How to Free a Sex Slave


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So this picture speaks for itself here.  January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month….

And if you’re anything like me, the idea that there are children being sold into slavery and sex work, not just in other parts of this world, but also all around us… that idea makes you want to vomit, and you feel really helpless.

Just over a year ago, a friend of mine introduced me to The Exodus Road, and informed me that they were looking for bloggers.  Naturally, I jumped on that chance… and here I am.  I’m sharing information with you today about what it takes to free a sex slave.

Matt and Laura Parker, who both work for The Exodus Road, wrote an article together for Relevant Magazine about what the process is like to get a sex slave out of their awful situation.  I encourage you to read the entire article.  It’s powerful.  You’ll have to create a Relevant account to read to the end, but it’s worth it.  Do it.

Here are two excerpts that really hit me:

“For the criminals, any arrest or prosecution is disruptive. Legal fees, jail time and loss of business make the sale of humans a less lucrative trade. Regardless of the verdicts, raids and arrests send a message to the local community that sexual slavery is not acceptable. When we apply pressure to the trafficking mechanisms from a legal standpoint, we slowly force modern-day slavery into the category of higher risk and lower reward. This is potentially one of the greatest steps we can make as a community fighting this injustice.”

“Every day, I find myself wishing that rescuing a sex slave was a simple, inexpensive, quick process. But it isn’t. It might take a village to raise a child, but it takes an entire army to free one.

So here it is… please read this.  Because I can’t say it any better than this. (click the picture)

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Also, possibly of note to you:  The Exodus Road has signed a band called Remedy Drive as their first artist.  I’d never heard of them before, but I checked out their website and gave their stuff a listen, and I have to say I liked what I heard.  I encourage you to check it out.

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And finally, a few quotes to let you reflect on the heaviness of this situation (geeky side note:  Anything said by Abraham Lincoln has to be worth its weight in gold, right?):

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One Word for 2014. Some goals, and my favourite posts from 2013.


I had actually already thought about my New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 when I read She Loves Magazine’s One Word idea for the year.  I’ve decided to combine this with Mama Kat’s writing prompts, and add in my top 12 blog posts from 2013 and to talk about some Resolutions, or anti-resolutions if you will.

Here’s what I love about this one-word idea, to get myself back on track.

You pick one word for 2014.  Not a bunch of New Years’ Resolutions.  Not a bunch of lofty probably unattainable goals that you’ll be discouraged over later.  No.  One word.  I had already thought about it.  I had already given 2014 enough thought to decide that the only thing I’ll be ‘resolving’ is this:  value.  I will value myself.  I will value those around me.  I will refuse to devalue myself on account of things of this world.  I will wrap my value up in things of Christ, knowing that that’s where my true value is to be found.  I described this idea to my parents as “I will be less hard on myself,” but when I saw the One Word idea put out by She Loves, I wracked my brain for one word.

So the things I’m not resolving to this year, because I’ve resolved to them every year and failed:

I’m not going to put a number on weight loss.  Instead, I’ll value myself enough to make healthy choices, and if that results in weight loss — awesome.

I’m not going to put a kilometre goal on running.  I haven’t been able to run in such a long time because of a stupid ankle injury from LAST CHRISTMAS that I may stick with boxing and take up swimming instead anyway :p  I will value myself enough to know that I don’t need to obsess, and that if I don’t get in a certain number of kilometres or minutes or whatever… accomplished in a week, that doesn’t mean I’m a failure or that I should be so hard on myself.

I’m not going to put a ‘I hope to be in a committed relationship before I’m 30’ marker on this year, because that doesn’t value my singleness or myself AS a single individual.  I will instead recognize that I have value whether single or coupled.  Besides, I’m currently rocking the preferable term, ‘independently owned and operated.’

I have a few things I’d like to accomplish this year, certainly, but these things have less to do with beginning a new year, and more to do with being a person who likes to set goals for herself.  Most notably, I’d like to rock the violin this year.  I’m starting a 52 week money saving challenge with the end goal being a stellar (probably refurbished) violin which was not made in China and which will not break as easily (mine’s currently with a repair guy and I have a borrowed one.  Handing it over to a stranger was like turning over my baby.  It was sad).  I actually may have a resolution for 2015… I’d really like to enter the Canadian Open Fiddling Competition held every year in Shelburne.  I went with my Grandparents for the first time this past August… and I was enraptured.  I don’t think I’ll be ready for this August.  Maybe next year though 😉

Ann Voskamp summarizes really well my thoughts on heading into 2014.  I want to fall forward, not stumble backwards.  Check this out.  Wonderful words, here.

And as I get ready to usher in 2014 with One Word, I’m going to bid 2013 farewell with a few of my favourite blogs from this year (both my posts and those that I follow).  I’ll do 12 of each.  One for each month, I suppose.  Check out Sarah Bessey’s post along the same idea.

First:  Blogs I followed.

Tim and Olive, Olive To Run, A Holy Experience (Ann Voskamp), Jen Hatmaker, Sarah Bessey, Megan Gahan, Sometimes Screaming Helps (Sarah Richardson), Holley Gerth, She Loves Magazine, The Young Woman’s Bucket List, Mama’s Losin It, Darcie the Kindred Spirit, The Road To Rome, Avoiding Neverland (I know… that’s 14.)

Second:  My top 12 posts from 2013.

