Category "Child Trafficking Prevention"

Cuties and the Exploitation of Children

October 20, 2020

On August 19, 2020, Netflix began promoting a French film called Cuties, which was set for worldwide release on September 9, 2020. The film (originally called Mignonnes) by French Senegalese director Maïmouna Doucouré and Netflix’s marketing campaign brought about worldwide criticism, petitions to remove the film from Netflix, and campaigns to #cancelNetflix due the public’s concerns that the film promotes the sexualization and commercial sexual exploitation of children and appeals to the appetites of pedophiles.

On September 23, 2020, a grand jury indicted Netflix for the “promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child.”

Although Doucouré has stated that her intention was “to show that our children should have the time to be children, and we as adults should protect their innocence and keep them innocent as long as possible,” in the making and promoting of the film, young girls were exploited in the process and continue to be exploited every time someone views the film. The lead actress is just 11 years old.

Legal Exploitation

Imagery in films like these normalize the sexualization of children and are legal forms of online child sexual exploitation. Individuals and companies are profiting from the exploitation of children in this film. Exploiters can easily take images and videos from this film and upload them to sites profiting from commercialized sexual abuse imagery of children. In addition, with children watching films like these, they are being exposed to and influenced by sexualized behaviors and media representations of children.

Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)

As a society, we need to take a stand and draw the line against media imagery that fuels the demand for the commercial sexual exploitation of children. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), their CyberTipline has received over 65 million reports of the online exploitation of children, 312 million images and videos have been reviewed, and over 18,900 victims have been identified by law enforcement. NCMEC further reports that survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) “speak to the long-lasting damage and impact of their images and videos being circulated on the internet.

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The lack of control of both the files’ existence and circulation leaves the survivors struggling in their recovery.” In 2018, “teen” was one of the Top 10 search terms from the most consumed pornographic website. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that “[s]ome child traffickers adjusted to the reluctance of buyers to meet in-person to engage in commercial sex. Some traffickers are now offering options for subscription-based services in which buyers pay to access online images and videos of the child.”

The sexual abuse imagery of children exists because there is a demand for it. Let us fight to protect the dignity of children, especially in media, imagery, and the internet.

ZOE Japan to Meet with Government Officials

October 14, 2020

On October 29th and November 30th, ZOE Japan will have the unique opportunity as JNATIP members to meet directly with various government officials to discuss policy reforms and various anti-trafficking initiatives.

There are several topics on the agenda to be discussed with different government departments; and all of them are very important for the purpose of protecting children and people in vulnerable positions.

One of the main agenda items is related to simulated and virtual child sexual abuse material (child pornography). In Japan, possession of child sexual abuse material  became illegal in 2014, but it excludes simulated or virtual child sexual abuse material  such as anime, manga, child sex dolls, and virtual reality. Those in favor of continued freedom to produce these kinds of materials argue for freedom of expression in the arts, and that no real children are being harmed in the production of these materials. There are also arguments that it could prevent pedophiles from committing crimes against children in real life.

However, according to the book Pedophilia Disorder – It Is Not Love written by Akiyoshi Saito, a psychiatric social worker and the Director of a rehabilitation clinic for people with various forms of addiction, the majority of patients who have been charged with a crime and being treated for pedophilia at his clinic had the regular habit of watching or looking at child sexual abuse material multiple times a day. This indicates that the contents were not keeping them from committing a crime, but the material might be increasing their desire to abuse a real child instead of providing an outlet.

The real concern is not whether the child is real or not, but instead the intention of the material to sexualize children, potentially leading to more abusers and victims in our communities. We need to make every effort to eliminate content that could place children at risk.

We are hopeful for an open discussion with the government representatives that will lead to   tangible action points to modify the law to protect children from being sexualized or objectified in any form.

The second topic that we will address is the age of sexual consent.†During the Meiji era (1880s), the age of consent was set at 13 years old, and remains valid until this day. This has been a hindering issue when identifying human trafficking cases and punishing child traffickers. When a 13-year-old child has the legal authority to consent to sexual activities, it creates a huge challenge to provide evidence of exploitation, with abusers simply claiming that that child consented and receiving very light penalties if convicted.

For example, if an abuser connects with a minor through a social media platform and they develop a “romantic relationship,” often, it turns into a sexually abusive relationship which can also be filmed, photographed, and uploaded online. In addition, there are cases in which accommodation and food are provided to runaway children, and sexual activity is required in return. Such cases clearly fit the definition of human trafficking, but if the victim fails to legally prove that it was clearly nonconsensual by use of means of threat or violence, this often leads to very light sentences for perpetrators (if convicted) and a high rate of repeat offenses.

