Human Trafficking in Our Backyard: a book review

We say, “Not in our backyard” to indicate our  strong opposition to something: a property development in our neighborhood, unacceptable behaviors, a factory spewing out toxic pollution. Unfortunately there are some pretty heinous things in our backyard already, none as horrifying as human trafficking.

Nina Belles is an anti-trafficking activist, managing director of In Our Backyard and the regional director of Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans. In Our Backyard gives a comprehensive overview of the horrors of human trafficking. Belles doesn’t focus on just one type of trafficking. She profiles victims  who are forced into prostitution (often under-aged), immigrants who are taken advantage of, factory and farm-workers, domestic help and restaurant staff. She explores how the pornography industry is used to groom and recruit victims into the sex trade. She talks about the stockholm syndrome and the reasons why victims stay with their victimizers. Belles also  discusses her own work in advocacy and ways that we can get involved.

I found this book helpful on a number of levels. I have had limited experience ministering to people who had been trafficked and have friends who are active in working with  sexually trafficked women. Belles shines a light on some dark places. I need books like this to keep me aware of ways people I have seen may be being exploited. Some of these women and men were not helped because the people who would help, simply didn’t notice. Belles  helps us take notice because she points to where this is happening. Everyday. In our backyard.

I also appreciate this book for the hopeful chord it struck. This is a story-rich book and many of the stories that Belles shares here are from victims who have escaped their slavery. While there is much work to be done, and all of us need to be aware of the ways people are being exploited, it is good to know that for some, the system works and people are set free. Because of the hopeful note, it is not heavy reading, even though the topic is heavy.

This book appears to be a updated edition of a 2011 version of the book (though the Baker Edition makes no mention of it on its copyright page). Most of the stories and events happen before 2011, but statistical data, and descriptions of online trafficking has been updated.

I give this book five stars.

Note: I received the book from Baker Books in exchange for my honest review

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I am a pastor, husband, father, instigator, pray-er, hoper, writer, trouble-maker, peacemaker, and friend. Who are you?

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