1.  My ‘2nd Blogiversary Post — I Will Not Humour the Cray Crays.‘  I wrote this just kind of summarizing my most recent dating experiences, and didn’t expect it to get kind of out of hand.  Blog Her picked it up and featured it and it got like 1300 views or something insane like that.  For a fairly newbie blogger, it just blew my mind.

2.  I Am Not Bible Barbie.  This was another one that kind of blew up on me.  I had decided that I’d had enough of being held to this impossible standard by potential suitors, and some friends and I were talking about it at church, and this happened.  And then 450 views happened.  It was my first big post, and the first one that blew up without help from anything else.

3.  The More Boys I Meet, The More I Love My Dog.  I’d been on an AWFUL date.  Seriously, read the story.  I decided that I’d better channel it into good writing that would get new readers, lest I sit around and mope.  It was good therapy 🙂

4.  I Don’t Want to Marry Bible Ken.  The day after I wrote I Am Not Bible Barbie, it occurred to me that I had picked on guys for holding us women to this impossible standard, when we do the same thing to them, and that I don’t want to keep looking for the ‘perfect’ guy.  Read on to find out why 🙂

5.  Singleness is not a disease, nor a curse, nor an affliction… nor is it a problem of mine for others to solve.  I wrote this post about a year ago.  Someone obviously had a ‘solution’ to my singleness problem.  I haven’t re-read these posts, so I don’t remember what prompted it, but it sounds angsty.

6, 7, 8, and 9 were parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 in a series of stories I wrote about a girl named Anna (fictional) who was sold into the sex trade.  I wrote it for The Exodus Road, an organization which works to spread awareness about sex trafficking and the work that’s being done to combat it.  Read Part 1 here.  Part 2 is herePart 3 is hereAnd Part 4 is here. Please read them.  They were hard to write because the details were supplied by Exodus Road, and I knew they were technically fictional, but it was gut-wrenching to think that even though I was making this up, it could very easily have happened in real life.

10.  How I Feel About Endings — A Tribute to My Buddy, Jack.  Hardest post to write this year probably.  I wrote it in the days before we had to have one of my Mom’s dogs, Jack, put down… he was very sick, we had no choice, really.  But it was really hard.  So hard.

11. A Picture’s Worth A Whole Lot… Apparently.  I updated my profile pictures on the dating sites I was registered on because a friend of mine showed me how to use makeup…. and like magic, I had a whole bunch of interest generated.  It caused me to reflect on the value we place on looks.

And tied for number 12 (yes, I know that means I have 13… but I have 4 tied into one story that took 4 months to finish, so I think it’s fair.  Also — it’s my blog.  #idowhatiwant)  “My ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment about Rob Ford’ and ‘A Duck Call for Love.’  Both of these posts were written in response to public figures blowing it in view of the entire Western World, and how I feel like there has to be a better way to do things than we’ve been doing it.  As Christians, we’re called to love, and that’s what both of these posts are aimed at.

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Bones, NCIS, NCIS Los Angeles, Nashville, Chicago Fire, Rick Mercer Report, Elementary, Castle, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, and… apparently there are only 11 of these.  That’s ok.

Books:  Confession ~ I didn’t read anywhere close to 12 books this year.  I’d like to read more in this next year.  I guess that comes with valuing my intelligence and not squandering so much time on Facebook?  We’ll see how that goes.

Pirates of Savannah, The Sacred Search, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Made To Crave, Every Body Matters, The Sweet By and By, Love Lifted Me, Softly And Tenderly, Flabbergasted.  I can’t think of any more that I read this past year.  There might be more, though that number in itself kind of shocked me.  I have a giant stack beside my bed to get through still, so… we’ll see how that goes :p  Next on the list, which I’m really excited about (just have to finish The Sacred Search first), is Real Men Don’t Text, by Ruthie Dean.  Can’t wait.

Movies: I should preface this — I’m not super picky when it comes to movies.  I’m pretty easy to please.  The only one I really didn’t like was The Heat.

The Hobbit, Frozen, The Butler, Captain Phillips, 12 Years A Slave, The Family, Oz the Great and Powerful, Gangster Squad, Safe Haven, Olympus Has Fallen, 42, Runner Runner.  Those are just ones I saw in theatres.  Like I said, I’m pretty indiscriminate.

Music:  I could never pick just 12 songs.  I guess I can pick 12 artists, though.  Note:  I fell in love with Eastern Canadian Folk Music this year.  So…. get ready for this.  That’s right… The Rankins are in there.  Classic, 1990s Rankin Family.  On repeat in the car for the last 5 days.  Straight.  Legit.

Charlie Worsham, Natalie MacMaster, Leahy, The Rankins, The Band Perry, Luke Bryan, Third Day, Dixie Chicks, Sugarland, Duelling Fiddlers, The Piano Guys, Lady Antebellum, Lindsey Stirling.  I know, I know, that’s 13.  It’s the best I could do.

And that’s it, guys!  That’s it for 2013!  Stay tuned for January.  Another NaBloPoMo kicks off January 1.  Am I insane for taking the challenge during a Report Card month?  Probably, but it could lead to some really entertaining (albeit brief) posts 😉

Someone Free — Stretch Marks of Faith


I’m not going to say much to introduce this video that The Exodus Road emailed us this month.  I don’t think my words could summarize it adequately.  I profoundly admire something in every poet, because that has never been my strength, and this girl is no exception.  It’s worth 7 minutes of your time. 

 
 
 
That being posted now, and hopefully you’ve watched it (seriously, do it; it gave me shivers), I’d like to draw your attention to something else that The Exodus Road has for us this month. A job opportunity.
 
