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Deployment Story: Meeting Sepo

Deployment Story from an Undercover Operative

Sepo. I can’t forget her.

She was selling herself on the street. She was from Zambia, and her smile was pure. To her, I was just another prospective john, but she treated me like a genuine friend.

And it’s that fact that has me in tears, weeks after deployment.

She’d been trafficked — sold on the idea that she’d teach English, only to discover upon her arrival to the city that there was no teaching job, that she now owed her traffickers 7,000 U.S. dollars, and she had only one way of paying it off. In that way, a sale to me would have represented another small step toward her freedom. What a price to pay.

Her price was about $60 USD, but it was negotiable. She would take whatever I could afford, and in return, I could take her body. She shared her story with me, which was heartbreaking. But the really gut-wrenching aspect of all of it never really hit home until I spoke with my post-deployment counselor.

The thing is, Sepo was a captive, but she was not crushed.

Despite her enslavement, she behaved with dignity and humility. . . . Sepo’s smile, though offered through a thousand different pains, felt so genuine. Her words did not bite or sting. She spoke with me as with a friend. . . . There she was, a slave, and yet she passed no pain or bitterness on to me — a presumed predator of her vulnerability.

I break down in tears remembering Sepo’s resiliency and strength. On one hand [in this work], one can see the horrific evil of which the human heart is capable, and in the same moment, through the demeanor of someone like Sepo, the greatness of humanity’s spirit is fully displayed.

– Aaron, DELTA Team Investigator, in his personal journal
June 27, 2017, after a deployment to SE Asia 
DELTA Team investigators work with national staff to collect valuable evidence for police partners so that women like Sepo will be freed from human trafficking. And while these expert men and women who work undercover are inspirations, they all report leaving deployments deeply changed and inspired themselves. Sepo’s case is still in progress.

*Sepo is a representative name meaning hope. Names and locations are changed to protect the exploited and those working for their rescue. The above is an excerpted journal entry from an actual operative. 

Want to help bring rescue? Learn more about our Search & Rescue program. 

The Realities of Rescue || Inside Operation TIGER

Nate Griffin India IMG_2320

There are many complexities that go into rescue work; there are ALWAYS cultural nuances to be aware of, social systems to understand, and survivor interactions that take place during a raid. On April 28th, we broke a rescue announcement where seven girls were freed from forced prostitution in India, and four traffickers were arrested. Here are some details from Operation Tiger.

The particular community in rural India, where the raid took place, has been known to gather together and attack police as a mob. Knowing this, BRAVO Team had to arrange for a police team with sufficient man-power in the event a mob formed. Our team of nationals courageously choose to pursue the raid anyway despite the risk to personal safety.

In a field report, BRAVO Team investigators explained that during the raid, all the survivors were completely shocked to see the police team. From the report: “The girls didn’t know what was going on. They were requesting to be released because they thought the police were arresting them, and not rescuing them. A few of them even wanted to run away. They were confused…” Thankfully our team and social workers were able to explain to them that they were not going to be arrested, but were actually being removed from the brothel, and then they were able to calm down.

While in some parts of the world human trafficking looks like run-aways on city streets, in India survivors are often kidnapped at very young ages from their home villages. They are held until they reach womanhood and are then forced into prostitution. At that point forward, they have to attend multiple customers a day.

Aditi*, one of the minor girls who was rescued in Operation Tiger, had been forced into sexual slavery for the past year and half. She had no education, and came from a very poor family. She was likely kidnapped from her village.

Investigators from BRAVO Team found Aditi in a small roadside brothel. The investigators described it as a very low profile brothel, with only a cot or a bed sheet on the floor for sex. BRAVO Team had investigated this brothel in the past and found minors there before. After engaging police support, the successful raid was completed. Six of the girls who were rescued were minors, the youngest being only 12 years old.

For now, Aditi will be kept in a government safe home, and a local Child Welfare Committee will asses her case, along with the other girls’, and make further decisions concerning post-raid care. From a village to a brothel, Aditi is now safe and that is reason to celebrate.

 

 

*Aditi is a representative name meaning free and unbound. All photos used here are representative.

 

Thank you to our friends at Messenger International who funded this raid and helped make freedom possible. 

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