This ethical work requires a visceral recognition of the meaning of body invasion, body assault, and body-demeaning speech, for women and the whole of society. Knowledge that we acquire through our bodily perceptions must not be discounted in ethics, for it is a crucial source of moral knowledge.5
 Human trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a human being, and forcing her or him into sexual exploitation, labor, or other forms of servitude.6 Contrary to popular belief, the crossing of a border is not necessary for an individual to be trafficked; rather, what is necessary is the exploitation of one's body against his or her will, under threat of violence, punishment, or deportation.
 In many cases, the trafficker recruits vulnerable young women who are already distanced from their family life or perhaps have already run away from home.7 By preying on those who are already isolated, the trafficker takes advantage of the lack of a safety net in the individuals' life, such that the victim may feel s/he has no choice but to continue under the power of her trafficker. Among violent crimes, that of human trafficking is often invisible, with victims named instead as prostitutes and therefore as perpetrators of a crime, instead of seen as powerless within a system of oppression easily hidden beyond the reaches of law enforcement.
 Thus, in order to think ethically about a trafficking victim, one must discount the inclination to make immediate moralistic judgments about the actions s/he took under coercion or force. Rather, a theology of the body would encourage us to imagine the body of the victim as our own, and imagine how the world, and how God, might look from his or her perspective. To think theologically about the victim of a violent crime such as human trafficking, one cannot discount the elemental influence of the body, as Traci West refers to above, in interpreting right and wrong. This is not to say we must discount rationality in analyzing violent crimes, power structures, and issues of human trafficking, but rather that in thinking about such things, we must do so with our whole selves, not discounting what the body, mind, and spirit each may have to offer. The ELCA's 2009 social statement on sexuality takes such an integrative view of embodied sexuality.
 Where does this leave the faithful person, hoping to standing in solidarity with our neighbors? What more is there to do beyond reflect?
 Educate yourself
Many states, like Minnesota, release regular studies on the rates, causes, and ways to prevent human trafficking. Does your state have a means of measuring human trafficking? Is there a law protecting trafficked persons? We cannot afford to focus on trafficking abroad without learning how to solve the problem in our own locales. Take it upon yourself to learn more about the presence of trafficking in your area.
 Take Action
Organize an adult forum at your church, educating yourself and your congregation on trafficking at home and abroad. Practice meditation, getting to know your body, and practice imagining what it might be like to live in the bodies of others. Call your local and national legislators, and tell them how you feel about human trafficking. Tell your representatives you want all trafficked individuals protected by law, and better ways of finding, recording, and preventing situations that make individuals vulnerable to human trafficking. Write a letter to the editor on the topics in your local newspaper. Tell your friends. Pray for wisdom. Pray for change.
Alison Killeen is Statewide Organizer at the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She recently completed a Master of Divinity at Union Theological Seminary in 2009.
- Percy, Anthony. Theology of the Body Made Simple. Connor Court Publishing: Australia. 2005. Page 9.
- Percy, Anthony. Page 14.
- Nelson, James B. Body Theology. Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, KY. 1992. Page 42.
- Shattered Hearts: The Commercial Sexual Exploitation Of American Indian Women And Girls In Minnesota, prepared by the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center in August 2009, explains that in 2008, the FBI identified Minneapolis “as one of thirteen U.S. cities having a high concentration of criminal activity involving the commercial sexual exploitation of juveniles.” Furthermore, the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs (“Human Trafficking in Minnesota: A Report to the Minnesota Legislature”. Prepared by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs, and the Minnesota Statistical Analysis Center. September 2008.) estimated in 2007 that at least 345 American Indian women and girls alone had been sexually trafficked in Minnesota over a three-year period.
- West, Traci C. Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Women’s Lives Matter. Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, KY. 2006. Page 42.
- Gaertner, Susan. “Human Trafficking: Today’s Hidden Slavery – Our Role in Recognizing and Protecting Victims.” Presented to Criminal Justice Institute in Bloomington, MN, August 22, 2006. Page 2.
- “Human Trafficking in Minnesota: A Report to the Minnesota Legislature”. Prepared by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs, and the Minnesota Statistical Analysis Center. September 2008. Page 1.
© February 2010
Journal of Lutheran Ethics
Volume 10, Issue 2