Are You Aware?

Photo by Markus Spiske on

A young girl down the street feels flattered when some teenage boys notice her. When they invite her to hang with them, she has no idea what they have in mind. The first time, they befriend her so she’ll come back. But after that, she’s used and sold to their friends. Without anyone knowing, she’s being sold after school to a handful of older boys and young men. She’s only eleven. How can she escape? Who does she tell? Will anyone believe her that such a thing could happen?

In your favorite restaurant, three young people are in the back kitchen, washing dishes. Seems innocent enough. But they don’t receive pay. Instead, after twelve-hour days of cleaning, they’re carted to a crowded hotel room or one room space where they sleep on mats or shared mattresses on the flour. They may be used by their “owner” or someone he sells them to for a thirty-minute romp.

The elementary school staff where your kids attend isn’t aware that that student who sits off by herself instead of playing at recess or eating lunch, is sold by her parents in off-school hours. The teachers can’t understand why such a bright child can’t get her homework done and doesn’t participate in class. Since there aren’t any visible marks on her body and her clothes seem clean and in fair condition, there are no other signs that she’s surviving in deplorable conditions.

It sounds as if these situations are fabricated by some imaginative author, but they are real depictions of actual events. So unbelievable we can’t wrap our minds around them.

And I was clueless.

When I first learned of human trafficking, it was by accident. My husband and I were in Half Moon Bay, CA celebrating our anniversary. After lunch, we took a window-shopping walk and were intrigued by a store front that displayed “Not For Sale.” We laughed.

How could you have a store called “Not For Sale”?

The shop was actually selling products made by survivors of human trafficking. Say what? My husband and I were confused until we investigated more closely.

I wasn’t unaware of slavery. I knew it happened in other countries far away in which people’s lifestyle or debts forced them into servitude. But I didn’t really understand the facts. Or that it was a huge business here in the United States.

We purchased the book written by founder David Batstone. Then we learned the truth. The author discovered that human trafficking was happening in his own town, at one of his favorite restaurants. It took me almost two years to read the book. Not because it isn’t great, but because I was so shocked by the information (and triggered by some far lesser events of my past).

I never intended to write a novel dealing with the subject, but years later working off a random prompt, I found myself writing a book that integrated a kidnapped little girl and a mystery of a trafficking ring. When I published it, I decided that half the proceeds would go to organizations, including Not For Sale, that fight this horrific, billion-dollar industry and help rescue those in captivity. A couple of years ago, one of the characters in another one of my books also suffered through trafficking in a different way.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness month. Did you know that?

I may not be able to go rescue people, or volunteer at an organization, but as an author, I can write novels that entertain, but also make people aware of this situation. I can donate the proceeds from my books to organizations that are outfitted to intervene.

You can help too!

Maybe you do have money to give or time to volunteer. Or maybe you can get one or both of my books FREE to learn more. Or buy them so I can donate more money. And share with your friends so they can be aware or buy the books or volunteer.

Every little thing we each do adds up to something big.

So check it out. January 13-15th and 20th-21st you can get either or both of the books below FREE. Or buy them so I can donate.

It’s easy to do your part.

Get them by clicking the link: Dangerous Ground A Mighty Wind

These are the organizations I support with book proceeds, Amazon Smile, and/or my time. There are many others. But everyone needs to start somewhere.

Start today.


woman in maroon shirt with black chain on her body
Photo by Markus Spiske on

While doing some book research yesterday, I discovered an organization called Operation Underground Railroad that rescues trafficked children and helps them recover from their trauma. Since writing Dangerous Ground and all the research involved, I’ve been more acutely aware of these horrendous stories. As a matter of fact, even though I tried to carefully depict the tragedy of sex trafficking in my novel, I see now that what I found while researching was only the tip of the iceberg. The situation is even more horrific than the dozens of stories and statistics I read about. I’m so grateful for those organizations that are doing everything they possibly can to rescue, heal, and offer new life to those who have suffered in this way. I still continue to donate half of all the proceeds from my book, Dangerous Ground, to three such organizations.

But I was speechless when I found another group that claims to have rescued more children than all the other groups put together. They’ve been in business for 41 years. In Los Angeles. I had no idea that Children of the Night even existed. Their mission statement says “Empower.

But that’s not the speechless part.

As I scrolled through their board of directors, I saw the name Cooper Hefner.

That’s right. The son of the man who introduced pornography as America’s favorite pastime. Cooper is currently the CCO for the Playboy enterprise. He’s furthering his father’s legacy to expand the porn industry.

And sitting on the board of an organization that rescues children from the same people who feed on that industry.

Can we say “conflict of interest”?

I decided I had to write the founder and question how they could justify this. Here is the email I sent her and her response to me.

“I was so impressed when I found your site and organization. Sex trafficking is a horrific crime that needs to stop. I had no idea that you have been around so long. Your statistics are impressive. So I decided to look more closely into your team. I grew up in Los Angeles. Perhaps someone I know is part of your cause. I considered donating. Until I scrolled through your board of directors and see that Cooper Hefner, the CCO of Playboy is one of them. I’m still so stunned I can hardly believe it. How is it that the pornographic organization which exploits women, pretends that what they promote is in any way helpful, and promotes the very thing your organization fights is represented on your BOD?? Your mission is EMPOWER yet everything Playboy stands for is exploitation of women, children and even men. Where is the empowerment in that? I’m so glad that I looked deeper than the surface of your organization. I suppose some good has come from rescuing, but when you put these victims in the place to be rescued, how is that anything but you creating a situation for which you can pat yourself on the back when you save them? Is this just Playboy’s attempt to legitimize their actions by partnering with an anti-trafficking campaign? I’m shocked and saddened by the hypocrisy of it.”


“Hugh Hefner built my work with prostituted children into a corporation. Without his resources there would not be a Children of the Night.

We did this in 1977 because social workers and juvenile courts denied these children services because sex was involved in their victimization.
We have rescued over 11,000 children over the last 41 years starting before the word sex trafficking was created.
Your right it was tough for him to help me because of how he was perceived and he took risks to do so against his lawyers advice.”

Dr Lois Lee

Children of the Night
3450 Cahuenga Blvd
Unit 602
Los Angeles, Ca 90068-1592
I’m sorry. Why again was it tough for him to help? Because it was risky for him to build a corporation to save the children that were being exploited in part because of an industry he helped create?
Did rescuing those children make him and his empire feel better about their role in this evil perpetrated on the innocent?
As I said, I’m speechless. Am I missing something here?
I’m glad to know that there is hope for victims. That is the most important thing. They are loved by their Heavenly Father and Jesus and will use anything to rescue them. Even the misplaced motives of some.
Share your thoughts in the comments below.