On Lost Cats and Lost Kids


“Tigger! Tigger!”

It is around nine at night and I am half way home when I hear the call. A mom is slowly walking up the street, two mournful kids trailing behind. Every few steps they call out “Tigger! Tigger!”

“Oh!” I stop. “Are you looking for a kitty?”

“Yes,” the mom replies. “She seems to be missing.”

“I’m so sorry. What does she look like? I’ll keep my eyes open for her.”

The little girl’s eyes fill with tears.

“She’s black with white paws and a white patch on her body.”

This cat is clearly a beloved part of the family. And she is missing.

I find myself unreasonably affected by this sorrow; this grief associated with a missing cat, a stranger’s missing cat no less.

But I know exactly why. 

I am returning home from watching the screening of a film called I Am Jane Doe. 
This film is a documentary that exposes the world of underage sex trafficking and tells the courageous (and ongoing) story of mothers and daughters who have come forward to take on the big business that supports online trafficking. It a legal battle against wealthy men and a misinterpretation of a law that protects freedom of speech on the internet at the cost of the lives of kids. The law was created in 1996 when the internet was a baby, and no one would conceive of the evil and exploitation that it could and would generate. At one point in the film the statement is made that it is more difficult to sell a motorcycle online than it is to sell a kid.

The film is gripping and poignant. One moment I find myself in a rage against the evil of both the industry and the justice system; the next moment I tear up as I listen to a teenager talk about being raped over and over again.

The statistics are profoundly disturbing. There are over 450,000 entries for missing children in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children data base. Of those, one in five are likely sex trafficked. Approximately two-thirds of these children are trafficked online, primarily through a website that sells furniture, instruments, and bicycles. Young girls and boys are manipulated and forced into the nightmare of sex trafficking by men and women who are masters at deceiving and recruiting. It’s horrifying and it’s nauseating. And it is happening in a city near you. I guarantee it. 

I leave the theatre deeply disturbed. The statistics and stories wake me up to an area of which I have only a peripheral knowledge. The lives of those in the film are forever changed because of actions of evil, greedy people. Yet, for all the evil present, there was the profound hope represented in all those who had come forward to fight against this wrong. From brave parents to lawyers that will not give up, there is a fight to end this wrong.

Lost cats and lost kids in a world that repeatedly chooses exploitation and money over humanity.Tweet: Lost cats and lost kids in a world that repeatedly chooses exploitation and money over humanity.

I have all this on my mind when I hear the low call of a mom and her kids looking for a lost cat. It is dark and the streetlights seem dim. Sounds of a summer night in the city are all around us.

It feels poignantly connected. Lost cats and lost kids in a world that repeatedly chooses exploitation and money over humanity. I feel a bit silly connecting the two. A lost cat is nothing compared to the agony of a lost kid. I am well aware of this, yet still I feel sad. It’s all too much.

I remember the beginning of the beautiful book The End of Suffering. The author, Scott Cairns, is grieving over the death of two dogs, and this is his starting point for writing about suffering. His words poignantly describe what I’m currently feeling.

The graves of two dogs may seem to some to be a relatively poor starting point—maybe even, to some, an insulting starting point—for this sort of inquiry. I hope not. I would never mean to equate the loss of a dog—or even the loss of two very good dogs—with every other occasion of human suffering. 

Still, I will not discount how hard, how sharp, even this loss remains—and how puzzling. It’s the puzzlement, frankly, that makes even this current, specific grief remind me more generally of other grief, of other painful occasions, and of our overall predicament. 

In any case, as I shovel and as I weep over my big sweet dogs, I wince off and on, a little embarrassed that in a world where each newscast and newspaper brings new images of heart-wrenching human tragedy, I continue to be so broken up over losing my dogs. 

My only defense for the moment will have to be that these really were extraordinarily good dogs. And they loved me. 

They were Labradors, no less. 

Big yellow Labradors. 

Innocent as rain.*

I am nearing my own home. The sparkling white lights on the porch that glow all year round, challenging conventional wisdom that says they are for the Christmas season alone, beckon me to warmth and safety; beckon me to the haven I call home. I sigh as I walk up the stairs. I think of the mom grieving her lost girl; I think of the little girl on the street, earnestly looking for her lost kitty. I do hope they find Tigger.

*From The End of Suffering by Scott Cairns

Commercials, Hot Wings, and the Underbelly of the Super Bowl

Trafficking In Persons Report Map 2010
Trafficking In Persons Report Map 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tomorrow night many North Americans will gather around large television sets with nachos, Doritos, hot wings, special vegetable platters ala Pinterest, and beer, watching the sporting event that draws in arguably the largest audience of the year, both in person and through network television. It’s the Super Bowl. Some will watch for the football, others (like me) will watch for the commercials and to be with friends.

And every year I have to go ruining it for readers. 

Because every year I post about human trafficking on the weekend of the Super Bowl. And I’ll never stop. Not until the problem stops. 

Sex trafficking and prostitution at the Super Bowl is the underbelly of the event. It can’t be ignored. 

It is hypothesized that the Super Bowl is the number one event in the United States that caters to men and their sexual appetites, bringing in young girls trafficked for the occasion. Many of these girls are between the ages of 12-14, lured into sex trafficking through devious methods, robbed of family and childhood and at the mercy of men and women with evil intent. While in recent years this has been debated, the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking acknowledges this debate about the issue and posted a statement on its website geared toward those who downplay the issue.

