take pretty frequently during the day here in Oakland.

I was disgusted by the stories of rape, manipulation, and physical abuse these girls faced daily, but also by the fact that most of them believe that their “pimp” is their boyfriend, and sometimes won’t even leave since he has been the only one in their lives that has shown any type of love or affection towards them.  It’s a distorted view of love, but it’s the only love they knew!  When girls sense that something is wrong, they are threatened by death or by beating.  Very recently, actually, a MISSEY client was found naked, beaten, and dead on Highway 13 the day before she was supposed to testify on trial against her pimp.  I seriously felt like vomiting at that point.

So as a man, I do realize that there are some interesting tensions for me when it comes to this topic.  On behalf of men who, in this society, have been hyper-sexualized from their environment and media, it’s not too hard to imagine what would lead a lonely john to pay money for a night with a woman.  At the same time, it’s not too hard to imagine what would cause a pimp growing up without good views of women to think that they can take a step too far and begin to control a woman’s life for his own personal gain.  It’s really not too hard to believe that.  When it boils down to it, the same evil that runs this industry is the same evil that runs rampant inside of me.  That was something hard to swallow for us all, and so Yu-Shuan had us go into an intense time of prayer where the women in our group prayed against the ways men have grown up wrong in society, but at the same time for the ways they have been victimized by them.  Mutually, the men in our group prayed for the ways we have taken our dominance a step too far with women, and for the ways that we also can better take care of women.  It was actually a very powerful night, where lots of inner healing happened between and within the genders.

I really think that as Christians we need to talk more about issues of sexuality, especially in the church.  There are so many things that “normal” people go through, I feel, that even parents are afraid to address to their kids.  Sex, sexual desires, and practices are things all people think about, but nobody really cares to talks about, for fear that it is too taboo to say.

Well, I got a rude awakening last night.  Little boys are learning from the streets how to treat a woman, and they think that it’s okay to objectify them for their own means.  Little girls are thinking that their bodies are not temples, but rather tools to be used for money out on the streets.  Can anybody see there’s something wrong with this?!?  If the church is too scared to talk about these issues, and in the right manner where the truth is laid out, our children will continue growing up with a skewed view of their sexuality, which, in my opinion, is a detriment.  As a church we need to take back the views of God and instill them into our children and youth…before perversion gets to them.




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