When I think of sex trafficking, it appears to me to be a remote problem, removed from my every day life. I’m sure many of us think the same way. We think it can’t possibly happen in our small town or neighborhood; it must be a problem in larger cities or across the border. We feel that the young ones at risk can’t possibly be ones that we know–nieces, nephews, young cousins, friends’ children, our children, kids in our neighborhoods or from our churches. But after reading this book, I’ve discovered just how wrong I am. Exploitation can happen anywhere, with anyone at any time…even under our noses. Wake up, readers! Read this book.
From the back cover: “Katariina Rosenblatt was a lonely and abused young girl,yearning to be loved, wanting attention. That made her the perfect target. On an ordinary day, she met a confident young woman–someone Kat wished she could be like–who pretended to be a friend while slowly luring her into a child trafficking ring. A cycle of false friendships, threats, drugs, and violence kept her trapped.
As Kat shares her harrowing experiences, her ultimate escapes, and her passionate efforts to now free other victims, you’ll see that not only is sex trafficking happening frighteningly close to home–it’s also something that can be stopped. Stolen is a warning, a celebration of survival, and a beacon of hope that will inspire you.”
There are three distinct sections in this book. The first is Katariina Rosenblatt’s personal story–her abuse, how her loneliness attracted a recruiter right there in the hotel she lived in, how she was led, groomed, step-by-step into slavery by traffickers, her escape and recapture numerous times.
In the second part, Katariina had left the lies and deceptions behind, but she still carried the scars and signs of abuse so that she didn’t recognize the patterns within the context of marriage. While she was gaining confidence and recognition for her educational acumen, finding her footing as an advocate for girls and women coming out of sex slavery, she was still in denial of a private hell at home with her husband. It took her over twenty years to realize she was an abused wife, then she suffered through two years of a messy divorce before she gained her freedom and independence with her daughter.
The third part of the book deals with how Ms. Rosenblatt got involved in inter-agency interventions, saving girls and even boys from traffickers. She helped create several intervention organizations, spearheaded law reforms that sought to label trafficked children and teens as victims rather than arrested as criminals, and helped create links with faith-based services to provide aid and mentorship to the abused young people, including counseling to help them learn to live a normal life outside of the only world most of the children had ever known. Her actions and ministry were sometimes likened to the Underground Railroad, because she would lead children from station to station, trying to keep the abused safe from vengeful pimps and traffickers who would rather see their victims dead than escape alive.
Why is this industry so hard to shut down? First, because it’s subtle and everywhere. People are in denial that there is a problem even in their supposedly safe neighborhoods. Second, the money is a huge incentive to keep going. “One child can bring traffickers up to $3,000 a night.” Some can bring in nearly a million dollars a year. Think of how much abuse that child has to endure to make that much money. They become desensitized and stop struggling. They use a number of coping mechanisms including the use of drugs and alcohol. Their experiences open the door to domestic abuse, which they accept as a normal way of life. Where does it end?
Stolen was a good hard slap to the face; certainly it was an eye opener for me. In the first two parts of the book, the story is told in simple terms. The author is careful to outline the psychological techniques the recruiters used, why she fell for them, what was on her mind when she complied with the demands of her new “family.” As the story continued, I felt astonished how often she escaped the abuse, then was lured back into the life. It all seemed to revolve around the lack of self-worth. Her abusers knew exactly what these children needed to hear. Even when she escaped the final time, she wasn’t truly free until her heart was transformed. But that took many years into adulthood.
The second aspect of the book that astonished me was Katariina’s spiritual journey. Early on in her childhood, her mother asked her husband to go to a Billy Graham Crusade with her when he came near to her city. Katariina went down to the front in response to the altar call. While down there, Mr. Graham turned in her direction and exclaimed something like, “Remember, God will never leave you or forsake you!” She never forgot that, a phrase that echoed in her heart each time she succumbed to abuse or slavery. She attributes the number of times she escaped to opportunities God opened up for her. But without a home church, Bible reading or follow-up discipleship, she drifted away from God when she needed Him most. Yet as I read her story, I was struck how often God reached out to Kat. He just never gave up. What a tremendous testimony of God’s pursuit of us.
I view this book as an amazing tool for the Gospel of Christ. First, it should stir up slumbering Christians who are so self-absorbed that they are missing an opportunity to serve hurting children right under their noses. Second, this book could serve as a way to reach teenagers at risk, because this is a story of someone who has been in the trenches and survived. Third, it can be useful for alerting parents of the potential dangers their children may face. It is a how-not-to manual, teaching parents how to avoid putting their children at risk. Fourth, the final section should encourage our local churches to partner with organizations whose goal is to mentor young victims of trafficking how to live a normal life,especially one where they find their hope and fulfillment in Christ.
I would love to see every church have several copies of this book in circulation or to give away as a ministry. The book is amazing, and could touch many hearts.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Revell’s reader’s club blog review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”