How to Stop Human Trafficking: Expert’s Answer Hits Close to Home

By guest blogger Elizabeth Oklevitch, Regent University Law School, Candidate for J.D., 2014.

I recently watched the documentary, Not My Life. Depicting the human tragedy and human depravity that is human trafficking, the film exposed real instances of sex trafficking, exploitive child labor, use of child soldiers, and other atrocities that make me grieve for the human race and wonder why God puts up with us. You can get a taste of the film by watching the trailer, and if you get the chance, it would be worth your time to watch the entire documentary.


I’ve seen several documentaries and read numerous articles on human trafficking. Not much surprises me anymore. But one interview in this film did. They interviewed a young, European trafficker in prison. The glimmer in his eye, the playfulness. He took delight in telling the world that specific women probably still had nightmares of the way he punched, raped, and sold them. The crimes were a game to him at the time. He didn’t need money; he traded in prostituted women for adventure. The crimes were a game to him now, as his smiling eyes evidenced.  I’m not accustomed to that kind of evil so close to the surface of a human face.

The interview with that trafficker was doubtless one of the factors that prompted a key question from the audience, a question which elicited a striking response. Robert Bilheimer, the director of Not my Life, and Eric Peasah, a Ghanaian on the front lines of anti-trafficking efforts and founder of Right to be Free, were present at the film screening to answer questions. One woman voiced an obvious, nagging question. She noted that the problem seems largely to be violence by men against women and girls and then asked how we can go about changing cultural attitudes, and how we can stop the abuse. Mr. Peasah’s answer: Fathers. He told how over the course of his work on several continents he had observed a trend: those most vulnerable to trafficking lack fathers.

“Fathers,” is not your typical answer to “How do we stop trafficking?” But I don’t think it’s a bad one, at least not a bad start. Going back to our young trafficker, I don’t know anything of his family history, except that he was “well off.” However, I find it difficult to imagine a person who had grown up watching his father model honor, respect, and deference toward his mother treating women the way the young trafficker did, without a hint of shame or remorse.

As to vulnerability, Mr. Peasah’s answer was drawn from experience. He has rescued numerous young boys who were forced to perform arduous, life-threatening work for African fishermen. As the documentary revealed, many of these boys were essentially sold to the fishermen by their mothers – well-intentioned mothers, struggling to feed their children and deceived by false promises of “businessmen” who turned out to be traffickers. All through the film, I kept wondering, where are the dads? Why is mom making all the critical decisions, and why is she alone saddled with the responsibility of feeding her children? I realize these are huge, culturally and situationally sensitive questions, and I’m not attempting to answer them, but merely to point out that we need to be asking them. Mr. Peasah’s answer, based on years of observation, drives one point home: dads are important. When it comes to protecting children, two are better than one. The boys, who, frequently unprotected by fathers, are sent off to work for strangers before they turn ten, often turn around (if they survive long enough) and purchase boys themselves when they are able. It’s not coincidental that the exploited are often fatherless.  Neither is it coincidental that in a world where men are not faithful to the women in their family, they and their sons are not respectful of women outside their family.

As Mr. Peasah highlighted, fathers have the potential for huge positive impact. By setting an example of honor and respect, each dad can play a role in fighting the cultural attitudes that allow human trafficking to flourish. The example doesn’t have to be perfect to be counter-cultural, to go against the self-serving mentality that others are to be used, to undercut the arrogant sense of entitlement that feeds the “demand” side of trafficking, and to avert the vulnerability that stocks the “supply.” With Father’s Day approaching, let’s remember and encourage the dads in our lives who have the power to impact culture.

For those in the Virginia Beach area, here are two great events celebrating fathers this week: 

Norfolk Family & Fatherhood Forum, Wednesday, June 12, 2012 (FREE Event)

Who:          Leaders and stakeholders in the areas of government, business, education, media, faith & community based organizations
What:         Forum will feature experts in the field of fatherhood and release data from a Norfolk Family & Fatherhood Report
When:       Wednesday, June 12,2013 from 11:30-3:00pm 
Where:      Murray Center, 455 E. Brambelton Avenue, Norfolk, Virginia 23510

 Norfolk Date With Dad Dinner & Dance, Saturday, June 15, 2013

Who:        Fathers, grandfathers, uncles, big brother, father figures, daughters, girls and ladies of all ages
What:       Dancing, Food, Fun, Games, Comedy, Photos and much more
When:      Saturday, June 15, 2013 from 5:00pm-9:00pm 
Where:    Norfolk State University, Scott-Dozier Dining Hall, 700 Park Avenue, Norfolk,  Virginia 23504


  1. I really like the name of this documentary. When people are trafficked, experiences are imposed on them that should never be a part of anyone's life. What most unsettles and scares me about situations like these is not the graphic nature of the crimes, but the callousness of the offenders. As a Christian, I believe that everyone is made in the image of God and that, as a result, everyone, deep down, longs for the beauty of God. In accordance with this, I want to believe that there is always a reason people commit crimes and sin; that they are victims in someway and are desperate or wrongly influenced; that they have been corrupted and don't really want to be living the life that they are living. So, how do I respond when someone derives pleasure from causing others pain? How do I reconcile this with the perspective mentioned previously? This attitude and spirit are so far removed from what God made us to be that I am not sure how to perceive these individuals. I fight against the reality that they might actually enjoy their lifestyle. I think these observations are the point though. The individual's mind and spirit have been so perverted that they become insensitive to life; life as God intended it to be. They no longer recognize their desire for what is Godly. As Elizabeth mentioned, we need fathers to protect children and to also raise them with exposure to God's truth and character. We need mothers to do this as well. I do not believe that just because someone was victimized, they will become a victimizer. The offense is not the cause. It is a continued exposure to darkness that changes the orientation of a person's heart. Parents are one of the most powerful influences on the direction of a child's life. Their journey starts in the home. Proverbs 22:6, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."

  2. As the article points out, not having a father present in a child's life can lead to a multitude of issues. Not only could it potentially lead to being involved in Human Trafficking. But it's also related to crime rates, school dropout rates, etc. There is a fatherless epidemic in America and it is something that should be culturally questioned and challenged. How do we bring fathers back into children's lives? It's a question that many don't want to answer, because it is an uncomfortable subject, but it needs to be answered and something needs to be done.

  3. I had considered the same things while viewing this documentary. Thank you for this informational blog post and talking about an issue that many prefer not to discuss.

  4. Thank you for sharing about the documentary. I was also shocked by the fact that the crimes were a game to a young trafficker. I do agree with Mr. Peasah that a healthy, functional family is one of most important keys to solve many issues in our society, including human trafficking. I also questioned what kind of family background the young trafficker has. I agree that if he had a loving, respectful father toward his mother, it would make difference in his life.