Special Theme Edition on the Current Ukrainian Crisis:   Volume 22, No. 3  (Summer 2014)

The East West Church &  Ministry Report has issued a special theme edition examining the impact of the current Ukrainian crisis on the church and ministries in Ukraine and Russia.

This theme issue is now available in pdf format in English,  Russian, and Ukrainian.

Read more about the East West Church & Ministry Report  in EnglishRussian, or Ukrainian 

Healing the Natashas: Observations on Trafficking Aftercare in Moldova

Andrew Raatz

The Natashas

In 2004, Victor Malerek published The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade (Viking). It is not the first book written about human trafficking, but it is a well-written, emotionally powerful book. The author’s gritty accounts of the horrors East European women faced after being trafficked served as a wakeup call for action.

For centuries people have thought of prostitutes as a despised class of society. People believed that women chose that lifestyle due to desire or necessity. In the last ten years, as books and articles have begun to portray the real story, people have begun to realize that trafficking is more a case of slavery, abuse, and coercion. Trafficking has become an issue addressed at the highest levels of government, indeed, an international litmus test of human rights.

Moldova found itself in the middle of the trafficking mess, along with every other former Soviet Union republic. Such a wave of trafficked women came from the former Soviet Union that the street word for prostitutes came to be Natashas. Desperate economic conditions, together with a well-organized criminal system, spelled a seemingly endless sale of human flesh.

But what has happened in the six years since the publication of Malerek’s book? What is happening to address the problem and to end this horror? What is effectively being done to prevent women from leaving their homes and being enslaved in prostitution? What is being done to reach the Natashas?

Find below an account of the practical experience my wife Nancy and I have gained working with women who have been trafficked, the lessons we have learned as we have ministered to their needs, and the stories that have slowly emerged about their lives.

The Buzz

Trafficking in human beings is currently a hot topic. A Google search of anti-trafficking yields over two million hits. The theme of trafficking frequently appears in crime dramas, movies, and documentaries. Even in our local ministry, we receive emails weekly from people in the U.S. and Europe inquiring about trafficking, wondering what they can do to help combat the evil. At times, it appears that everyone is keen to be a part of the struggle against trafficking. Christian ministries claim they are engaged in trafficking prevention if they deal with orphans or sponsor micro-enterprise projects for women. The buzz about trafficking is caused by both heart-felt compassion and money. When people see movies about trafficking or read actual stories, their hearts are moved to compassion and indignation. They sincerely want to help. But, in addition, a lot of money is involved. Governments have designated millions of dollars and Euros to fight trafficking and money can drive a lot of work. Money can refashion the mission statement of many an NGO and many a ministry. Some organizations trumpet the anti-trafficking horn because of the current flush of funding. But does the buzz about trafficking produce results? What progress is actually being made to eradicate this massive assault on human dignity?

A hot topic runs the danger of trendiness, falling out of favor as soon as the next tragedy strikes. Equally harmful, the buzz can become counter-productive if it simply generates sensationalism, rather than fewer victimized women.

Trafficking in Moldova

The reality is that trafficking is still a major problem in Moldova, still an issue globally, and still a gross violation of human dignity and rights. Though some success against the evil may be noted, traffickers continue to manufacture new means of exploiting vulnerable women. While previously most girls from Moldova were trafficked to the Balkans or Western Europe, now more are trafficked to the Middle East or to Russia. A number are also trapped in brothels in Moldova, never leaving the country, but sold internally and controlled nonetheless.

Background

In 2001, my wife and I first became aware of human trafficking. We were en route to a new life and work in the nation of Moldova. We were heading to this country in order to do our part to see the kingdom of God expand, partnering and serving together with the church in Moldova.

In researching our new destination we frequently encountered articles on trafficking. This issue shows up in every contemporary report on Moldova’s problems. As one of the world’s poorest countries, Moldova has the classic mixture of poverty, desperation, and an available supply of young, beautiful girls. The desperation to find work and a better life feeds the gullibility of the girls, luring them to believe “It won’t happen to me.”