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  • Writer's pictureJon Sullivan, Ph.D.

It's a Problem

It's a problem when one person uses another's vulnerability for their benefit. In fact, that is the definition of exploitation. That vulnerability may be the person's physical limitations, economic status, lack of education, or a lack of access to services or information.

In our work, these four areas play a role in placing families at risk of exploitation. That exploitation may mean an individual is subjected to low or no pay for working a job and/or poor and hazardous working conditions. The exploitative situation may require them to perform sexually against their will. The situation may mean the individual sees no alternative to their present condition because of one of the listed vulnerabilities.

Some of the most vulnerable among us are the children. Recently, the GRACE staff assisted in the "rescue" of one of our sponsored children from an exploitative experience. Fortunately, today the perpetrator is in jail and the child is safe. However, in the child's mind, the exploitation experienced was a normal phenomenon of a child her age. Her age, lack of understanding, and trust was a vulnerability that was used against her by someone who possessed power over her. It's a problem.

The girls and guys in the "red light" districts of our city highlights the vulnerabilities of both genders. A lack of education and poverty place many at risk because of these vulnerabilities. Their vulnerable will always be present. The at risk present themselves in every society. Even scripture says, "[we] will always have the poor with us." President Johnson declared a "war on poverty" in 1964, but the World Health Organization reports 1.2 billion people living today in extreme poverty (living on less than $1 per day).

As I walk these streets, see the vulnerabilities, and witness the exploitation, one thing jumps out at me: The Perpetrators. The Exploiters. The one thing that jumps out at me are those who take advantage of those vulnerabilities for their benefit. In the perpetrators mind, the consequences of actions inflicted on the survivors are inconsequential. The heartache, physical problems, mental health issues, and wrecked life is not a problem as long as I get what I want. It's a problem.

The present vulnerabilities of such a large percentage of the world's population gives plenty of opportunity for the corrupted heart of mankind to exercise its lethal agenda of exploitation. The present vulnerabilities also gives plenty of opportunity for us to go where the problem is most severe. As long as "it's a problem", GRACE will be present to stand in the gap between the vulnerable and those who would bring harm.

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