Do you know someone who you think would be ‘just right’ as an undercover investigator?
 

The Exodus Road is currently seeking qualified individuals to join our investigation teams in SE Asia.  This role serves as a key function in The Exodus Road’s targeted intervention initiative, which is to support local authorities and governments in the identification of human trafficking victims and their traffickers.  Agents will work on a team of investigators to manage and advance current case loads and intake of new cases.  All agents will work underneath the authority of the Operations Manager/Investigative Lead and the Country Field Director. For more information, go to the job application page: https://www.theexodusroad.com/exodus-road-employment-opportunities/

Sex Trafficking 101 – Part 2


Continuing on the heels of last month’s Sex Trafficking information post, here are some more absolutely stunning, heartbreaking statistics for you.  It hurts my heart and my brain to read them.  I hate that I live in a world where this is allowed to happen, and where it’s so hard to stop it.

At The Exodus Road, they really want to focus on the heart of the issue this month.  These are kids.  KIDS.

* Human rights investigations have discovered that minors can be typically sold an average of 10-15 times a day, 6 days a week, totaling between 9,360 and 14,040 sex acts a year. The girls received none of the money.   (Source: Shared Hope International)

* According to the California Child Welfare Council, kids as young as 10 are being peddled for sex every day in Los Angeles County … the average life expectancy of children who enter the sex trade is seven years. This means, on average, a child forced into prostitution at age 12 will be dead by 19.  (Source: http://www.dailybreeze.com/general-news/20130902/a-call-to-crack-down-on-those-who-pay-for-child-sex )

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Doesn’t that break your soul to shreds?

I found The Polaris Project’s website interesting… and I headed through a few of their links.  If you’re interested in more information, check them out.

A Word about “Rescue” from the Exodus Road

In the counter-trafficking world, there are varying understandings of the term “Rescue” and how it is used to describe an activity a nonprofit is undertaking. While the term is ambiguous at best, we wanted to briefly define what we mean when we use it in our organization.

When we at The Exodus Road say “Rescue,” we do not mean offering a prostitute a job, preemptively saving a girl from a possible trafficking situation, or saving a child from poverty, lack of education, or a risky future. These are all noble and important tasks that many are doing well. And we applaud and support their good work, absolutely, because it is necessary to this fight for freedom. (Truly, the modern day slave needs all of us committing to finding solutions to their injustice from a myriad of varying angles.)

However, when we at The Exodus Road talk about “Rescue,” we are referring to the removal of a person from either:

  • an actual trafficking situation (ex. raid with police of a locked brothel) or
  • sexual abuse to an underage victim (ex. pedophile abuse).

The “rescues” we support involve situations where the victims are being sexually exploited and do not have the power to leave on their own accord, whether by force, threat, violence, coercion, debt, etc. As per UN guidelines and definitions, any girl or boy under the age of 18 engaged (even “willingly”) in prostitution is technically a trafficked victim since the international community deems a minor not old enough to make the choice to sell themselves for sex.

(Source: The Exodus Road: About https://www.theexodusroad.com/about-us/)

In this last picture, I know they’re all American statistics, but it doesn’t change the heavy weight of them, or how badly something needs to be done.  It happens here in OUR backyard in Canada, too, I just don’t have pretty ‘eye-catching’ statistics images for you.

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Also, check out Jamie the very worst Missionary’s blog…. This speaks far more about what the folks at The Exodus Road do than I ever could.

Stay tuned in early November for information about a book tour Laura Parker’s book, also called The Exodus Road, which you can get on Amazon in Kindle edition if you’d like!  I don’t have a Kindle… I’m going to need a way to get a paper copy (I won’t go into why I firmly believe paper copies should never die in this post), but it looks like a solid read regardless.  Laura Parker works with The Exodus Road.

 

Sex Trade 101 ~ Part One


Sex Trade Education: As a part of the back-to-school season, The Exodus Road (remember, the organization that I blog for to try to help fight sex trafficking?) is starting a Sex Trade 101 series for those of us on the blogger team. Education is a foundational element for people who are committed to the modern day anti-slavery movement. The more we know, the more we are empowered to empower others.  Have you ever wondered what all of this chatter is all about?  Well, over the next few months Exodus Road is providing me with information to give to you, and I’m pretty excited to share.

I’ve admittedly slacked hardcore on this particular section of my blog.  In fact, I’ve slacked pretty formidably on the entire thing since I spent my summer writing for Camp, but we’re all settling back into routines now, and it’s time to get back into this as well.

Let’s get this going with some info graphics.  I think these pretty much speak for themselves, so I’m not going to say much more.  Make sure you watch the couple videos at the end as well.

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Did you catch that??  25,894,000,000 pounds are generated

each year by the sex trade.  That’s 42,705,679,500.00

Canadian (42.7 billion) or 41,554,691,200.00 US… 41.5

billion dollars.  Per year.

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Check out this video where a girl named Alex who was

rescued by the FBI from the sex trade shares a bit of her

story.

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And also — this video — the one you’ve probably seen spiraling virally all over the interwebz, the one of a bunch of Dutch dancers dancing in some windows with some very entertained onlookers — until they flash some sobering stats up at the end.

Follow Me on Blog Lovin’


Hi there readers!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I just discovered blog readers… a world previously unknown to me which means that I can check blogs I follow without having to have them ALL emailed to me each time they post (and trust me, I follow quite a few). In order to claim this blog as my own ON Blog Lovin, and get it registered on there, I had to put that link into a post, so here’s that post!

