If there’s any hope for America, it’s in people like David Kaelin, the President and CEO of Game Over Videogames. He wrote a memorandum to his employees regarding the Thanksgiving holiday and it ended up being posted at Boycott Black Thursday, a Facebook page. It is almost impossible to read the small image there, but an enlarged copy can be seen at a Nice World thread: Black Thursday/Friday. I’ve written it out here for your Thanksgiving joy, and as a reminder that there are still people in business who think of their employees as humans (that is, a thing that has thoughts and needs other than those of a robot) and are not afraid to say what they think of certain employers.
I feel so blessed and am encouraged in my faith by Emmaus Ministries. I found out about them only recently, which is not terribly surprising since they minster across the country from me, in Chicago.
Their mission is “to make Jesus known on the streets among men involved in survival prostitution.” Male prostitution has been pretty foreign to me and I hadn’t thought about it much. I had seen human trafficking statistics that show that a small number of males are tricked or forced into prostitution worldwide, but that’s basically as far as my knowledge went. But, male prostitutes here in the U.S. may do it “voluntarily” for a number of reasons, much like female prostitutes. Much of the information about female prostitution, below, appears to be applicable to male prostitutes too.
- 95% of those in prostitution experienced sexual harassment that would be legally actionable in another job setting.
- 65% to 95% of those in prostitution were sexually assaulted as children.
- 70% to 95% were physically assaulted in prostitution
- 60% to 75% were raped in prostitution
- 75% of those in prostitution have been homeless at some point in their lives.
- 85% to 95% of those in prostitution want to escape it, but have no other options for survival.
- 68% of 854 people in strip club, massage, and street prostitution in 9 countries met criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
- 80 % to 90% of those in prostitution experience verbal abuse and social contempt which adversely affect them.
(Melissa Farley, 2004, “Prostitution is sexual violence.” Psychiatric Times. http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/sexual-offenses/content/article/10168/48311).”
There are academic studies on male prostitution, which of course are not widely available on the internet. Here is a quote from one that you can access: “In February 2010, a middle-aged man was arrested on suspicion of running an illegal brothel in the city of Amersfoort. In this brothel, which was located in the house of the suspect, between 10 and 20 young men of Eastern European and South American origin were found. Their passports had been taken from them, and they had been told that they had huge debts for travelling costs which they would have to pay back by working in the brothel (Police Utrecht, 2011).” This study found that most male prostitutes in the Netherlands go into it voluntarily, but the preceding quote gives a glimpse into the ways some are forced into it.
The men Emmaus Ministries helps have come from abusive and broken homes. As they write at their site’s home page, “Who would you have become if, from age five to seven, you were sexually abused by a neighbor? What would your life look like if you never knew your parents? How would your life be different if your parents abused drugs and pimped you out as a child? These are some of the stories of the men we serve.”
Volunteers and employees meet the men they serve by walking the streets of Chicago when these men work, late at night until 2:30 am. For those men who decide they want to either check out Emmaus more, or obtain help, hospitality and companionship, they stop at the ministry center. There the men can take a shower, clean their clothes, and get a meal and a prayer. There are group prayer-and-share meetings, one-on-one counseling and discipleship sessions, and various recovery assistance activities. They help up to about 300 men a year.
If you’re not sure about all this, Emmaus has posted some testimonies from some of the men they have served. Here are two of them.
Shawne. Shawne was one of two children born into a Christian family. His father was an alcoholic who didn’t work consistently and who abused him. At 16 Shawne ran away from home. He was homeless and desperate, so he started selling himself on the streets of downtown Chicago. Shawne met Emmaus Outreach staff on those streets, but he didn’t trust them. He was sure that, since they were Christians, they would judge him because of his lifestyle.
“When I first came,” he remembers, “they were just like ‘Hey come on in. We know what you want. We know what you need. And we’re here for that.’” He ate a family-style meal with staff, volunteers, and the other guys there. He took a shower. Then he left, and so did his preconceptions about the Christians at Emmaus.
He started coming down more often and got to know the staff and volunteers. That’s when he started hearing the message that, as he puts it today, “there’s a better way to live.” But he didn’t mind it so much at that point. He knew they loved him.
“That’s the thing about Emmaus,” he says. “You don’t have to be homeless to get help. I’ve had a job and an apartment, and I’d still come around for their support, the spiritual support. And then when I’d fall, they weren’t like, ‘You’re going to Hell. You failed.’ No. They accept you and say ‘Hey, we’re going to do this all over again. What can we do for you?’” (Abridged and quoted from here).
Timothy. Timothy was seven when his parents divorced, and afterwards he, his mother, and his siblings moved around a lot, frequently staying with relatives. Some of these family members secretly abused Timothy physically and sexually.
When he was 24, a friend introduced him to hustling downtown as a way to make money. The first time he got into a car with a john (i.e., a customer), Timothy was terrified. He started drinking and using cocaine to cope with his fear and shame. After that, hustling got easier; he not only was addicted to drugs, but to delusions of personal attractiveness and conquest.
