"I really longed for a good relationship with my father, that is why I tried to get attention from older men."
These are the words of a young woman, let’s call her Hiroko*, who was trafficked from age 15.
At first glance, it looks like Hiroko started working in the sex industry out of her own free will. From the outside, her family situation was normal, but in reality, she had almost no relationship with her father. He was a hard worker and provided for all her physical needs, but did not seem to take an interest in anything else in her life and seldom spoke with her. More importantly, she never felt that she was loved by him. Her biggest need, the need for her father’s love, was not met.
The shop owner at her part-time job started showing sympathy and kindness to her, sharing all kinds of delicious foods and gifts. She was convinced that it is only natural for her to try and repay his kindness through a sexual relationship.
When other men in their 40’s and 50’s, her father’s age group, started noticing her and showered her with compliments and affection, she felt naturally drawn to them.
She started meeting up with older men that would pay her to have a coffee or dinner date. This is called enjo kosai or papakatsu (compensated dating). But chatting to and flirting with them didn’t fill that empty space in her heart.
“Maybe if I have sex with them, I will feel loved.”
For years, she was exploited for prostitution as a minor, not bound by physical chains, but trapped by the need to be loved and accepted.
But that empty feeling did not go away…
until she met Jesus…
Finally, she understood unconditional love and came to know a Father that will never disappoint. The Truth has set her free!
Hiroko’s story is similar to many other trafficking survivors in Japan.
A ZOE Japan poll survey of 566 boys and girls on social media aged 13-19yrs shows that only 44% of them have a good relationship with their father. Others are left feeling unloved, angry or abandoned, placing them at high risk of seeking affection elsewhere, just like Hiroko. Traffickers are eagerly waiting to take advantage of their vulnerability, grooming them with false promises of love and happiness.
Working on the frontlines and hearing the children’s stories, we cannot over-emphasize the importance of Fathers. They are not just there to provide clothing, food and shelter, but play a crucial role in shaping the identity of their children. They teach their boys how to be men of character that love and protect, and help their daughters to understand how precious, beautiful and loved they are. They set the standard of what a healthy marriage looks like, and define boundaries that will keep their children safe. It requires courage, commitment, perseverance and patience.
A shout-out to every father who is doing his best to love and care for his family physically and emotionally. No father is perfect, but your love for your family makes you a real hero!
And to the fathers that feel like they can do better, it is not too late… May Hiroko’s story inspire you to reconnect with your children and restore your relationships. It could be the most rewarding goal that you ever commit to.
Let’s continue to stand together in prayer for those children that do not know or have a good relationship with their father. May they come to know their Father in heaven and find their identity in Him.
*Identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the survivor(s).
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