Negotiation: it gets you what you really want

Red Light Rebellion works to prevent sex trafficking from happening to young people. We do this through many different avenues, one of which is spreading the word in classroom settings at Jr High and High Schools.

Most schools are apprehensive when we approach them about coming on campus for presentations. Their concerns stem from sex trafficking being such a sensitive topic. If/when they let us on campus it is because they understand the importance of awareness when combating issues like trafficking.

But when students want to conduct activism on campus, things can get real hairy. Last semester one of our school clubs wanted to participate in a campaign called No Pornovember that educates about the harmful effects of pornography and its link to sex trafficking. The administration quickly vetoed every idea. 

We were disappointed but not necessarily surprised by admin’s reaction. What we were surprised about was the students’ reactions! And man did they get heated! They were outraged not because their ideas were shot down, but because of how important education on the harmful effects of porn is to them. They said it this way:

Of course it’s a touch subject but that’s the point, pushing it back, [or] sugar coating it… is not helpful. And the love thing! You know how many people will… change their mind on love. To not confuse love with lust and be careful to wait for the right time to make big life choices.

A few weeks later Brandon and I found ourselves sitting in a room listening these same educators try to explain why porn is too controversial to talk about to high school students. Let’s look at three simple facts about porn that Red Light Rebellion talks about whenever we address the topic:

  • 50% of men and 30% of women are addicted to pornography,
  • The porn industry’s goal is to expose students to porn by the age of 12, and oftentimes succeed by 8 years old,
  • And, the brain of a young child exposed to porn reacts in the exact same manner as if that child had been physically molested

Is this really too controversial? Seems a bit too commonplace and harmful to be controversial!

It quickly became apparent that the controversial aspect about pornography education was not in a belief that students are not mature enough to handle the conversation, but in fear that parents might react negatively to their children being exposed to that conversation.

I always knew that schools are afraid of engage controversial topics because a parent might get upset and go to the press. I did not realize how absolutely terrified schools are of this happening! It is a fear that literally controls every aspect of how a school functions. How can the education system be functional when fear overrides the courage to do what is best for students? And that fear being from parents who are ultimately supposed to do what is best for their child?!

The conversation with administration was one of trying to understand where the school was coming from and how to work within that. It was not us going in to make a case about why we are right and they should do as we say. That is not our heart, or productive in the slightest. We truly wanted to understand.

By the end of the meeting the assistant principal gave the club three goals to meet before they could conduct a No Pornovember campaign on campus:

  • Conduct a teacher/administration training about sex trafficking and its link to pornography,
  • Conduct a parent training about the same,
  • And increase student exposure to the topics through on-campus, voluntary means

Now you have to understand. The City of Phoenix, the state’s Human Trafficking Council, the McCain Institute, and multiple anti-trafficking organizations in Arizona have been desperate to get into schools to train educators, parents, and students. No one has been able to do it, let alone be told by a school that they have to. Apparently all it takes is a bunch of 16 year olds stirring things up and causing a raucous about things that matter. Students hold the key to essential components of eradicating the sex trade.

This is what we love to see: students fighting for God’s heart, whether they know they are or not!

And that is exactly what happened last Wednesday: students helped us train 50 educators about how to prevent sex trafficking. When they asked about the difficulties administrations present us, we were respectfully straightforward. It was encouraging to see their outrage be the same as the students who were told they were forbidden to talk about things that matter.

We are consistently amazed at the doors God continues to open, and the heart for justice He has ingrained in this generation. The fact that we can be a part of empowering them with what they need to create change is one of the biggest blessings.

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