03 Oct Behind My Screen
We all know that the reality of online pornography is only a few clicks away. But do we understand it’s impact, not just on the viewer, but also on those behind the screen?
I’m a mother of a two year old boy who spends his days playing with cars, singing nursery rhymes and refusing to eat anything that resembles a vegetable! But through my work with International Justice Mission, I have recently had my eyes opened to the reality that there are children, some as young as my son, who spend their time in front of a camera being directed to perform acts that no children should ever have to perform.
Children are often exploited by those they trust. Like Cassie, a brave girl from the Philippines, trapped in a nightmare of abuse and rape in front of a webcam lasting for five years. She was promised that she would be taken care of yet she recalls that all she could think during this time was ‘I want to die, I want to die, because of this pain. But I can’t’. Or, Maarko, a seven year old boy whose own Mother used a webcam in their small home to abuse both Maarko and his young cousins in exchange for a payment.
Daily, I find myself talking through difficult topics such as injustice, violence and exploitation with community activists, church leaders, lawyers and those in business. The language of violence and exploitation can become ‘everyday’. But, as I learn about the issue of online abuse, I am once again stirred by the depths of evil we as humans are capable of. Here we find a crime which is now a rapidly growing form of modern day slavery and a terrifying reality for many children in the world today. This is the horror of the cybersex trafficking of children.
This abuse can involve the live sexual exploitation of a child or a young person streamed via the internet using a webcam or a mobile phone. It is relatively low cost with a high reward for the perpetrators who can receive online payments from predators and paedophiles located anywhere in the world. In countries like the Philippines in particular, the widespread use of english also means that many Western customers can be easily understood and followed over webcam.
So, how do we, as the church, respond?
“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”
– Isaiah 1:17, NIV
This reality can be alarming to hear and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However; we have a clear biblical mandate to seek justice. In less than a year, International Justice Mission has rescued over fifty seven child survivors of cybersex trafficking already. Both Cassie and Maarko are free, safe and able to heal. So, we are hopeful that change is happening! God has called us, as a church and a chosen people, to actively be doers, seekers, helpers, defenders and fighters for the oppressed. As we consider ways to fight against the darkness of online abuse, may we also look for ways to raise up a generation who fight against the injustice of others.
What if we had a generation of young people, not only educated and equipped to protect themselves from the damaging effects of online abuse, but also a generation who became the voice for those trapped behind the screens? They could speak up on behalf of Cassie and Maarko.
The victims behind the screens of cybersex trafficking don’t often get to say ‘no’, but we do. We want to use our voice, our influence and our resources to say no to injustice. Together we can be partners for freedom through equipping ourselves and our congregations with open conversations around issues such as online pornography and the injustice of cybersex trafficking.
Will you help? Read more and watch Cassie and Maarko’s stories at IJMUK.org/shut-down-cyber. Add your voice to our campaign by getting informed, starting the conversation where you are and giving to help us fight this injustice.