If you use Blog Lovin’ or are interested in checking out a reader which could open up a whole bunch of new things that you could follow along with…. please follow me by searching This Blog Is Epic.

If you don’t have Blog Lovin’, sign up here.
http://www.bloglovin.com

Please follow!

Thanks!

You don’t need to be Batman, Abraham Lincoln, or Jason Bourne…


You don’t.  You don’t need to be any of these epic heroes to rescue people.  More specifically, you don’t need to be one of these epic heroes to rescue slaves.

When I started blogging for The Exodus Road, back a few months ago now, I felt kind of overwhelmed.  I started reading the stories about rescue happening all over the world, and then the stories about people NOT being rescued, people that were still stuck, and I felt very small, and very insignificant.  I mean, sometimes I can picture myself with covert ops training, running into a building with my SWAT team uniform and a Kevlar vest and a sniper rifle (and I know I just combined several different occupations and you’re probably all cringing…), but then I remember that I’m the girl who tells her grade 4s to pay attention to how she cuts a hole through the centre of a circle without cutting herself…. and cuts herself in the process.  I know these are not skills that I possess.  For a deeper look into this idea, click HERE!  Make sure you watch the video that goes with it.  Exodus Road Executive Director Matt Parker talks about the work being done.

Also, if you’re feeling particularly keen on following all of the links that are stemming from this blog post… I know, there are a ton… Read this.  Personally, I can’t help but admire the Batman analogy from this writer who talks about wrestling the contrast between slavery and the suburbs.

Remember, too… that the life of one child plucked from the Hell of slavery is important, and that absolutely any contribution you’re making to that is phenomenal.  Check out this video on what The Exodus Road crew is doing on an ongoing basis to remind themselves of the importance of what they’re doing.  I’m writing for change.  I’m hoping that hundreds of people start reading my blog and all decide that they need to get involved somehow, too.  I’m using a gift I know I possess to the benefit of a cause I deeply care about.  What could you do?  Your possibilities are endless.

This dilemma isn’t new.  Slavery has been around for years and years.  And slavery is hard for us to talk about.  It’s almost politically incorrect, and I think a lot of that stems from the horrible injustices done to African slaves in the 18th and 19th Centuries.  At least, that’s what we know about, so that’s what we resonate with.  It’s hard to talk about for the same reason that when you read Romans 1:1, the word we now see as “servant” but should have been translated “slave” if you look back at the original Greek word, has been altered.  It’s uncomfortable because of where North American culture has seen slavery.  But it should be uncomfortable.  It should hurt.  It should make us squirm.  That feeling is telling you to act.

Anyone who knows me at all knows that Abraham Lincoln is my Earthly hero.  He certainly doesn’t trump Jesus, but he’s pretty high up there in my books.  He even trumps Batman.  Exodus Road shared this video with us in our April newsletter update.  It’s called I’m With Lincoln.  Fair warning:  It’s a bit graphic, and it wretched my heart a little bit.  But I like the idea behind it a lot.  150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves of his day.  It got him killed, but he did it anyway.  It didn’t immediately eliminate the issue, but look how far we’ve come.  We need to do it across the globe.  If Lincoln could do it in the US, then surely many many people united on one cause can make an impact around the world.

Also check out (if you’re not yet tired of my link frenzy) Made In A Free World, the producers of the I’m With Lincoln video.  I just learned about them today, but I like them.  Interested in knowing what your Slavery Footprint is?  That is, how many slaves were used to supply you with your lifestyle?  Take this survey.  I did, and I hate the answer.  I came out with 46, which, to be honest was better than I expected, and I know that the survey is subjective and imperfect, but still….. Time for some change.  You with me?

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!

Laura

Rescue is Here. Anna’s Story: Part 3.


A brief synopsis of where we’ve left Anna:

In Part 1, We find 15 year old Anna living in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Her mother is a prostitute just to keep food on the table for her and her siblings.  She sees a sign in a shop window advertising nanny positions in America for $1000.00 a month, and she sees a way to save her mother and family from the poverty and wretched circumstances that they live in.  She applies, but as she gets on a bus to go to the airport, she’s driven off the wrong way, and her passport is sold to a Chinese man who boards the bus as they cross the Chinese border.  In Part 2, the bus continues moving.  One of the other girls on the bus tries to escape but is shot three times for trying.  The bus arrives in Laos, and Anna and one of the other girls are sold as household slaves to a wealthy man/family in Vientiane, the Capital city.  By the end of Part 2, Anna has become numb from abuse (physical and sexual), threats, manipulation, loneliness, and desperation.  She felt lost and hopeless, because no one even knew where she was.  She feared that her family assumed she was having such a great time that she forgot about them, and she wanted to die.

