Christian individuals and church ministries are fighting to bring hope and freedom to trafficking victims. Katie Pedigo, a Church of Christ preacher’s daughter and executive director of New Friends New Life, a faith-based nonprofit that helps sex trafficking victims, wages a daily battle against sex slavery in North Texas.
“A lot of people think that if it’s sex trafficking, then it’s happening overseas, it’s happening in India or Thailand or somewhere else,” said Pedigo, “So it’s important for us to realize that it’s happening right here, in every city in our country.”
In Dallas, police rescue anywhere from 100 to 120 child sex trafficking victims a year — many of them runaways who found they had only one commodity to sell, said Sgt. Byron Fassett of the Dallas Police Department, whom New Friends New Life honored for his work fighting trafficking crimes.
This past spring, the North Texas Trafficking Task Force executed search warrants on local massage parlors that were suspected of participating in illicit sex and keeping undocumented aliens.
The North Texas Trafficking Task Force operations “locate and rescue victims of human trafficking and bring those responsible to justice,” David M. Marwell, Homeland Security Investigations special agent in charge said.
However, according to Marwell, the best way of attacking human trafficking is by increasing public awareness.
“This is a hard thing to teach and preach about in a Sunday morning atmosphere because it so dark,” said Wade Hodges, Preston Road church’s senior minister. “But because of Katie’s leadership, more and more churches in our community are addressing it.”
Last year, New Friends New Life provided support to more than 700 trafficked girls and sexually exploited women and their children by giving access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health services and spiritual guidance.
“We feel like we’re screaming it from the rooftops every day: It’s happening,” Pedigo said of sex trafficking and exploitation. “It’s happening to American girls on every street corner, every bus stop, every mall in our city, and we need to open our eyes, and we need to know it’s happening, so we can fix it and get it out of the shadows.”