Hiding under a bed or in the cool shadows of a small closet is where she feels most at home. She seeks refuge in the silent corners of guestrooms hastily abandoned by starry-eyed tourists. She slips quietly in after they hurry out to ride elephants, to Thai massages, or to the endless collecting of trinkets in the colorful markets. She hopes to remain unseen by the predators prowling, feeding on terror. Tragically, her reprieve will only last as long as the sun remains high. With the approach of darkness, so comes the demand. He might be persuaded to spend as much as $100 to have a trembling 13-year-old child fulfill his sinister sexual fantasies.
She should be in school, laughing with friends over silly things boys do. Instead, she has learned exactly how to submit to a grown man with as little pain as possible. Who had the right to school her in this fashion? She should be innocent and naïve to the horrors that one person can inflict on another. Instead, she will forever look at an outstretched hand through the lens of torturous abuse. Who had the right to steal her innocence with violence? She should be wrestling with the tumultuous changes of puberty instead of wrestling to keep her screams silent. Who had the right to imprison her voice? She should dream of a future, but instead, she dwells day and night in a living nightmare. Who had the right to trample the dream of a child? Perhaps I should pray for these men’s repentance, their forgiveness. Perhaps, you will forgive me if I cry out for the wrath of God to crush them instead.
Despair. It does not begin to describe the life of this woman-child. This is where we found her, but it is not where God left her.
By God’s grace and in His sovereignty, he brought this child to my attention. Her downcast eyes shouted out a story that her mouth would not convey. Seeing the red flags of her surroundings and her behavior, I was immediately compelled to go to work. Lunch easily forgone, and an afternoon meeting delayed, I began to make the necessary calls. It took 24 hours to coordinate all the necessary parties and activate an investigation. The guesthouse was located, and the team began to try to confirm our worst suspicions. It took 18 days for the men undercover to gain enough trust to verify that the child was indeed being sold for sex. The next night doors were broken down, and arrests were made to set the captive free. The child was taken to a local hospital for evaluation and then into a safe house. She will be integrated into a home that specializes in caring for children rescued from the violence of sexual exploitation. The home she is placed in will depend on whether she has contracted HIV/AIDS during her two years of captivity. This is her fourth day of freedom. She is now free to hide, free to be seen, free to laugh, to cry, to dream, even to scream if she wants. The God who created her is in pursuit of her heart. He can heal her; He will heal her. I know because once upon a time, I, too, hid in the shadows.