The sun rose and shone through the cracks in the wall of my bedroom.  The birds outside chirped, and if I didn’t remember that I was a slave, beaten and prostituted for sport, I think I could have liked Vientiane.  I’d been there long enough that I’d figured out that the house was owned by a very rich man.  From what Kalina and I could pick up, everyone appeared to be masquerading as employees who worked for this man, Palani, in a fairly small business that designed and sold athletic clothing.  A team of graphic designers designed the prints that would go on the clothing and accessories, had everything printed and shipped to the house, and from there it was sold.  There was a storefront at the main entrance of the massive house, as well as several small offices that we were responsible for keeping clean.  Kalina and I did not run the store, as neither of us spoke Laotian, and I was usually too severely beaten to stand and face customers.  I haven’t looked anyone but Kalina in the eye for months, anyway.  It would likely blow the cover they have set up for the drug smuggling and human trafficking operation that they run behind the scenes.  It seemed so obvious to me even from the start that this could not be a legitimate business.  Such a small storefront could not possibly sustain such a large home attached to the back with so many employees living right on site.  I quickly came to the conclusion that no one, not even government officials, cared about what was going on.  I would see police officers standing in the shop as I walked past from time to time, but they stood talking quietly with Palani.  They were there to be part of the corruption, not part of a solution.  They would usually leave with drugs.  Sometimes, they would come in through the back entrance and Palani would leave them alone with older, more experienced girls.  They left with gifts of drugs, smiles on their faces, and substantially less money.  Whatever hope I had of rescue evaporated the day that a uniformed Laotian police officer walked around the corner in the house and nearly bumped into me while I cleaned the hallway, looked me right in the eye, winked, and stroked my bruised arm before leaving the house.  I meant nothing to him, and he was not there to be my rescue.  One tear slipped down my cheek — more emotion than I’d let myself feel or express in months.  It was a tear of utter despair.

Months passed again with the cycle endlessly repeating itself.  Girls would come and go through the house.  They were often sold again if they could get a higher price than what had been paid.  I watched while two girls who’d only been in the house a week were stuffed into the back of a large black van, bound and gagged, and taken only God knows where.  I must not have been worth much, because no one ever wanted to take me out.  I suppose I was fine with that.  At least here I was fed and had shelter.  This endlessly repeating cycle had become my life.

Early one morning, I was cleaning in the storefront when a man walked in.  I hadn’t made eye contact with anyone, not even Kalina, since the police officer had leered at me.  He was tall and white.  Apart from Kalina, I hadn’t seen anyone with white skin since I left Russia.  He had an athletic build and I tried not to stare, but he looked so out of place that I couldn’t help it.  I couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing in a fake athletic shop in Vientiane, Laos.  He made eye contact with me and smiled.  I looked away and left the room quickly.  I feared he’d be asking for me later.  I stayed closer than I normally do during a business deal to the store.  He didn’t speak Laotian, so the girl running the store had to get Palani.  Palani spoke to the man in broken English, and the man sounded so relieved.  I don’t speak English, so I don’t know what was said, but something felt different about this man.  He purchased a pair of shoes and he left the store.  I wondered if it were possible that he really was only there to buy running shoes.

Weeks went by again, and I had nearly forgotten the man’s kind face.  I was outside pruning a bush in the blazing hot sun.  My pale skin was burning, I could feel it.  I asked to come inside but no one listened.  I was shoved back outside.

I looked around, stretching my back and wiping my face free of sweat.  As I looked around, I saw his face again.  He was walking on the sidewalk past the house.  It surprised me that the backyard area of the house wasn’t more closely watched, but this was the first time I’d been out of the building since being brought to it.  My best guess is that I’d been there roughly seven months.  I walked slowly closer to the sidewalk.  He stopped to tie his shoes and as he looked up, he saw me watching him.  He smiled and walked toward the fence.  He said something in English that I didn’t understand.  He looked right into my eyes, and I looked at my feet.  He looked closely at the bruises and scars on my arms.  I stepped backwards.  He said something else in English, quickly, and he walked away.

Later that afternoon, a uniformed officer walked into the shop.  I was cleaning the shop and the officer said something to me in Laotian.  He handed me a piece of paper that I gave to Palani when he entered the room.  He motioned for me to leave, but I stayed just behind the door.  I heard an argument, but I understood only a few words.  I heard them coming toward the door so I fled.  A few minutes later, there were several uniformed police officers throughout the building searching rooms, talking to girls, and taking pictures.  I was so confused.  My experience with the police has not been positive in Laos.  I tried to go find a place to hide, but the police were looking in every room.  I backed into my own room… dank and dark.  I hoped they wouldn’t find me.  But they did.

A police officer took me by the hand and told me something in Laotian.  I saw Kalina down the hall and I tried to run for her.  The police officer kept talking to me in Laotian and I started to panic.  Kalina said something to the man who had her in broken Laotian.  She must have paid closer attention than I did in the past seven months.  The officer who had me looked down and looked me in the eyes and smiled.  I was terrified.

He took me around the corner and I watched in utter confusion as Palani and all of his employees were handcuffed and being taken away.  I also saw the man from outside and he smiled and waved.  I still didn’t understand.  The officer put Kalina and me in a car and we were taken away.  I didn’t know whether to feel relief or dread.  Could this really be over?  Were these police officers the same as what I’d already seen?  Or were they different?  Were they really there to help?

Kalina asked me the same questions in the car.  The officers said nothing, but we assumed they didn’t speak Russian.  We arrived at the police station and were met by people who spoke Russian who could talk to us.  We were given clean clothes, showers, a big, hot meal, and we were allowed to sit together.