“Currently, there are very few ways of collecting statistics on human trafficking,” it said, adding that governments believe there is a “potential increase and have tackled the issue for the last three years of the Super Bowl.”* They are careful to add this: 

“The problem of human trafficking in New Jersey will not end with the Super Bowl.”—New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking

“The Super Bowl is also an opportunity to educate the community. People will stop and listen if you mention Super Bowl but not necessarily if you just talk about human trafficking,” the group said. In other words – let’s use this event to bring up the issue and then continue the conversation after it is over.

It’s a blight on an evening that brings people together for commercials, hot wings, and maybe a little football. 

The game will take place at the Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey and features the Seattle Seahawks playing against the Denver Broncos. The Attorney General’s office of New Jersey has taken this problem seriously and responded by training almost 3000 people to recognize the signs of sex trafficking. Just this week law enforcement broke up a major prostitution and drug ring based out of Manhattan and under investigation for almost a year, arresting and indicting many.

I’d rather ignore this and eat my hot wings. Not because I don’t care – I do care – but it’s not comfortable to be challenged with information when you feel helpless to make any changes. But ignoring this fact doesn’t make it go away, it doesn’t make it okay for the girls. It just might make the nachos, wings, and commercials go down a little easier.

But they’re not supposed to go down easy. We are supposed to care about these things, we are supposed to know about them. And if we can’t do anything physically we can give money and pray for those who do.

To that end, here are two organizations that work to end human trafficking that are reputable and doing excellent work:


*”The Exodus Road exists to empower the rescue of victims of sexual slavery. Operating primarily in Southeast Asia and India, we believe that a major component of fighting human trafficking and child slavery lies in working with local law enforcement to find situations of trafficking and to then assist in the rescue of victims and the prosecution of criminals. By decreasing the profitability of the trafficking industry for the criminal, we will eventually slow the mechanisms that make the exploitation of women and children so lucrative” I met Laura Parker, one of the founders of The Exodus Road, this year through blogging. I guarantee this is an organization worth looking into, worth praying for, worth supporting.

Take 3 minutes to watch this short film that gives a glimpse into lives changed through rescue.

*”Shared Hope International strives to prevent the conditions that foster sex trafficking, restore victims of sex slavery, and bring justice to vulnerable women and children. We envision a world passionately opposed to sex trafficking and a committed community restoring survivors to lives of purpose, value and choice – one life at a time.”


Some would say it is wrong to use the Super Bowl to draw attention to this issue, some would say “We don’t really know whether these statistics are true.” I would say, let’s use this event as a time to draw attention to an issue that struggles to even gather data to support it, so devious are those who participate in the activity. 

A couple of years ago when I first found out about this problem I wrote this and I stand by it today:

“If there is one thing I know about you who read Communicating Across Boundaries – you are pro-women. From Blue Bras to Arranged Marriages to Mothering to Feminism – you are about women and who we are, who we can be.  So take a stand this Superbowl and let people know about sex trafficking. Introduce them to The Exodus Road and Shared Hope International. Let’s all find out more and see what we can collectively do to make a difference. There’s a lot of stuff, good and bad that comes out every week about women, and much of it polarizes women instead of bringing us together. Let’s join forces by focusing on an issue I’d like to think everyone could agree on.”

If even one person is helped or made aware of this issue through this blog post than it is worth it. Let us not lose our souls in false innocence — this exists and we are the better for knowing and learning how to pray, learning where to give.

*Information comes directly from websites of these organizations

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Sold For Fifty Dollars and a Case of Beer

“Somebody who sold you… for fifty bucks and a case of beer! …I’m sorry” These words shouted at Penny Lane, a character from the movie “Almost Famous” would be harsh words for anyone to hear. She was sold by someone who played at loving her to get what he wanted. She was an object, a thing, something that was no more valuable than fifty dollars and a case of beer.

With a single phrase Penny Lane is sold, seen as no more than a commodity, and stunned she replies the only way she can without crying “Well, I hope it was Heineken”.She was reduced to a sophisticated poker chip as her fate was sealed by the actions of another.

While western culture often looks at devaluing women as an external issue, characterized by the sex trade, lack of education for girls, and perceived and real oppression – the line from this movie along with a recent article from Women’s Enews reminded me that these are not just issues from far away places.

The article cited the state of  Georgia, where a law was passed in April imposing higher fines on pimps as well as a 25 year minimum prison sentence for coercing sex from those under 18. The campaign “A Future, Not a Past” in Georgia gives an estimate of 250 to 300 underage trafficked girls in the state and have a concern that most people make an assumption that sex trafficking is an issue across the ocean, instead of one on the doorstep. The Washington DC based group, The Rebecca Project for Human Rights is also concerned that trafficking and exploitation in the United States is largely ignored.

One of the ways the Rebecca Project has addressed their concerns of child trafficking state-side is by taking on the popular Craig’s List. While most of us look to Craig’s List as a great way to find everything from furniture to apartments, the dark side of the site has been an adult services section. The Rebecca Project successfully lobbied to shut down this section. Craig’s List inadvertently ended up being a perfect spot for children to be trafficked under a guise of “Adult Services”. Malika Saada Saar, Director of the Rebecca Project calls this a “Cyber Slave Market” targeting under-age girls, made vulnerable through difficult home and life circumstances.

No one should be owned by another. No one, not Penny Lane sold for fifty dollars and a case of beer to a musician during a card game,  or the 14-year old sold by the pimp down the street.

The two videos I have linked below are clear descriptions of the problem and clear calls to action. Take a look and see what you think!

“No girl in America should be for sale. It is unacceptable and it must stop!” Malika Saada Saar – Founder and Director of The Rebecca Project.