this past week in texas we had 4 days of wonderful, beautiful, glorious snow. i love the snow. i love winter. i love boots, coats, hats, hot chocolate, tea, fires, baking, family, fun, all the things that come with winter. so when school was called off and we were stuck inside for 4 days, i was not unhappy unlike most texans. i hate the summer. i hate the deathly, sweltering, non-stop texas heat that comes without fail every single year, and every year it seems to last longer and longer. it is the busiest time of the year for me work wise, but even when i was a kid it was busy-never really got a break. i love to read. i don’t get to read all that often, and when i was in college i didn’t have time to read. i read way more now because i married jonathan who got his degree in english literature and loves to read. so in these past 4 days i have read my little heart out and enjoyed every moment of it. however, my husband was getting quite the cabin fever so on thursday we decided to be brave and venture out. we didn’t go far, just to jupiter house, our favorite local coffee shop. we met our friend michelle there and while jonathan was doing some writing, michelle and i were of course talking. this past wednesday at our church we were supposed to have our monthly prayer night, but it was unfortunately cancelled due to the inclement weather. as we were chatting, michelle asked me if i knew anything about one of the things we were supposed to be praying for, sex slavery, and how this weekend thousands of women and children would be smuggled into this country, into arlington, texas for that matter, illegally and under false pretenses because of the super bowl (the super bowl is not the cause, but it makes it easy and profitable for this business).
i told her what i knew, that human trafficking is a major problem that not very many people know about. i told her the little facts i knew and some stories i had in my last semester of college with my internship placement. we began a deeper conversation about how horrible this industry, because it is a very profitable industry, is. After we talked, i began praying, and my wheels began turning, and when school was called off again the next day, jonathan and i ventured out again to the library. in lieu of the darkness i knew was happening this weekend for thousands of helpless and scared women and children, i wanted to read a book about it. when i read books, i rarely ever want to read something that i can turn off my brain and unwind with (like the harry potter series i’m totally addicted to right now). i typically want to read about things i’m actually interested in, which is mostly social justice issues (i got my degree in social work-and God just wired me that way). i was searching for one book i had heard about but cannot for the life of me remember the name, when i came across a summary of this book: The Road to Lost Innocence, The True Story of a Cambodian Hero. So we searched for it, found it, and i read half of it in one day.
this book is the story of Somaly Mam, a woman who was sold into the sex slave trade in Cambodia at age 12. she was an orphan, was given over to a man she was forced to call “grandfather” who traded her for sex to pay of his debts. the atrocities this woman went through…i have no words for. this book is gripping, and quite honestly, i know many people who will read the first few chapters, close it, and put it back on the shelf because it’s too graphic. quite honestly, the girl had to leave quite a bit out and could have been way more detailed. she was repeatedly raped, beaten, tortured with chains, snakes, maggots, guns, knives, but mostly men. she was controlled and sold. the khmer word for prostitute in Cambodia actually means “broken woman, unmendable.” throughout the book, even to the very end, she still feels dirty. she still smells the wretched smell of the brothels, the men, she still has nightmares of the rapes, the torture, the thousands upon thousands of women who are sold and trafficked not only in Cambodia, but Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, all throughout Southeast Asia. her story, however, is beautifully dangerous of how she was rescued, what changed her life, her bravery of going back and decade long (and still going) fight to bring justice to a country that knows none, where “justice” is bought with money, where the fight is a war and an uphill battle to end the sexual abuse of these girls, many as young as five years old. this book will make your stomach turn, gasp, cry, enraged, and somewhat hope. i don’t want to give too much away, because i really want you to read it. the stories in this book, not only of Somaly’s but of thousands of others she’s helped along her journey, are true, real, brutal, and need to be heard. and by the way, did you know that there are women and children in the U.S.A. that are trafficked as sex slaves?
i heard about this issue in the spring of 2007, my second semester at UNT in my very first social work class (i hadn’t even gotten into the program yet). every week my professor would bring in a speaker from a different agency, typically a unt undergrad. one girl she brought in was from an agency in dallas called Mosaic Family Services. her opening statement was, “did you know that slavery still exists in America?” i thought the girl was crazy. but then she explained herself, further and further and by the end i was stunned and speechless. i had no idea this happened in the world, and i especially had no idea it was happening in my own backyard. i didn’t know then, but God was preparing my heart for 3 years later. later on, the issue was still important to me, but i did little research, my main focus was in child welfare (as if sex slavery isn’t child abuse). However, when the time for my internship came, all the possibilities i wanted were not available (i really wanted something in adoptions, but there were either no contacts or it was too far away, tried hospitals but you have to be a master’s student). my minor was spanish and i had already interned with CPS, but finally, the week before i was supposed to start, my professor called me to tell me i would be interning at an agency dealing with victims of relationship violence and sexual assault. they needed a bilingual advocate (which i do not consider myself bilingual, especially now since i’m out of practice). day after day i heard women’s stories, slaves in their own home, and although i never worked with any, knew that the agency had helped many women who were indeed trafficked here.
my experience there was hard, but it is one i would never take back and hold near and dear to my heart. looking back on my years in school and the countless hours of volunteering i did, i met many children, young girls i mentored, that were basically sex slaves, whether it was their father, uncle, stepfather, brother or even mother, it happened in their home for years. if we would just open up our eyes, they are literally everywhere. the evil of it all is right here, one of the biggest trafficking areas of all. so the next time you think about or see a prostitute, they’re probably here under false pretenses, don’t immediately judge them, as i know i have. the whole thing, which Somaly talks about in her book, started to pay back debts. they are told that they are going to work as a maid, or in a restaurant, or on a farm, and end up on the streets and in brothels. mothers in Cambodia know they can get money so they sell their own daughters to be prostitutes. and many times, they do it more than once! if they owe anyone money, they sell the girl and she “works” until their debt is “paid” and only the pimps know how long that is. girls are abducted-it is a booming and growing industry. there is much profit and that’s what they care about-the money. don’t believe it happens here? read this . don’t believe that thousands of foreign, underage girls are going to be going through horrible things tonight after everybody gets drunk at the super bowl? read this. as my friend michelle said, and thinking about the atrocities happening not only in arlington tonight, but all over the world, “if that doesn’t make you want Jesus to come back, i don’t know what will.”
my heart hurt while reading these tragic stories, but i would read the book again. Somaly is not a believer, and i pray that happens one day, truly i do because her work is so great. the whole time i was reading it i was thinking, if only you had the power of the Spirit, your work would be so much more! if only you knew that there is One who makes you white as snow, you’re not dirty, you can be clean! ever since i went to Japan in 2005 and lived with many Japanese girls in 2006, i’ve always had a heart for Asia, and after reading this book it grew more. and i was thinking what michelle said, “Jesus come back.” the injustice is sickening. only He can restore. He can bring total healing and restoration. and the beauty of it is…one day, He will.