The man who came in to talk to us sat down at the table.  He introduced himself as Kapono.  He told us that the man who had bought the running shoes, Lucas, had seen the bruises and scars on my arms in the store that first day and he had suspected that something wasn’t right, so he had gone to the police.  Kapono had explained that over the couple weeks since the first time Lucas had come in, several officers had come in in plain clothes, looking around, building a case, and ready to raid Palani’s ‘business’ efforts.  He also explained that between the trafficking, the drugs, the kidnapping, and the abuse and rape charges, Palani and his men wouldn’t be able to hurt anyone again.  He said we’d be moved to a center for girls who’d been rescued run by an organization specializing in rehabilitation for girls who’d gone through what we’d been through.  I still wasn’t sure that I trusted any of them, but the word rescue sure sounded promising.  This was a temporary measure, Kapono explained, until we could be returned to our families after some counselling, but they would inform our families if at all possible of our whereabouts.

Kalina and I were taken to the facility that night.  I had a warm bed, clean clothes, clean sheets, and people who seemed to care about me very much.  I hoped this would last, because it sure seemed too good to be true.

Stay tuned in March for details about Anna’s care at the rehabilitation facility.  For more information about organizations that help rescue people like Anna, please check out The Exodus Road.  There, you’ll find plenty of stories about people just like Anna, rescued from slavery and returned to their families.  Want a way you can help?  Check out Exodus Auctions.  You can get in contact with Exodus Road and if your product meets their requirements, they’ll help you sell it.  All proceeds would go to rescue victims of trafficking.

Anna’s Story, Part 2


We left Anna on a bus where the driver picked up a Chinese man, and handed over the passports of Anna and several other girls.  They knew they were in trouble.  I wrote Part 1 of Anna’s Story of being taken and sold into slavery as an attempt to get stories just like this one out there.  I may have made most of those details up, but this still happens for sure.  Anna had tried to secure a job as a Nanny in the US and was ready to move when her ride to the airport went the wrong way, and that’s where we’ll pick back up.

I’d been sitting on the bus for hours, alone.  It was hot.  It was stuffy.  I was scared.  We all were.  Scared didn’t cut it.  I was petrified.  I couldn’t move.  I knew I should make a run for it the next time we stopped to fuel, but my muscles wouldn’t do what my brain willed them to do.  I watched in horror though while Katarina, brave as she was, tried to do that very thing… run the next time we stopped.  The Chinese man we picked up shot her three times, and pocketed the amount of money I can only assume was what would have been needed to keep her alive.  So I sat.  I stared out the window and watched as the scenery changed.  I knew this trip was going to hold changes in scenery, but I expected to be in the air right now, headed for some place called Manhattan.  Buildings as far as the eyes can see.  My heart breaks every time I think about it.  I try to stop thinking about it, it’s clear that it’s not going to happen, but I can’t.  The pictures I saw on those ads keep floating through my head.

The bus kept moving for hours, days even.  I lost track.  The sun set and rose again in there somewhere I’m certain, but I don’t really remember.  We eventually crossed the border into Laos.  We arrived in what I assume was Vientiane, the capital.  I didn’t know why we were there, what was going to happen to us, but I know I wanted to die.  It couldn’t be good.  My passport had been sold, and I was hours from my home, my family… and with no way of telling them why no money would be coming from America.  They’d be bound to assume I took off, started loving my life in America, and kept the profit for myself.  My Mother would be heartbroken.

We finally stopped.  It was near dark again, and we were all yanked from our seats on the bus.  I looked so out of place; we all did.  I felt so white.  So white.  My skin is so white.  I remember thinking it over and over again.  “They all know why I’m here.  They know I’m not visiting.  They know.”

More money changed hands, and I was shoved into the backseat of a car in an alley.  I didn’t get a chance to say anything at all to the girls I’d met, even so briefly, on the bus in St. Petersburg.  I fought, I didn’t want to get in the car.  I would rather die.  I screamed that in Russian at the man trying to force me in, and he slapped me across the face.  I demanded to be let go.  I told them they couldn’t do this.  I screamed that slavery is illegal and that they’ll pay for this.  They hit me again and said something I didn’t understand.  I’m sure it meant I needed to keep my mouth shut or I’d pay.  I figured they were probably right; I stopped talking.

I was dragged back out of the vehicle at an enormous house.  I don’t know how long I’d been in the car for.  I was stunned.  For a moment I was speechless, but it didn’t last long.  A woman came out to greet me.  She spoke quickly and incomprehensibly in Laotian.  Or at least, I assume it was Laotian.  I didn’t speak it.  With my hands tied behind my back, I began to rail at her, at anyone who would listen.

“I don’t belong here!  I need to go to America!”  I screamed at them.  They stood and watched, almost amused.  It made me sick, and it made me even angrier.  They took me into the house and shoved me in a dark room, motioned that that’s where I’d be, untied my hands, and locked the door behind them.  It reeked of uncleanliness.  I missed my Mother so much.  My family.  My siblings.  I pleaded with God.  I would never again complain about the circumstances we lived in in Russia if He could just send me back home.  I eventually fell asleep on the wretchedly disgusting bed in the corner of the room.  I was cold and damp, and I cried myself into what would be the first of many very fitful nights’ sleep.

I woke up on my own with a faint shimmer of light piercing the darkness of my life through a crack in the concrete wall.  No wonder it was damp.  The night air had been seeping into what I could only assume was my new room.  I begged God to wake me up from this dream.  This nightmare.  No, that’s not even strong enough — this night terror.

Soon there was a voice yelling at me from the other side of the door, and a hand pounding against the wood.  I could tell by the tone of voice… “GET UP!”  I didn’t need to speak Laotian for that one.  The door unlocked, and in the doorway stood a large man and a grotesque woman.  The woman grabbed me by the wrist, led me to a supply closet, showed me the cleaning materials, and shoved me in.  I wasn’t given much instruction.  I knew though, that between what I had seen happen to Katarina and how unforgiving they’d been so far, I needed to just keep my head down and do my job.