But after having experiences of sexual assault and rape, his delusions evaporated and he eventually realized that he wanted companionship. Timothy often saw Emmaus Outreach ministers on the streets, but wanted nothing to do with them. Finally, however, his curiosity got the better of him and he found himself at the Ministry Center.
“To Timothy’s surprise, at Emmaus he found not only a safe place where they served good food, but people who talked with him as a human being, not an object to be used. He quickly realized that, at the Ministry Center, he could be honest about everything in his life. After a week . . . he felt at home–the first time he had experienced that sensation since his parents’ divorce. Timothy saw that he had a spiritual void that he hadn’t been able to fill, and began to hope that maybe he could find a way to become whole again.
In 2008, with Emmaus’s help, Timothy went into drug treatment for three months. He came out fully sober for the first time in almost 10 years. . . . That summer, he went on a retreat with Emmaus to Plow Creek Farm in central Illinois, the first time he had ever been out of the city. That first night, he went outside and saw a sky full of stars for the first time. He was struck by God’s majesty and mercy at that moment, and by how amazing it was that a God who created the stars cared about him. After the retreat, his faith and understanding of God continued to grow . . . and he realized that the spiritual void he’d felt almost all of his life had finally been filled.
Today, Timothy remains clean and sober. He works for a suicide prevention hotline, and takes classes at Chicago State University. He continues to come to the Ministry Center a few times a month, now as a volunteer and mentor.” (Quoted and abridged from here).
Other Sources/Further Reading:
“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
[edited slightly on Jan. 12, 2013]
My son is sleeping now, after having not slept last night and feeling ill for a couple of days. He’s a teen and visits his dad, and they had a roommate that was an older man and who was often difficult to deal with – though my son and him talked all the time. My son last saw him yesterday before 1 pm. It was to be this roommates last day at the house and he was packing boxes (the dad told him he couldn’t live there anymore – part of my son’s stress-related illness, I believe). When my son and his dad came back, the roommate was gone but his stuff was all there. The dad got a call from the Sheriff’s department saying that the roommate was at the hospital, but upon contacting the hospital, and going there, nothing could be found out about the roommate. He couldn’t be visited and the hospital staff said they couldn’t relay any information until the next of kin were contacted.
Doesn’t sound good.
Some background about this older man. He’s a veteran with epilepsy, and while he had health care through the veterans program, he had to drive far away to get care. He had married a few years ago, but after he and his wife both lost their jobs and their house, his wife filed for divorce. He didn’t have a place to live and ended up staying in a room at my son’s dad’s house.
He called his ex-wife everyday but it seems that she didn’t really care for him (she lived very far away, too). While he seemed happy enough, he argued a lot. He snored loudly. He had an old dog that kept peeing everywhere because it just couldn’t hold it in. The dog was in bad shape but the roommate hadn’t had the nerve to take the dog to the vet yet . . . who knows how much he could afford, as his work was off-and-on. He had taken to sleeping with the dog. I imagine he was saying good-bye to it, and making his last days as good as they could be. His dad had died a few days before Christmas and the funeral was on Christmas day; after this he became ill.
His dad just died; he lost his job, house, wife (I’m so sickened that this has happened to a lot of older people in our country); he was older, with epilepsy; he was sad that his dog was dying and he had to deal with that; he was kicked out of his residence. Is there some reason why you would think that this person was actually dealing with life OK, even though he didn’t want to talk about stuff much? As Christians, are we to just keep going our own way and not actively asking and helping people who are having a difficult time in their lives? As Bonhoeffer said, we need to look beyond the superficial stuff in people’s lives, what they do, what they hide, and reach out and help the suffering. Does a curmudgeonly guy deserve help any less than a sweet woman? No.
I’m not trying to say in this essay that I wouldn’t have wanted the roommate to move, I wouldn’t be able to say. But I am saying it seems that more could have been done to ease this person’s burden, emotionally at least, so that he could deal with life’s circumstances better. I think I and others need to try and live what the NT writer said more proactively: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus . . .” (Phil 2:3-5).
I don’t know for sure that the roommate is dead. I just don’t know why my son’s dad wasn’t allowed to see him or find out anything about him if he was alive. But I will update later. Thanks for any prayers.
Update (Jan. 12, 2013): The roommate died in surgery. He had suffered a severe epileptic event while driving, which resulted in a very very bad accident. We are not allowed to know the details of the accident, other than his car rolled over many times. Apparently the roommate forgot to take his epilepsy medicine that day. Both stress and age can contribute to forgetting things like taking one’s medicine, though my son thinks he may not have taken it on purpose (he had never forgotten before). Anyway, his wife (or ex-wife) had come to see him before he went into surgery, so I’m glad of that; he used to call her everyday.
Update (Jan. 29, 2013): I keep looking to see if a death notice or obituary is published, but there has been nothing. I don’t understand this. Can’t anyone who knew him or is related to him file something, out of respect? This world is fallen, indeed. It is easy to find two notices of when his dad died, but nothing about Dennis, but it’s as though he never existed.