Interview with Janet Weiner

Justice Acts France

What inspired you to get into the fight against human trafficking?

Janet: About six years ago I was in YWAM Kona and a prayer booklet came out [that has] now turned into a whole ministry. The woman who did it […] is a photographer, so [she and her husband] used really great photos like portraits, mainly women and children from around the world, and had featured a justice issue for each day of the month. So it ranged from everything from human trafficking, prostitution, female genital mutilation, to refugees.

What were your first steps?

Janet:  So I did that prayer thing [and] by the end of it I was ready to do something. I said to the Lord I will do anything. I’m a mother. I have four children. I can’t just go. I’m not single; I’m married and I have children that are still at home, but what can I do. I can keep praying I can give some money. I can do those things [which] are valid, but I would like to do more if You’ll let me. That summer [we had] planned to go to France and we just started talking about it and felt led to change it to Thailand. That was our first trip to Thailand. I’ve been back three times. So it started from the prayer thing to talking to God then doing short-term mission trips taking teams and going in and working alongside the [local] ministry.

What are some of the obstacles you faced when starting?

Janet: No, we are focused on prevention and protection. We are not after care specialists, and it is me and another part-term person [here]. I am not trained as a social worker and do not have different skills that would be needed to do aftercare. I am looking for places to partner with to do that. Janet:  The obstacles were not knowing what to do and not knowing how to do it and not having a team and not being French either. I did not grow up here so I could not start with my home church. After all that training, I was able to join the pastors counseling in Montpellier. Additionally, churches refuse to step on one another’s toes, so there needs to be a lot of networking in order not to spill into anyone’s territory.

How did you overcome them?

Janet: Once I started saying that I was working with Justice Acts, doors just flung wide open and I am partnering and going out with many churches and individuals.

What kind of need did you perceive at the time of beginning the fight as opposed to now?

Janet: They are very similar. We defined our goals and basically they are training, outreach and networking. Within the training, we had to include awareness because the French communities are so unaware of the problem of human trafficking. Coordinating a network in Montpellier is a key to help the girls so that everyone can do a part [in fighting trafficking].

Is there a safe house you are connected with?

Janet: There aren’t any. That’s a huge lack here. There’s a secular number you can call and they can get someone in danger to a safe place. But it is only if someone is in urgent danger, and you lose all contact with them.

Do you have a type of rehabilitation (after care) at this point?

Janet: No, we are focused on prevention and protection. We are not after care specialists, and it is me and another part-term person [here]. I am not trained as a social worker and do not have different skills that would be needed to do aftercare. I am looking for places to partner with to do that.

What is the greatest obstacle to fighting human trafficking?

Janet: Kind of a package of being not aware in general or apathetic or overwhelmed.

If there were one thing you would want people to know about human trafficking, what would it be?

Janet: They are being bought and sold like drugs and arms but being used and reused. This is the buying and selling of human beings. They didn’t choose it. I would say 90% have been trafficked, especially if they are foreign.

What is the greatest need you and your agency have?

Janet: Wisdom to know what to do and how to do it. More contacts with people who want to be involved in some way [and] how to rally them. I would love to have inroads into schools, border control and the police. I don’t know how aware they are of it, even though there are laws against it.

What do you believe is the solution to sustainable change in this area?

Janet: My honest answer is “I wish I knew.” Globally speaking, a shift of attitude has to happen that it’s not okay. It needs to be fought on a bunch of levels. Raising awareness among vulnerable peoples in poorer areas is very important. I think the biggest thing is that people need to say: “This is not acceptable.”

If you could have people do one thing other than giving, what would it be?

Janet: For Christians, if you were going to do one thing, pray on a bunch of levels – that it stops and about what you’re supposed to do about it. Everyone can do something, but if it comes out of prayer, it will be strategic.

What grieves you the most when dealing with victims?

Janet: How trapped they are and what they have to live through.
The shame they feel for being there. They are often “damaged goods” in their family’s eyes and many can’t go home because of that.

What makes you the happiest when dealing with victims?

Janet: Seeing how happy they are to be loved.

Are you afraid of the opposition? Meaning, the mafia, the pimps, the police, etc.?

Janet: Right now no, but I am aware of it. It’s not a [current] reality in my life; but I take it very seriously. I feel really protected, and we pray before we go. We [also] have teams of four to six. I believe God will protect me.

If you could have people do one thing other than giving, what would it be?

For Christians, if you were going to do one thing, pray on a bunch of levels – that it stops and about what you’re supposed to do about it.

Everyone can do something, but if it comes out of prayer, it will be strategic.