I walked into a bathroom to clean it, and saw one of the girls from the bus.  It gave me hope and filled me with anguish at the same time.  We were both stuck.  We whispered to each other in Russian; we’d had the same dream.  We’d been headed for America, ready to support our families.  Kalina and I would smile hollow, empty smiles at each other for months to come, knowing that at least we had each other.

I realized quickly that I was a servant in this household.  Or at least, they thought of me as such.  I was their slave.  They would beckon, and they would bark orders at me in broken, barely comprehensible Russian or in Laotian.  Regardless, I had trouble understanding, and when I didn’t do things the right way, they beat me.  My owner spoke Russian fluently.  He would threaten me all the time, telling me that if I didn’t do what was asked of me, told to me, he would find my family and have them killed.  I became so numb that once I told him I didn’t care what he did to my family.  If they were dead I’d have no reason to live and I would kill myself.  That night was the last time I spoke up for myself, as I had never known pain like that before.  I became so numb and so cut off from who I had been, so excited to go to America and help my family, that even when the men of the house started coming to visit me at night, I didn’t care.  I did exactly what everyone wanted, all the time, whenever they wanted.  For as long as they wanted.  My life was no longer my own.  I cooked and cleaned all day, and I barely slept at night for what they wanted.

One morning I can remember waking up and looking at myself in a mirror as I cleaned a bathroom.  I saw very pale, very white skin.  I hated myself.  I knew it was what made me so desirable to everyone in this country; I was different, exotic.  It made me loathe everything I was.  I had lost track of how long it had been since I’d been taken from my family, and there was no end in sight.  No one even knew where I was.  No one could help me, because no one cared about the wrong that was being done here.  No one but me, Kalina, and the other girls whose names I didn’t even know.  We didn’t speak.  We just looked at each other sadly with eyes that knew.

 

 

To find out how Anna gets rescued, make sure you follow my blog and wait patiently (I can’t write it until I have the information) for Part 3!

Make sure you check out The Exodus Road for more information about real-life stories of rescue from slavery, as well as ways you can help.  One way you can do that is by checking out NightLight International, an organization that provides jobs for women who are prostitutes but want other work, and they also work in the counter-trafficking community in Bangkok, Thailand.  NightLight is a Christian organization that’s been a presence in Bangkok for the last eight years.  Check out Exodus Road’s post called Celebrate Hope, where they talk about the coalition they’ve made with NightLight.  Exciting stuff.  Unfortunately, the giveaway on there closes in an hour; sorry I didn’t get to writing this sooner.  But still, head on over to NightLight’s website and check out some of the fantastic stuff there!  I know I myself am a big jewelry junkie, and who wouldn’t want to support a great cause by buying something like this gorgeous bracelet from an organization that supports ending global slavery instead of from Ardene.

A Slave’s Story. Part One. Sold and Trafficked.


Hi, my name is Anna.

Привет, меня зовут Анна

I’m 15.  Up until the time that I’m telling you this story, I’ve lived with my mother in St. Petersburg, Russia.  This has always been my home.

Things have never been easy for us.  I don’t know my father, he’s not around, and my mother has had to work as a prostitute just to feed us.  She’s been doing this for as long as I can remember.  It’s hard on her.  There aren’t words for it, really.  She sells herself to feed me and my three younger siblings, and it breaks my heart.

I want more than this for her, for my family, and for me, but I’m not sure how to get it.  When I was 13 years old, I dropped out of school to work at a local bread shop.  It doesn’t make much.  Most weeks it barely feeds us…. but it helps.  That’s all that matters.  I wish I could do more.

I work every day.  It’s not a difficult job, I would never complain.  I just wish I could make more money.

One day as I was finishing at the bread shop, I was thinking… always thinking… about what I could do more to help.  I’m old enough now that this is partly my responsibility, too.  I walked home a little slower that day than I usually do.  I couldn’t tell you why, but I walked home slowly enough that as I was walking past a store I’d never really noticed before, I saw a sign in the window.

A free trip to America to work as a nanny.  It would pay $1000.00 USD per MONTH!  I can’t fathom that much money.  I’ve never seen so much in one place at one time in my life.  This would be unbelievable.  What my mother could do with $1000.00 US per month is unimaginable, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it.

I stood outside the window for a long, long time.  I wrung my hands and I thought.  Hard.  It would break my mother’s heart if I left Russia for America.  Russia is all I’ve ever known.  Is this possible?  Could I really do this?  I was so nervous.  I started to tremble and I felt slightly nauseous.

I walked into the store hesitantly and was greeted by a storekeeper who helped me apply.  It felt too good to be true, the whole time.  It made me wonder what could possibly be wrong with this.  Was there a catch?  Are there no qualified nannies in America?  What use could I be?  A 15 year old Russian girl who speaks no English?  But I pushed the thoughts out of my mind as I finished my application.  Catch or not, it’s $1000.00 per month, and my family couldn’t afford for me not to try.  For that much money, my mother could end her career as a prostitute in search of something that made less money, but didn’t kill her soul in the process.  Something she could be proud of.

Two days later, I handed my passport over to a man who told me that he would take care of all of the details of my flight to America.  It made me incredibly nervous to hand over my passport.  I’d always been taught that it was precious, that it was mine and only mine, and that I should never let it out of my sight.  But if it needed to be done….

