The statistics are staggering. According to the FBI, human sex trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery. Estimates place the number of its domestic and international victims in the millions, mostly females and children enslaved in the commercial sex industry for little or no money. While the phrases "human trafficking" and "sex slavery" usually bring to mind images of young girls beaten and abused in faraway places, it happens locally in cities and towns across the U.S., both large and small, right in citizens’ backyards. It is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world, bringing in $9.5 billion yearly in the United States alone.
The number of children engaged in prostitution in the United States is an estimated 293,000. Most of these victims are runaways who generally come from homes where they have been abused or from families who have abandoned them. Often, they become involved in prostitution to support themselves financially or to get the things they feel they need or want (like drugs). Other youngsters are brought into prostitution through forced abduction, pressure from their parents or through deceptive agreements between the parents and traffickers. Once these children become involved in prostitution, they are isolated from their friends and family, forced to travel far from their homes. Their lifestyle revolves around violence, forced drug use and constant threats.
Young girls with an average age of 12 to 14 and boys and transgender youth usually between 11 and 13 are sold to traffickers, locked up in rooms or brothels for weeks or months, drugged, terrorized, and raped repeatedly. The continual abuses make it easier for the traffickers to control their victims. The captives are so afraid and intimidated that they rarely speak out against their traffickers, even when faced with an opportunity to escape.
This is the world that a man known only as Bishop entered undercover for the federal government. The ex-criminal turned youth pastor had turned his life around and been living clean, but his history with the gangs made him a perfect mole.
His book, Both Sides of the Fence, takes readers into the biker clubhouse, to the table and beyond. Though not as gory as the FX hit show, Sons of Anarchy, the violence is certainly there, as is the sense of family. Drug deals with cartels, hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing through his hands, being on a "hit list" and violence with rival gangs as well as in the biker organization itself will keep you on the edge of your seat. As Bishop openly shares his heartbreak over not being able to share the only answer his "brothers" needed ... Jesus, your heart will break for him and the lost and broken people around him. "The worst thing, though, was not being able to help these guys by telling them about Jesus. Some days that tore me up inside. Sissy and I had the answer all along and we couldn’t say a word." (from the book)
Both Sides of the Fence is a gritty read that will have you turning page after page until you find you're at the end of the book. But even after the arrests, court cases and plea deals, the story doesn't end. For Bishop and his wife Sissy, every day is truly a gift from God because even though he has "heard through the grapevine that they've forgiven me" (from the book), they can't bet their lives on it (literally) and do "normal" things like go to church for fear of being recognized.
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