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A group of women walked down the street: 4 foreigners and a Thai girl. Women tourists were always walking past, looking at her, usually with cameras. She supposed they found it amusing to see men groping her; seeing what it looks like to be worthless, trashy and the lowest of society. Some looked disapproving and she knew it was aimed at her, but what could she do? Of course she knew he was married. She’d seen the glint of his ring as the light bounced off it and felt the cold metal contrasting with his clammy hand against her skin as he rubbed her bottom, but if she said “No”, the Mamasan would slap her again. It was her job to make him happy, no matter what he wanted to do. Anyway, she had stopped looking at women’s faces a while back, it was only the men she needed to entice.

The Thai girl from the group of women approached her Mamasan as the foreigners hovered close by. She moved in to hear what they were talking about. Why would these women be here? What could they want? Are they lesbians? ‘Please don’t buy me’, she thought.

Could it be true? A Christmas party with no men and they were willing to pay her bar fine? Her friend was telling her that the party last year was fun. With the Mamasan’s permission, she cautiously agreed to go, as long as her friends went too.

Five of them went off to get dressed and came back fifteen minutes later to find one of the foreign women, Leah, waiting for them and smiled as they approached. Leah seemed nice. But then, clients often do at first.

Getting to the hotel where the party was, took a long walk. She had heels on and her feet hurt but she kept smiling as Leah chatted away.

Finally entering the hotel, she saw him. Her face dropped. “There are men here? I HATE men!” She spat through gritted teeth. Leah assured her that he was just a friend helping her and would not be joining them for the party. The party was for her and her friends to have fun – no men.

Cautiously she moved forward but everything was as Leah had said! There were crafts and games – she particularly liked musical chairs and limbo, small gifts, a famous singer performed, and some girls did karaoke; she was enjoying herself so much she didn’t even notice that it was a man who had jumped onto the platform. ‘That man speaking is from my village! He’s so funny.’ She thinks as she looks across at Leah who is looking around smiling and catches her eye. Leah shrugs, and she laughs. ‘Leah doesn’t seem to understand anything, perhaps this really is for me!’

As waiters serve the meal she is glad to be sitting with her friends though she notices girls from other bars at tables around her laughing and having fun. A Thai woman, Ann, takes the mic and introduces girls who used to work in bars like hers. Ann talks about a Home where she could go and finish her education, some of those girls have already graduated! She takes a photo of the phone number on the screen, after all, you never know.

The evening draws to a close with a raffle and Ann picks out names of girls winning prizes. She is disappointed because her friend won a prize and she didn’t, but suddenly Leah reaches under the table and reveals a bag with presents for everyone at the table. She received make-up!

Grinning happily to herself she heads home thinking about the evening, pushing away the twinge of guilt that she did not make any money tonight to send back to her family, but she did have fun. Maybe she will call that number tomorrow and see if she can go to that home. Maybe she can finish her education. Maybe they will take her sister too so she doesn’t have to work in the bar!

Tomorrow she will call Ann and see if there is actually hope in this hell that freezer van had brought her to.

~~~> In case you missed it, click here for Part 1! <~~~

*** Disclaimer: Details have been changed to protect identities.

She was just a child when he took it from her. He was driving her home when suddenly he pulled off the road and dragged her out of the car. After raping her time and time again he drove off, leaving her battered and bruised – almost dead.

Somehow she made it home and her mother took care of her, unable to press charges as he was a man and they were simply women. They had hoped to avoid him, but a week later he had broken into their house and was threatening to abuse her mother and sisters unless she did what he wanted. This was how she learned to be compliant and do what men wanted to keep them happy; to protect her family. He moved in that day.

Years later he eventually found someone new and moved on. Being the oldest girl at 14, she was now expected to be the financial provider and here was an opportunity… a man had come to the village and was offering a good job in Bangkok! She decided to trust this man and went with him into the jungle. After 2 days of waiting, she got nervous and decided to go home, but the man wouldn’t let her leave and raped her in front of the other women waiting – letting them all know that he was in charge and they weren’t going anywhere!

When the freezer van did eventually turn up, it was packed with women and girls, and they had to sit on each others’ shoulders for the long ride to Bangkok. It was dark, bumpy and uncomfortable. Upon arrival, they were sold to a bar in the red-light district where she was ordered to serve men.

How could she go home? How could she tell her family that she had been so foolish? How could she tell them she was now considered one of the lowest in society? How could they possibly accept her back? So she shut off her heart and started listening to her head. “I will do as well as I can, and make as much money as I can to send back to my family. Then they will be pleased with me and I will make them proud! Maybe one of these Western men will want to marry me and they will take care of my family. This is my new dream. This is my way out.”

So here she stands, being sexually exploited; begging men to choose her. Knowing at any moment, any one of these men could get violent, or refuse to wear a condom… giving her AIDS or getting her pregnant. There could be more than one man in his hotel room and they could gang rape her; anything could happen. But maybe, just maybe, this will be the one to save her.

After all, this is her choice…. right?

~~~> Click here for Part 2 <~~~

*** Disclaimer: Details have been changed to protect identities.

It was the end of the evening and we were handing out gifts. For some, it was the only thing they had ever received that was free. When I finally came to her there were only two presents left so I held them out; a choice, her choice. One wrapped gift and one teddy. Without a moment’s hesitation she reached out and grabbed the teddy pulling it close and not letting go. Such purity, such innocence. She had smiled and laughed all evening.

I don’t know how she ended up in the red light district of Bangkok. I don’t know her story. But I know it all changed from here. She had captured my attention so I knew when I came back I would be looking for her and I did. Six months past before I was able to visit but within those six months she must have faced something awful. Her innocence and light had gone and she was now drugged and drunk out of her mind; her eyes unable to focus, her smile forced and vague. My heart shattered.

Six months later, a year from our initial meeting, I was back again and this time she wore high heels and a tight red dress that clung to her like a shield. She belonged here; not just belonged, she owned her status. This is who she is. Untouchable.

Unwilling to give me the time of day, she walked past and into the arms of men desperate for her. Men who didn’t truly see, who didn’t care – this was the empty shell they had made her to be. The innocent girl was gone and what remained was a shadow of a woman surviving the rape she faced every night by shutting herself off and giving the illusion of being in control.

I’ll never forget her or her transformation. I’ll never stop wishing I had done more to reach her before the hell she went through took over.

She and others like her are why I believe in O.O.E. She and girls like her are why I keep going back to Thailand to help the Home of New Beginnings. She is why I know that every girl [or boy] rescued from this horrific industry is worth every effort and penny.

Will you join me in the fight to end human trafficking, to give hope and a way to those who think they don’t have a choice Check out this fb post for more info on how you can help!