I showed up with one bag packed.  I didn’t own much, anyway.  I’ve never needed much.  Just a little bit more than what I’ve always had.  Saying goodbye to my mother and my siblings was agonizing.  It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.  I knew though, that I had no choice.  I had to go.  It was this, or we would continue in this cycle that for many people in situations like ours simply never ends.

I burst into tears.  My mother hugged me.  My siblings begged me not to go.  I told them that I loved them, that I would write, and that I would send money, and we would see each other again.  I begged them not to worry about me.  Things were going to be different soon.

The man who’d taken my passport told me it was time to go, and I boarded the bus that was to take me to the airport, and then on to America.  I wasn’t alone, there were four other teenaged girls on the bus with me.  We started to chatter about what we thought America would be like, and what a difference we’d be making in the lives of our families.  We’d all seen the same posting in the same shop window.  None of us asked what I was sure we were all thinking… “Why does America need five teenaged nannies from Russia?”  We were just so thrilled.

It didn’t take me long to realize that this whole arrangement was, in fact, too good to be true.  The chatter on the bus stopped when we didn’t go to the airport.  When we crossed the border into China.  We started to ask questions, but we were ignored.  We were scared, we were hungry.  We asked for food and they gave us hardly anything.

My nightmare technically began the moment I walked into that shop, but the moment I realized that I was truly in terrifying trouble was when the Russian man driving the bus stopped, picked up a Chinese man, and handed over our passports in exchange for a wad of money.  The Chinese man was now riding at the front of the bus, staring at us intermittently, smiling in a way I’d never seen a man smile, holding our passports.  Something was very, very wrong.

To be continued……

So, here’s the deal.  As I’ve mentioned, I’m now a part of this blogging team for The Exodus Road.  I told you when I told you about this opportunity, one that allows me to write about something other than myself, that when I had more information from them, I would post.

They’ve given an opportunity in their most recent newsletter for their bloggers to take a few different angles at the information that they’ve given us.  One such angle is what I did above — telling Anna’s story creatively in four parts.  While I haven’t a clue what it’s like to be stolen from my family or taken advantage of at such a shocking level, I’ve done my best above (mostly through the information I was given) to try to think about how 15 year old Anna might be feeling as she was sold into the hands of a man in China, wondering whether or not she’d ever get home, when all she wanted to do was to go to America and try to find better circumstances for them.

It kills me to think of how often this happens.

One of the other ways they offered as a suggestion for us to post some of this information was to give you, our readers, some statistics and facts.

So here are some.  Because I found for me, being decent at creative writing, I can string a story together… I can work with the character I’ve been given… but it wasn’t until I got to the bottom of the email with the factual information about the modern day slave trade that my heart began to hurt.

Here are some links or facts you might find interesting.

About Asia and the Sex Industry:

According to the International Labor Organization, four Asian countries depend on the sex industry for 2% to as high as 14% of their economies. UNICEF reports in The State of the Worlds Children 2012, that out of the 2.5 million people trafficked in the world it is estimated that 22 – 50 percent of them are children.  Of those trafficked some studies show that most trafficked underage women are used in the sex industry. The UNODC’s report: Global report on trafficking in persons 2012 states that much of that activity happens in SE Asia.

– Facts compiled by a recent Exodus Road blogger who traveled to Asia and saw these things First Hand.  I have taken these facts right from the newsletter that was sent to me.  I’ve given credit where the links were provided to me.

{My inserted opinion:  That’s a shocking number!  That’s 550,000-1,250,000 CHILDREN being sold and trafficked.  If my math is correct.  Not that human trafficking is OK if it’s adults, or any less heinous… just… those poor children.  It makes my heart sad.}

About Trafficking in the US:

In the United States, the number of trafficking victims is roughly equivalent to the number of murders each year, according to “The Slave Next Door” by Kevin Bales. And while 90 percent of murder cases are solved, only 1 percent of trafficking cases ever reach prosecution. – CNN Freedom Project

About the Money Slavery Generates: (From CNN Freedom Project – The Facts.  {This is shocking.  These numbers are gut-wrenching.  I had no idea….})

freedom.number.t1larg.4.ok

Here’s where I’m at a loss for words.  And if you know me personally, you know that doesn’t happen often…. even if you only know me through my writing, I’m sure you can assume I can yammer with the best of folks…. but here I truly don’t know what to say, because I don’t know what to do.  For now, my job is to be a voice.  And a voice to you I have been… and will continue to be.  Want to find out what happens to Anna?  You’ll have to wait for parts 2, 3, and 4… I don’t have that information yet, or I would tell you right now.  I really want to know, and I can’t wait to tell you.

One way the people at Exodus Road have suggested we can do something is to buy a t-shirt.  I know, it sounds so trivial.  But 100% of the profits from the sale of this tshirt go directly into the field to help fund operations and rescue missions.  Check out a bit of a mission statement from Justin, a guy who is doing a ton of work with Exodus Road.

Check out the tshirt!

shirtFront

Go to the link above if you’d like to get yourself one of these snazzy shirts.  Limited time only.

I’ll leave you with this.

Isaiah 58:1-14  The Message

I picked The Message because, while it’s not my favourite translation (you may have noticed that I favour the NLT), it packs a pretty powerful punch here.  Check it out.

1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!
Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

3-5 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
Yes! God says so!

That’s it… please follow and stay tuned for the rest of Anna’s story.