Interview with Dawn Herzog Jewell, Author of “Escaping the Devil’s Bedroom”
Interview with Dawn Herzog Jewell, author of Escaping the Devil’s Bedroom: Sex trafficking, global prostitution, and the gospel’s transforming power.
By David Butgereit, Faith Based Liaison, The Blind Project.
The Blind Project: Human trafficking, sex slavery, trafficking in persons or another term? What terminology do you use for what we are talking about?
Dawn Herzog Jewell: I call it sexual exploitation in order to include the folks who might be excluded technically from “slavery” or “trafficking.” Many men, women and children are exploited sexually because they have very limited choices in life. But no one is holding a gun to their head in a basement or brothel. Their chains are invisible— a sexually abusive parent, a parent who abused a substance, limited education, a learning disability, etc.
TBP: Your book, Escaping the Devil’s Bedroom, does a wonderful job of exposing the reader to the global scope of the issue. Will your focus remain global?
DHJ: Yes, it will most likely remain global but it could change if I notice a specific people group or region that is not being covered in the media.
TBP: Some of the essential reading on this topic is very depressing and doesn’t offer a picture of hope, but I noticed “Stories of Hope” dominate your book. Why was that important for you to include?
DHJ: Without hope no change takes place. If we think that lives are beyond help, then they remain so. The scope of this issue requires an attitude change both in us (those with access to resources and power to create change) and in those who are in desperate need of encouragement and equipping to live with dignity in their God-given potential.
TBP: When reading about sexual exploitation, I am reminded of the role men play in the equation, not just in driving the demand but also in coercing the girls in the first place. It appears that a man’s pride, a desire to control, and a sense of entitlement are all involved in creating the exploitation. How do you address this?
DHJ: Men alone are not to blame. We are all responsible for our silence and inertia regardless of gender. Men can become powerful brokers of change in speaking out to other men in their families, communities and workplaces about the important role they play as fathers, brothers and sons of girls and women. I encourage men to consider their gifts and resources, then think about how they can plug in. One man can make a big difference in being a role model to others.
TBP: Who is your hero? Who do you seek out for strength and guidance?
DHJ: Jesus. He offered freedom to people from their pasts and the personal and societal chains that bound them, but he did it in such a way that empowered people to choose whether they wanted to walk into that freedom.
TBP: Your audience appears to be primarily a churched audience. What is the church doing well, and what can the church do better?
DHJ: The Church does a good job at raising awareness and resources to support some ministries. But the Church can get 10 times better at addressing how people in their own congregations struggle with pornography and therefore contribute to sexual exploitation worldwide. And we need real compassion and love for those in our own communities who are sexually exploited—male prostitution, women in strip clubs, girls involved in porn acting. We can also do a much better job educating young people about healthy sexuality.
TBP: Have you noticed a change over the past several years in how people react to the idea that slavery or bondage still exists?
DHJ: Yes. Today I am surprised when I discover that the idea is new to people. The media and organizations have done a good job of raising awareness.
TBP: Do you notice a kind of “good works fatigue” when educating people about this issue? Do you ever feel people are thinking, “Oh no, not another cause”?
DHJ: Sometimes, but not often. I find that people get excited when they learn that creating change in this issue requires a huge range of talents and resources, not just money or skilled lawyers. It’s a ‘cause’ that we can all make a difference in when we take the time to consider how our gifts meet a need both in our own communities and/or abroad.
TBP: Which programs do you think are the most effective for liberating someone from a life of bondage?
DHJ: Those that are there for the long term and involve personal relationships with not only staff, but with volunteers and friends from local churches and communities. A person who’s been enslaved with visible or invisible chains needs freedom that must include a new, supportive community to reinforce their freed and true identity.
TBP: As you work in the field of sexual exploitation, what overwhelms you and how do you deal with it?
DHJ: Limited time. I’d love to do more writing and interviewing, but just don’t have enough time while working and raising a two-year-old. I trust that God is raising up more people who are using their time and resources to raise awareness and create change. None of us can save the world, but we can each do our part.
TBP: What are you currently working on?
DHJ: I just completed assisting John Green, founder of Emmaus ministries in Chicago, with his book manuscript for Streetwalking with Jesus. This book will fill a great gap in covering the stories of men on the street engaged in prostitution.
TBP: How do we avoid “issue fatigue” and keep the message of hope for the sexually exploited current and relevant in people’s minds?
DHJ: As the public becomes increasingly saturated with this issue, organizations need to become increasingly creative with their communication and involve those who want to help in creative and meaningful ways. The Blind Project has done some exemplary work in this area of involving people and harnessing their creativity.
TBP: Dawn, many of us at The Blind Project have read your book and greatly appreciate that you emphasize a message of hope. We appreciate your work and look forward to your continued writing and work in this field. Thank you for talking with us.
DHJ: Thank you, and it was my pleasure.
- Dawn mentioned the church can do better by “addressing how people in their own congregations struggle with pornography.” We have found the organizations XXXchurch and I Am Second to be effective entry points in addressing issues of pornography within your church community.
- Escaping the Devil’s Bedroom website
- Dawn invites you to join the Escaping the Devil’s Bedroom Facebook group page.
- Streetwalking with Jesus, by John Green, founder of Emmaus Ministries in Chicago.
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