This age of consent not only fails to deter crime and exploitation but also provides legal advantages to traffickers and abusers.

In the upcoming meetings, we will have the opportunity to discuss the possibility of raising the age of consent to 16 to protect young people from sexual crimes at a fundamental level and to punish child sex offenders.

As we are taking these bold steps to be a voice for the voiceless children of Japan, please pray that we will experience God’s favor at the meetings, and that the decisions made will reflect His perfect will for Japan!

Written by Yuri Osborne (Japan Regional Manager)

Hi-rise building

Acts of Grace

August 23, 2020

ZOE has been blessed with many generous donors over the years. Whether through individuals, churches, businesses, or foundations, we have seen God’s hand of grace moving in our work.  One of our greatest joys is to share God’s abundant overflow with others who are doing His work to feed the hungry and care for the poor. 

ZOE has been working with two of our most generous donors – the Children’s Hunger Fund and USANA – to ensure that much-needed help gets delivered directly to those who need it most.

Hut in the slum village of Chiang Mai, ThailandThanks to Children’s Hunger Fund, ZOE has established the Mercy Network, 73 local churches that have been providing food and other necessities to families in their neighborhoods for years throughout Thailand. Recipients don’t have to be church members or even Christians: God is not a respecter of persons and neither is hunger!

One of the Mercy Network churches is Acts of Grace Church in the heart of Chiang Mai’s slum area. When USANA leaders visited ZOE, we took them to see the work that Acts of Grace was doing with the children who lived in the slum area. They were so moved that they wanted to get involved in that work. USANA committed to feeding 100 kids and to rent a soccer field every Saturday so that the children could have a safe place to play and nutritious meals. In addition, the program has been effective as an outreach to the families of the kids who come.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the church wasn’t able to rent the field but they continued to cook and deliver meals door-to-door in the slums every Saturday. Now, both the meal and soccer field programs are back in full swing!

We are so thankful for partners like USANA and Children’s Hunger Fund. They are true examples of acts of grace!

– Written by Ron Boyer

rice fields and hills in ThailandMercy Network is a regional network of like-minded churches committed to gospel-centered mercy ministry. ZOE partners with local churches who have a passion to reach the lost with the gospel of Christ. ZOE provides food boxes to the local churches for them to use as a means of building relationships within their respective communities.

Thoughts From A ZOE Social Worker During Covid-19

May 8, 2020

While the world is confronting crisis, God’s blessing is still present. His helping hands are with His children as He promises.

When we were first told that we would need to work from home, I began brainstorming… How could we work efficiently and how could we plan, manage, and assign a tasks to each other? God has shown me new ideas and helped me realize that my work should be run well everywhere! If we still need to work from home, our work performance should still be professional. My home can become a home office.

During a quarantine time, I’ve had the chance to think on God’s mercy and blessing in my life. Many times God shows me the face of our ZOE leaders and I am thankful for them. They are great blessings, good role models, and have servants hearts like Jesus.

I feel grateful to be able to serve Him together with ZOE. Thankful for God’s faithfulness and goodness.

Many people are crying for help during this time, and God allows us to be the answer. The coronavirus may lock us at home, but it cannot stop us from serving our almighty God!

Thankful for all ZOE leaders and our supporters so we can continue serving children and others in many areas.

– ZOE Social Worker

Evangelism Through English Ministry in Japan

May 7, 2020

Schools are still closed down in Japan. At the J.O.Y. Club staff meeting, it was decided that J.O.Y. Club would be closed until public schools are reopened.

Joy Tani, the ZOE missionary who oversees the J.O.Y. Club English teaching ministry reports that one fifth grade boy, “Taku,” who has been in J.O.Y. Club for only one year had some amazing questions about Jesus. As he was leaving J.O.Y. Club this year, we really felt he was ready to receive Christ and gave him the opportunity at his last class. What a joy to see him raise his hand and pray together with the Bible  time teacher to ask Jesus into his heart. 

We had 6 students leaving J.O.Y. Club this year and with every child, Joy was able to tell each one individually before leaving, “Remember, your teacher Joy loves, but Jesus loves you more!” 

J.O.Y. Club was started over 20 plus years ago. Each year we have seen children and even parents accept Christ in J.O.Y. Club classes and at our family outreaches. But in the past 2 years, we have never seen so many children so willing and eager to accept Christ in such a short amount of time.

At our last J.O.Y. Club family outreach, we had a J.O.Y. Club father accept Christ. He is now doing English classes with Joy and Bible time with Hiromi, a ZOE national missionary. It’s wonderful to see how open he is during the Bible time. 

