Due to the confidential nature of our work in counter-trafficking, many of the details of the following story have been intentionally omitted to preserve the privacy and dignity of those involved.
While we were in Thailand I had the opportunity to spend many hours with survivors of human trafficking. I don’t think I was ever able to fully grasp what they were going through because there was always a language barrier between us. That all changed in December of 2018, when we were contacted by a victim here in America who was looking for a way out.
Ask most people in America to describe a typical sex trafficking victim, and they’ll likely paint a picture of an immigrant or minority, living in poverty, with little or no support system or contact with the outside world. Our first USA trafficking case was none of these. She is a smart, successful, middle-class young woman with strong family contacts. But one mistake in a time of weakness set a series of events in motion that would pull her into a world she never imagined being a part of.
The story of her rescue is long, detailed and fascinating. But what ultimately drew me to the keyboard to share was the aftermath of her getting out. It almost didn’t seem real when it happened, and she was terrified that it might not actually be over.
Every day, multiple times of day, we’d talk.
I can’t do this anymore. It just hurts too much.
There were times when her comments made me afraid that she would try to end her life. I would pray fervently that God would intervene and pour out peace upon her. The next morning it was always a relief to hear her voice again and know that she was still with us.
When someone has gone through something as horrific as sex trafficking, it’s extremely important to respect their rights and their freedom. While I may sometimes want to tell her “You can’t do this!” or “I won’t let you do that,” she is now in control. She calls the shots when it comes to her body and her life.
But the demons of doubt and shame are always at work.
This pain is what I deserve. I don’t deserve friendship or anything at all.
She needed desperately to hear that she is loved. And you know what? I do love her. I see her beauty and worth and it brings me to tears when I know she doesn’t see it for herself yet.
She wonders if the nightmare will ever truly be over.
I can’t stop the flashbacks. I close my eyes and it’s like it’s happening to me all over again.
I shared the following verses with her from Psalms:
I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
The physical toll on her body has left its own lasting damage. Weight loss, memory loss, and seizures have affected her throughout the last several weeks. When she was first rescued her body was so beaten and bruised, I was scared to hug her. I didn’t want to make any of the pain worse.
From the time we met to now, I have marveled at her ability to wake up every day and go to work. She has had to undergo humiliating exams for evidence. She has conquered the formidable task of testifying against her traffickers., She lives daily with the fear that they still know where she lives. On top of all of that, in order to preserve her privacy and dignity among her friends and coworkers she has to pretend that none of this has been happening to her for long hours each day.
Strength. This is what I think of every time I see her. I am in awe, and I pray that she will uphold that strength as she continues to heal. It will be a long road. Ultimately we pray that she will be able to draw on the strength of her creator, coming to know him as her Savior.