The international human trafficking crisis is often hidden in plain sight.
Innocent bystanders can remain ignorant of the tragedies unfolding before them, but now the story is being told-- thanks to a group of young evangelicals from around the globe who witnessed the humanitarian crisis up close.
Their book, Sex + Money, documents what they saw.
"We were in Thailand and we drove through the red-light district and it was so overwhelming," said Sarah, one of the young Christians.
Morgan Perry is another.
"One morning we left early to go get breakfast and on the outside of the brothel, one of the girls-- she must have been like 14, 15--she had been drugged and raped brutally. She was almost completely naked and laying in the street," she recalled. "I had heard of trafficking, but I still didn't know what defined it... just seeing her there I realized that is the essence of what the UN is talking about."
These women and about 20 others traveled the globe with the ministry Youth with a Mission, documenting social injustice with their cameras and laptops. At the end of the year, they could summarize the horrors they'd seen with these two words: Sex + Money.
Now, they're part of the modern-day abolition movement, dedicated to fighting human trafficking. It's a cause that seeks to help anyone in bondage, and the State Department estimates that millions are.
They're making plans to create a national directory of anti-trafficking groups in every state, produce a documentary on the victims of human trafficking and take such stories on the road, at universities and churches around the country.
And they have a specific message for their generation: stop watching porn online. They explain that porn is what creates demand for trafficking.
"People just think it's okay," one of the women, Autumn, explained. "They just don't realize what might be behind it like the girls that don't want to be there-- that were trafficked into that situation."
So, armed with their pictures, laptops and new-found information, the young women are determined to make their mark and fight the modern-day horror.
"I believe there is a difference and we can make the difference, but we have to fight and I am more than willing until we see the day, until we see this coming to an end," Sarah said. "It's not okay that little girls are being raped on our time."
*Originally published June 2, 2009