As April is the start of the school year here in Japan, we have not been able to advertise about J.O.Y. Club as much as we normally do because of the Corona Virus.

Please join us in prayer that we would have more children and families to minister to this year once the pandemic is over.                                                                                

We so desire more opportunities to share about Jesus in this beautiful nation of Japan.

*header image taken before Covid lockdown

The Fight In Australia

April 29, 2020

ZOE’s work in Australia to prevent, educate, and bring awareness to trafficking continues. Although the corona virus has affected the movement of our team, and restricted school, church, and small group visits, each staff member is working from home, staying in contact with each other via video calls, and collaborating on projects in preparation for the future.

ZOE Australia team of men and women on ZoomBrett Gottle, our Development and Advocacy Coordinator, has been finding ways to connect with small groups online to pray, or bring awareness about, issues related to child exploitation both in Australia and overseas.

One of his highlights from last week was a ZOOM meeting with one of Petersham AOG’s connect groups. Let’s hear why!

There were a number of reasons why. First, I was able to share ZOE and my personal experiences of rescue, restoration, and prevention. There was a deeply moving moment when I shared the time when a little bunch of rescued children gathered around me to pray at one of our regular ZOE Prayer nights. I mentioned how for the first time I’d experienced the wholeness, the courage, and the trust of children who had been rescued and restored from serious abuse – this experience changed my life forever. Second, I talked about how I joined in with an American Police team to gain intel on a trafficker and how that information was then passed onto the Thai Police. Significantly, I was able to share how the relationship between ZOE, the Thai Police, and Thai Government is deeply respected and crucial for the process of rescue and restoration of children in Thailand. Not only that, this deeply trusted relationship resulted in the recent arrest of an identified trafficker and the rescue of a number of children.  We praised God for this wonderful relationship. And last, a significant highlight was being able to reveal that the exploitation of children is a very real Australian problem to solve and prevent.  With the self-isolating effects of the Covid-19, many Australians are being encouraged into pornography. Australians are currently spending 1.3 million dollars a year live-streaming children being raped and sexually exploited. Likewise, I shared how I am gaining an unquenchable sense that bringing awareness to Australains, stimulating prevention here in Australia, and activating rescue of Australians from pornography is a vision that’s being powerfully awakened within me. As it was with the group I met with from Petersham AOG, Australians are significantly unaware of our problems to solve and prevent. Through our ZOE family, I want to change this! Jesus is on the move and wants us to ‘set my people free both ‘here’ and ‘there’.

Brett is regularly meeting up with Australians to pray for ZOE’s work (as shown in the picture). We believe that God is breaking into dark places with a rescue plan – a plan to bring light, exposure, restoration, protection, and to release victory over darkness!

If you would like to join in and pray, please email Brett at brett@gozoe.org.au

#STOP247

April 29, 2020

“It was so intriguing and such a life lesson, I could not turn away from my screen.” 

– Carol Hart, ZOE cofounder

I don’t know about you, but watching the #STOP247 – Because Child Traffickers Don’t Do Social Distancing live feed over the past weekend was quite the experience. If you missed it, don’t worry, you can still catch parts of it on ZOE International’s Youtube channel

Afterwards, I was trying to put into words what this bike challenge reminded me of. It was like a cross between Big Brother and the Tour de France! Watching seven riders all stationed in their homes, battling to ride for 24.7 hours to raise awareness about child trafficking… there just doesn’t seem to be the words to describe just how fascinating and inspirational it was. But not only that, throughout the 24+ hours, so many guests came on to encourage, share their expertise, tell inspirational stories, sing, rap, and spur the riders on. After falling asleep at nearly 4am (my time), I missed the last 2 hours or so which I then caught up on once I woke up. And what could be better to bring the riders home than the words of ZOE’s amazing founders, Michael and Carol Hart. (1 hour 51 minutes)

If you didn’t get to hear them, this is part of what Carol shared and, I think, beautifully sums up what all those who had been viewing were all feeling. 

“I stayed awake all 24.7 hours staring at you… I watched you in pain, I watched you frustrated, I watched you fighting to finish and it was so beautifully brave.

We just witnessed you guys going to war. You fought for children who cannot fight for themselves. You just showed us how to fight for freedom. 

During this bike ride you screamed to us, this is how we fight our battles – we never quit! Your fierce sacrifice over the past 24 hours impacted our lives more than you know. 

You have been so amazing to watch. At about 4:30 a.m in the morning I was in tears on the floor as I was praying for you and for the kids that we’re waiting to rescue, and that are waiting for rescue.

