Walking into the Lion’s Den

Walking into the Lion’s Den

by Pat Munsey (Kokomo Perspective)

For his faith, the Biblical prophet Daniel was cast into the lion’s den. His friends, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, were cast into a furnace for the same reason. All survived, and their Lord’s will was demonstrated to the Persian kings of their day.

A handful of Hoosier women have chosen to enter their own lion’s dens and fiery furnaces, walking on faith. And they do it in the hope that the evil of human trafficking one day will cease in Indiana.

Carolyn Knight began visiting strip clubs seven years ago — the last place one might expect to find a Bible professor. On a given evening, she sits with the dancers, listens to their stories, befriends and counsels them, and provides what assistance she can. And on rare occasions, she brings one of these ladies out of her destructive environment and away from her oppressors.

“It’s a happy day, when it happens,” said Knight. “I haven’t helped as many as I would have liked to; it’s fewer than what you might think. It takes time, and it’s difficult to get to them and to get them to trust you. It’s tough.”

Really, it shouldn’t be surprising. At any given time it is estimated that 2.5 million people are enslaved through human trafficking. The activity generates more than $31 billion in profits for the traffickers annually, and the number of successful convictions against the offenders is very low. For every 800 victims, only one trafficker is stopped.

Even the FBI, which participates in more than 70 human trafficking task forces across the nation, is able to make very little progress against a leviathan system of organized crime and corruption. What can this Bible scholar do in a strip bar?

She can build an army, one woman at a time.

“It is a calling I felt from the Lord,” said Knight. “I was taking a group of young people of a trip, and as we were going down the highway, we passed a billboard advertising a strip club. On the spur of the moment, I bowed my head and said, ‘Oh, Lord, please send someone to help these poor, young women.’

“The Lord spoke right back to me in my heart. He said, ‘I found someone. It’s you.’ It shocked me. I said, ‘Lord, I promise I’ll share my testimony and share your love with any girl you bring across my path.’ He said, ‘No, I want you to go where they are.’

“I’ve been going into these bars, and I’ve helped train other women and equip them to do this ministry with me. Now, we have teams in five cities. I keep in contact with them, and I speak regularly in churches, offering to help women in other cities get ministries going to these girls.”

One of the women that Knight has recruited to help her in the Kokomo area is Deborah Cooper. A minister herself, Cooper has been performing mission work like this for 25 years.

“I am called to evangelism,” said Cooper. “My mission field is going into places most people wouldn’t think to go to talk to people. I do a lot of counseling with women who have been abused or had trauma in their lives, and I’ve found these are good places to look for ladies like that.

“A lot of the ladies in these clubs have been through a lot of abuse and live in a lot of abuse. My goal is to befriend them and help them however I can. If need be, maybe I find agencies that can help get them out of abusive situations. Many of them are on drugs and things like that.”

Abuse doesn’t necessarily translate into human trafficking. Sometimes it’s just abuse. Cooper admits that most of the ladies that with whom she is able to build relationships aren’t trapped in the illicit sex trade. But it does exist, even in Kokomo.

“Some of the ladies we’ve talked to say some of that does go on, but it happens later at night,” said Cooper. “There have been a couple of times I’ve seen things and wondered what it was about, but I couldn’t say for sure what’s going on. We don’t want to ask too many questions. Some of them do offer information.”

“We know, through testimonials, that trafficking is occurring in Kokomo,” added Knight.

Those who aren’t enslaved still are an at-risk group. They can be transient. They all have stories to tell, and none of those stories are good.

“It’s kind of like a revolving door,” said Cooper. “A lot of the ladies don’t stay very long. The truth is they’re like any other lady. They hope a guy is going to come along and make life better for them somehow.

“Some we have met are college students working a couple days a month — doing the minimum to make some money to get by — but everybody’s story is different. I’ve met women whose boyfriends beat them and force them to do it. If they don’t bring home enough money, they get beat up. It’s really bad.”

Knight said that they try to maintain a low profile when they visit a club; conflict isn’t the goal. Still, they attract unwanted attention from time to time.

“I’ve been chased down, slammed against a brick wall; I’ve received quite a few death threats,” said Knight. “But what the Lord asks you to do is more important. Helping these girls is more important.”

This hasn’t been the case in Kokomo. Cooper said that some of the club owners actually have been more than cooperative with what the ladies are trying to accomplish.

“Mr. (Don) Draper (The Hip Hugger) told me that as long as we don’t disrupt the ladies, we are welcome,” said Cooper. “I don’t think any of the owners love that the ladies are hooked on drugs or are getting beaten by their boyfriends. If they think someone can help, they wouldn’t mind.

“Mr. (Larry) Franke (Club Fantasy Girls) gave me his telephone number and welcomed me to go into his club. He thinks a lot of the ladies there have problems. And if anyone gives me any trouble, I am to call his brother who lives in Kokomo.”

Dan Dumoulin, owner of three strip clubs in Kokomo, hasn’t been as receptive, according to the ladies. But that doesn’t stop their outreach.

“He didn’t like us being in there, but we have spent a lot of time in his clubs,” said Cooper. “The ladies all seem to receive us really well. Even the men will talk to us. There are a lot of people who are just troubled.”

“Some have given us an open invitation and welcomed us to come in and offer aid to the women,” added Knight. “And the police are welcoming any help as well. There has been very good support. Indiana, as a state, is very progressive in its fight against trafficking. It’s one of the states that requires all of its police officers to get training in identifying trafficking victims and what to do when they do.”

The training is important. Knight does quite a bit of it for the women who aid in her mission. She conducts seminars and training sessions regularly. Some of the missionaries then are sent overseas to combat human trafficking closer to the source. Others choose to stay close to home and do the work in their communities.

Once educated, the women know what to expect and how to protect themselves. Just as important, they know what they are seeing and how to report it. And they are armed with the ability to spread word among the general public that human trafficking is real. It is happening in towns and cities and truck stops all over Indiana. And it needs to be stopped.

To that end, anyone who feels led to join Knight and Cooper in the mission field may do so. The ladies are willing to come to churches and speak to congregations about their work. To receive additional information, contact Knight at clknight7@gmail.com.

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