Last Week Was Incredible

Last week was incredible.  My last 10 days or so were spent halfway across the world helping girls to come out of the sex industry.  I was working with an amazing American team, but it was the girls we met who were true heros.  Before questions ensue, let me say that the group I work with focuses on supporting local the local culture.  We don’t come into a foreign environment thinking that we know everything but instead rely on the national partners’ advice and direction, paired with our own education and expertise.  The  sex industry in this particular city is ridiculously prevalent and the cycle of sexual abuse and trafficking was actually largely initiative by American visitors.  Teams come in from the outside to help nationals make large amounts of initial contacts with girls working in sex bars and then we facilitate and support that local team with their follow up and rehabilitation of victims after we leave.

I want to share with you a story from one of my friends from where I visited.  I’ve known Sarah (name changed) for about two years now.  We’re only about a year apart in age and so when we met at her bar the friendship connection was natural.  This past week when I went back to see her I was told she had moved jobs.  Another friend walked me down the street to a small hotel where I found Sarah surprised to see me again.  We sat down at the hotel’s bar and began to update each other on our lives.

She switched from working 12 hour shifts at the sex bar to working less hours at the hotel because of her new boyfriend.  This may sound like a good thing, but her “boyfriend” is a very controlling American over twice her age. This man doesn’t want to share Sarah with any other guy so he pays her to work at this different job.  When I asked her if she was happy Sarah repeatedly said, “Well no, not really, but this is best for my boyfriend.”  This boyfriend is heavily pressuring her to have his baby even though he is only in town 18 days out of the year.  If the relationship carries on like most in that area do, this man will get Sarah pregnant and then dump her a short time later after her grows bored of the responsibility (I use this term lightly).  She knows this saying, “I don’t know if he’s a good guy or not” but stays in the situation out of desperation.  Sarah, like other girls in the sex bars there, has her hope wrapped up in a fairy tale wish of being swept away by a handsome foreigner to live a better life.

Sarah comes from a family suffering from extreme poverty.  She was forced to go and work in the sex bars when she was about 16 because the responsibly of providing for her family resided on her small shoulders.  It’s not fair.  It’s so not fair.  This girl has been horribly abused over the years and her culture readily accepts it, or at least ignores it.

People often say that we should only focus on working to improve the situations in our own country and not worry about the rest of the world.  This makes no sense to me.  Obviously I have a heart and passion to end trafficking in America but I believe we should be working around the world as well.  You see, if I was born in the same country as my friend Sarah, I would have never have been able to get out of my trafficking situation.  It was because I was born and trafficked in America that I had access to other opportunities and services that helped get me out.  Sarah does not have access to opportunities like this – she is gripped in a much stronger trap than I ever was and she needs help.  What can you do to help?

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

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