If you don’t know me, or my reading habits, you have no reason to be surprised by the two newest titles on my nightstand. The requisite info is simply that I am such a squeamish lightweight that — despite sharing God’s heart for the weak and marginalized — I have been physically unable to watch Schindler’s List, Hotel Rwanda or Precious. Whatever the next hard-to-watch movie in theaters will be, I won’t be able to see it.
Suffice to say that it’s an oddity that my two current nightstand books are both about the sexual exploitation of children. A Stolen Life, the recent autobiographical account of kidnap victim Jaycee Duggard, who was held captive for 18 years, was given to me by a neighbor after I confessed to a penchant for trashy lit. (Even though what I really meant was the rare People magazine.) I quickly put it down and won’t be picking it back up.
The second recent release is called God in a Brothel, by Daniel Walker. In it, Walker describes the work he does investigating cases of human trafficking, liberating its victims and testifying for the prosecution when the perpetrators are tried in court.
(I only went through all the shenanigans about my reading habits to say that if I can read this book, you can read it. And I think you should.)
Without the heavy burden of graphic sexual details, Walker’s telling gives readers a peek into the world of human trafficking. As an investigator, Walker poses as a John in order to determine whether or not individuals are being used against their will. On these missions he must also gather evidence which can be used in court. It turns out, this is sticky business. Because not having sex with the woman or girl whom he has just “purchased” raises red flags for the dangerous criminals in charge of these joints, a fair degree of acting ability is requisite. Under some of the most harrowing circumstances, Walker pulls it off. He’s not perfect, and he gives the reader a gift by drawing back the curtain of secrecy to expose his own vulnerabilities.
I’m not asking for applause because I read a book from cover to cover. I am convinced, though, that awareness always precedes action. When we choose to squint our eyes shut to injustice, in service of our own comfort, we become complicit in its perpetuation. Reading this book won’t change the world, but it may be the first step which precedes a lot of other steps that do.
If you’re anything like squeamish me, I completely understand there are a lot of issues that you’d rather just not know about. Please don’t let this be one of them.
Margot Starbuck is a speaker, volunteer and author of The Girl in the Orange Dress: Searching for a Father Who Does Not Fail. Her new book, Small Things With Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor will be released in January 2012.