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The next installment will explore alternative approaches to addressing the problem of trafficking for the purposes of forced prostitution.
–The Editors Gary Haugen is cradling the padlocks in his thick hands.
Haugen acknowledges that law enforcement agents have often been the perpetrators of abuse, and he has testified against this police corruption in Congress.
Nonetheless, he has based his decision to work with local police on the premise that power can be harnessed to bring about justice–especially when tethered to divine aims.
The padlocks look ordinary enough: heavy brass, a squat square one, a round one with a key. He is speaking of the central Khmer Rouge detention center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, now a museum filled with photographs of the thousands who perished at the prison.
But they had once hung on the doors of brothels, until local law enforcement busted the establishments in raids initiated by IJM. “There it is–you see a factory where people got up every day and then went to work, and their job was to torture people as painfully and horribly as possible to extract a confession from them and then kill them.
In light of the organization’s tactics, Haugen’s mention of Tuol Sleng is an uneasy one that points out the potential perils of IJM’s approach–an example of state power used to prey on, rather than protect, its populace.(New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tried a similarly dramatic tack when he went so far as to purchase the freedom of two trafficked girls, with decidedly mixed results.) The narrative that frames such vigorous interventions as the noblest response to the scourge of sex trafficking is an understandable one, but it skirts the economic and social problems that make recovery so difficult for the “rescued.” It also rips their lives out of context, so that an approach that might be suitable, if still controversial, in a country with reliable law enforcement and criminal justice systems is applied in a country where those systems are more likely to be part of the problem than the solution.The Obama administration seems to be aware of these issues, but rolling back the momentum on raid work in order to scrutinize its efficacy is a tough challenge–especially when there is always another young victim to rescue.More and more I find myself asking not, Where is God? ” Dedicated to a “casework” model, IJM staff work to remove victims from exploitation. To succumb to the enormity of the problem is to fail the one.IJM then prosecutes the abusers under local law and assists victims with “restoration” by winning them financial compensation or providing “aftercare” services through partner organizations. And more is required of us.” Thousands of Christians have answered Cohn Wu’s call, joining IJM campus chapters, attending Haugen’s talks at the Saddleback and Willow Creek leadership conferences, and swelling the organization’s budget to million in 2008.“A lock on a brothel, for me, represents this element of violence and force,” says Haugen.“The lock is on the outside of the door, not inside.” For Haugen, the locks are reminders of his calling: to break the chain of human rights abuses, one person at a time.Although countertrafficking funds found their way to groups that worked more broadly on immigrants’ rights and services, much of the money went to organizations like IJM, whose interventionist attitude was congruent with Bush’s foreign-policy stance, and to groups that believed that prostitution was inherently exploitative and deserving of abolishment.Part of the appeal of the law-and-order solutions proposed by groups like IJM is that they are highly visible and forceful responses to the horrifying abuses faced by trafficking victims and sex workers–injury, extortion, rape, even murder.In 1997 Haugen launched IJM to answer the biblical mandate to seek justice.As he writes, “Over time, having seen the suffering of the innocent….