Listen, what you just accomplished physically, we promise to focus our resolve the same way at ZOE. We believe the impossible, with God’s leadership, will end child trafficking.

You reminded us by example to never be afraid to try. Try for what’s worth fighting for – for the weak, for the vulnerable, to do the right thing, even if you’re not sure you can do it.

The most amazing relief we have as a group is that we don’t have to just talk about helping to end child trafficking, or just wish we could do something, or just hope that child trafficking will end. No, every day we get to wrap our hands around the throat of the problem, and actually do something.

We promise we will not let the bad guys win. Thank you for giving us a fresh fire. I promise… it was so shocking, you know, we’re working on our 18th year of fighting for children, and rescuing them out of danger and trafficking, and I have never needed encouragement to stay passionate, I’ve never needed it, but watching you – it was a whole other level of fire I have in my heart.

What it was… as I stared at you for 24.7 hours, it was a physical representation of what we have felt all these years and what we will continue to do all these years and when it’s hard, when you feel like you can’t make it, when you’re scared of failing a child, all the reasons you didn’t quit, and even those who had to get off because you would fall off if you didn’t get off for 5 minutes, or whatever it was, you got back on and you finished – you went to the finish line with your team.

So I just want to encourage you and tell you that for people that have never felt like we’ve never needed fresh passion or somebody to keep us encouraged because we do that in the heart of God every day, we crawl up in God’s heart and He gives us fresh passion but you took us to a whole other level of fire and a whole other commitment level to fight for children who you may never meet and so we just want to thank you so much for everything you’ve done.”

6 Steps to Keeping Your Child Safe Online During School Closures

April 1, 2020

With even more time at home and the increase in use of internet devices, it’s important that we help keep our children safe. If your child is using devices for online school, has a mobile device, or uses gaming systems, it’s time to have a conversation with your family about internet safety. 

Here are six practical steps you can take as a parent to help protect your child!

  1. Keep connected. It’s so important your child feels safe and connected to family members. The more connected and safe they feel with family, the more comfortable they will be to discuss issues, including issues they encounter online. In contrast, the more disconnected they feel from parents/family, things have potential to start becoming secretive, and they may seek affirmation, connection, and relationships outside of the home for that connection.

  2. Have open conversations with your child about the dangers of the internet and how to practice online safety. 
    SMART acronym is a great place to start! 
    S – Safe – Stay safe by keeping personal information private! Location, contact info, passwords etc.
    M – Meeting – Don’t meet in person with someone you met online! Tell your parents if you would like to meet with someone you met online.
    A – Accepting – Do not accept friend requests or follows from people you don’t know! Don’t accept files, images, or texts from unknown senders! These could be viruses or contain inappropriate content. 
    R – Reliable – People online are not reliable, and can easily lie about who they are. It’s best to reserve your trust for people you know. If you are messaging with someone online, make sure it is someone you know!
    T – Tell – If something makes you feel uncomfortable, be sure to tell a parent or trusted adult. Parents, it’s important that if your child chooses to share something with you, that you remain a safe place, without judgement or punishment. Then together, you can report any illegal or inappropriate activity.

  3. Work together with your child to establish internet guidelines. Don’t just give a list of “don’t do this or that,” have a conversation with your child, teaching them why. You may consider signing a contract with your child about the agreed upon rules for online use. We suggest covering these topics: 
    • What apps/sites can be visited? What apps and/or sites are off limits?
    • Where can they use their devices? Should they limit their internet use to general spaces?
    • Who needs to be present when they use the internet? Do they need parental supervision?
    • When and for how long can they be on their device? Do they need to limit screen time to certain hours/times of day

  4. Utilize parental controls to help monitor and protect online activity. Regularly check posts, messages, texts, etc. This part takes a bit of research in the beginning and continued upkeep, but it is important to help our children navigate internet usage.
    To help you in the start of your search, one field staff shared, “Even though I have been working in this area for years, I recall that when we started this process, it was quite overwhelming. It takes time for you to establish guidelines, time to find software that helps show their activity, and time for you to monitor and check-in with your child…  No matter what software you use, it is not set and forget! Initially we used the free version of Qustodio to help us set up simple daily time time limits. Apple also has great parental control software.” 

  5. If you notice behavior changes in your child, such as isolating themselves, becoming secretive about their phone, or wanting to spend more time in their room with a device, ask your child what’s going on, without judgement or punishment. 

  6. If you discover your child has been interacting with a potentially dangerous person or content, don’t panic! Be a safe place for your child. Break off contact — stop talking and stop replying. Criminal activity, including explicit photos or text messages, should be saved and taken to the police for investigation. Report any illegal activity to law enforcement.

