The Exodus Road partners with 15 trained undercover investigators in Southeast Asia to rescue children enslaved in the sex trafficking industry. They work on a case-by-case basis, funding and investigating a case from initial contact to raid and prosecution. Sarah was one of those cases. Here’s her story:
They met Sarah in a brothel in Southeast Asia. There was a line of prostitutes behind a glass wall, a fishbowl they call it. They were sitting on high bar stools, with heavy make-up and short skirts, numbers pinned to their shoulders, displayed for the customers on the other side of the glass.
And then, they brought in Sarah. She was “fresh,” the pimp had told the lead investigator over the phone. Sarah was dressed in street clothes, head down, hands fiddling nervously with a napkin. She was 15 and had been sold by her mother in a neighboring country several days before to work off a debt which her mother owed. Sarah’s virginity had been sold three days prior for $600 USD.
Let that sink in for a minute. Then take a look at these numbers:
What is a human life worth?
Back to Sarah’s story.
Sarah could not speak the local language, was kept under close watch daily, and had no access to a cell phone or any communication from the outside world. She had been slipped illegally across borders by a system of traffickers that has become a global highway of modern day slaves.
With covert cameras, Exodus Road investigators were able to record the sale of Sarah for the night, capturing valuable evidence that could be passed on to the trusted authorities in hopes of the pimp’s prosecution. Later, behind a closed door, the Exodus Road operative was able to call a social worker who spoke Sarah’s language. He explained that he was there to help her, not to hurt her, and that he could aid her escape if she wanted. Unfortunately, Sarah was too scared to run, too scared to trust a stranger, understandably.
The following day, the investigator returned to visit Sarah in the brothel, just blocks away from a crowded local market. She scribbled a note, “Please Rescue Me,” on a bill and slipped it to him.
She wanted out, but didn’t know the way.
Immediately, the investigator gave his testimony and video evidence to the authorities and asked the government to conduct a raid on Sarah’s behalf. It was believed that 10 or more girls were also being held against their wills at the same brothel where they found Sarah.
In late August, the team of investigators The Exodus Road is able to help fund worked in connection with the local government in SouthEast Asia to raid Sarah’s brothel. It was a collective effort of several NGO’s, two of which are involved with The Exodus Road, and several government and police agencies. It was a professional operation, spearheaded chiefly by The Exodus Road lead investigator, which took the course of three days and resulted in the discovery of eight underage victims and the arrests of the brothel owners.
After weeks of waiting, Sarah’s door was kicked in. The note she scribbled to the investigator on a piece of currency which said, “Please rescue me,” finally got answered.
And while it did require more time, money, and manpower than first assumed, the team pursued Sarah’s freedom with tenacity, a reminder that there are brave men and women on the front lines who live the belief that child slavery is unacceptable.
And Sarah’s life will never be the same because of it.
Sarah isn’t the only one. Every 60 seconds worldwide, a child is sold for sex. The Exodus Road is working to rescue girls (and boys) like Sarah. To find out how to partner with them in rescuing children from sex trafficking, visit the Web site to learn more. Tell others. Fund a raid. Buy a covert camera. But, please, don’t do nothing.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” — Theodore Roosevelt