A picture is worth a thousand words, but all I can offer you is my words.
I’m looking at a photo on my laptop. I can’t show it to you, but if I could, you would experience both compassion and revulsion.
I’ll call her Aadea. She’s sitting on a bed, waiting, wearing jeans and a white shirt, like any other girl her age. Aadea has beautiful brown eyes. They still have the sparkle of childhood, although she’s 16.
I have a niece around her age — Bethany. Bethany spends her days doing homework, playing guitar with friends, and working at a local vet’s office.
Aadea was about to start working, too, but not at a vet’s office or an ice cream shop like some of the 16-year-olds I know. Aadea was about to be sold for sex for the very first time.
She is an inexperienced village girl and — I don’t want to type this, but — it costs extra to be the first one to rape her. Aadea is a victim of human trafficking. At the age of 16, a female trafficker was going to profit off of selling her for the very first time.
Thank God, there were investigators actively looking for girls like Aadea. The Exodus Road got a tip about a 16-year-old who was going to be sold for the first time at a premium rate. Our investigators were able to gather enough evidence so that they and the local police could move on the case. They showed up within hours of Aadea arriving at the brothel for the first time. Her traffickers, three of them, were arrested, and Aadea was rescued. Aadea’s sexual abuse won’t be sold for profit.
Herein lies the challenge so many nonprofit workers like me face: If I could show you Aadea’s face, if you could see her soft brown eyes, if you could know her name and her story, you would be moved to act. The commoditization of the rape of a child, a child whose eyes we can look into, would enrage us. We would stand up and fight. We would scream at the evil and injustice until everyone was listening.
But, of course, I’m not going to show you her face. I’m not going to tell you her real name. Aadea is a child and the victim of a crime, with rights to dignity and privacy amidst this unthinkable situation.
So often my colleagues and I in the nonprofit sector are faced with this conundrum: How do you compel people to respond to an anonymous problem? To care deeply about a faceless tragedy, or, rather, a tragedy with real faces that you will never see?
In 2015, it took the photo of a 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a beach in Greece to wake people to the European refugee crisis. In 1984, it took the photo of the “Afghan Girl” in National Geographic to move people with the humanity of Afghan refugees. In 1972, it took the photo of the “Napalm Girl” to alert the world to the horror of chemical warfare in Vietnam.
The photo of Aadea sitting on a bed, where she sat waiting to be raped for profit, could wake the world. But Aadea doesn’t deserve that. Aadea will not be defined by her worst moment. Her face will fade back into blessed anonymity because people chose to respond even though they’d never see her face.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but I only have my words to offer: Right now, there is a girl in India in a brothel who is being forced to have sex by her traffickers. There is a boy in Thailand who is being offered on Twitter for sex. There is a girl in Latin America being coerced to perform sex acts online. I can’t show you their faces. Not now, and not when they are (hopefully) liberated.
But I’d like to ask if you would make a commitment to them.
Would you join The Exodus Road’s Search + Rescue team to find and free them?
Your monthly subscription as part of Search + Rescue will deploy operatives, law enforcement, and aftercare workers to rescue women and children trapped in sex trafficking. You will be giving our frontline teams the stability necessary for this vital work. 100% of your monthly gift will be used for front-line work. You’ll also receive regular updates of the rescues you have enabled.
By joining this community of like-minded abolitionists, you will be one of the people who help free girls like Aadea.
Aadea’s story ended in freedom because people stood up and fought. The Search + Rescue community funded investigations so that Aadea would never be sold.
Will you join them and stand up and shout against this faceless tragedy?
Yes! I want to be part of this community!
100% of your monthly gift will be used for front-line intervention and aftercare work.
You can trust your gift will be used with transparency and accountability. Learn more about our Search + Rescue community.