Supporting Local Pastors

March 13, 2020

Through our partnership with Children’s Hunger Fund, we partner with Thai pastors to help them to reach their communities with the gospel.

One of our partners is Pastor Songkran. Songkran moved to a small village many years ago that did not have a church. He has been slowly reaching this community and the church has grown. During this time he also felt that he and his family were called to help children who didn’t have the opportunity to attend school. These are children from villages that don’t have schools and the families don’t have the money to put them into school.

Songkran and his family take in kids each year to allow them to go to school. They take on the responsibility of feeding the children and paying their school bills. This year, they have 19 children living with them. They have done all of this through faith and trusting that God will provide. This year through the donations from Usana and Children’s Hunger Fund, we were able to help Songkran.

We helped him by building and stocking two fish ponds, a frog pond, and a mushroom hut, and we planted mango trees. Songkran’s plan for the fish, frogs, mushrooms, and mangoes is well thought out. He will use a third of the produce to help feed the children living with his family. He will sell a third of the produce to help pay for the school fees for the children. He will give away the last third of the produce to those in need in his community. This is a great project to help a hardworking pastor who partners with ZOE.  

Australia – Awareness

January 31, 2020

As we share about human trafficking awareness this month, we realise that many people may have false ideas or misconceptions about what human trafficking looks like. Are you aware? Do you have knowledge and understanding that human trafficking is a global epidemic? That it involves Australians? That it is happening, and exists in Australia?

Melbourne man admits sexually exploiting 47 boys in south-east Asia and Australia.

Newspaper headings like this one are alarming. In the past, slavery and trafficking offenses occurring in Australia were under-reported, but the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has recently seen a rise in referrals. According to the AFP, Australia is primarily a destination country for people trafficked from Asia, particularly Thailand, Korea, the Philippines, and Malaysia. 

While the exact figures vary, research has shown Australian men to be among the largest contributors to sex tourism in southeast Asia, with cities such as Pattaya becoming a “home away from home” for an increasing number of Australian retirees. 

More recently, reports show that Australian perpetrators have been involved in grooming children online, usually in developing countries. The Australian Federal Police is concerned that the demand for child abuse material is increasing across the country. 

“Of particular concern is the rise in instances and rates of child exploitation overseas with Australians involved(spokesman for the AFP).

“In 2014 we received about 4,500 referrals of child exploitation material and in 2015 it was 11,000.” (Justine Saunders AFP Assistant Commissioner)

And even more recently it was reported that, “The United States, Britain and Australia are the main consumers of child sex abuse streamed over webcam” (spokesperson from the AFP).  

ZOE raises awareness in Australia through the media, influential voices, speaking engagements, internet communities, and encouraging student involvement. 

Our education in schools is reaching more and more young people. We are in the process of writing another trafficking curriculum unit for Australian schools this year. In September 2019, ZOE Australia released their updated version of the Year 10 Geographies of Human Wellbeing curriculum. This is a free unit of work that examines the different concepts and measures of human wellbeing, and the causes of global differences in these measures between countries. 

Please email Sharon at info@goZOE.org.au if your school would like a copy. 

Do you know what to do?

If you do suspect a case of trafficking or you see someone in danger please use the following country numbers to notify authorities:

Australian Federal Police on 131AFP (131237) or email AOCC-Client-Liaison@afp.gov.au

ZOE International, has been combating human trafficking since 2002. ZOE is active in Thailand, Japan, Australia, Mexico, and the United States.

If you are visiting this page from outside the USA, click on your country to return to the website in AustraliaThailand or Japan.

Walk For Freedom: Chiang Mai

November 14, 2019

Chiang Mai recently had its first official Walk for Freedom!

ZOE was a part of the Anti-Trafficking Expo which took place after the walk. Attendants could find out about the work being done across Thailand to tackle the issue of human trafficking.

Walk for Freedom is a global fundraising and awareness event, rallying tens of thousands of people, taking millions of steps, in hundreds of cities all over the world. We walk to disrupt the existence of slavery, shaking its very foundation with each step.

It’s an outward expression of A21’s inward desire to see slavery abolished everywhere—in our cities, in our communities, and in our world. One step at a time and one dollar at a time, we fundraise and walk to see a world without slavery.

ZOE’s table at Walk for Freedom Chiang Mai

Last year, we showed up in 475 locations in 50 countries, reaching 70 million people through social media. Each step mattered. Each step made a difference.” – A21

What an honor to be working alongside others in the fight to see trafficking ended. It was so encouraging that so many people turned up to walk – raising awareness and making a difference!