Every night I heard the rhythm of rape-for-profit. It was all that I could do to try to sleep at night. I spent my days feeding and holding children with severe mental and physical disabilities; the last thing that I wanted to do was go to sleep in a brothel buried in the forgotten corners of Saigon.
As soon as the sun set, management would place numbers on the doors of the vacant rooms in the hotel. Minutes later, girls and boys would arrive on the back of motorbikes and get directed as to which room they were to occupy. After that, the johns would show up, a group composed of a disturbing blend of natives and Western tourists.
And for nearly twelve hours, from sundown to sun up, these men would filter in and out of the rooms that held the girls and boys captive.
I have to confess, I was more annoyed than I was heartbroken for the victims of rape. But two weeks later, I was curled up in a ball on the rooftop of a hotel in Phnom Penh convulsing from the reality of what I had experienced in Vietnam – and then from what I was witnessing in Cambodia.
My heart was breaking in the most painful way imaginable.
I heard someone say a few years ago, “Our hearts must break before our hands can move.” Until that experience in Phnom Penh, I had never really experienced a genuine shattering of my most intimate visions and dreams for life; equally, I’ve never been more provoked to movement.
For four years, I’ve educated myself as extensively as possible on the issue of human trafficking. I’ve attended conferences, written articles, spoken at events, engaged in conversations, and even traveled back to Southeast Asia to assist other organizations, such as Transitions, in their efforts to plant a future in the hearts of survivors of modern day slavery.
But you want to know what the hardest thing for me is? The hardest thing for me is when I’m standing in front of a group of grown men, with their focus fixed like flint on everything but the thing that I’m talking about, and knowing that I’m going to walk away having made no dent in their hearts.
It’s discouraging when hearts don’t care. Yet… there’s hope.
I was recently at a fundraising event for an anti-trafficking non-profit that assists victims of childhood sexual abuse and sex trafficking in Atlanta. Some friends and I had created a walk-thru experience of a typical American girl and her journey into, and out of, sex trafficking.
Hundreds of people walked through the exhibit, but one of the most moving visuals I had from that evening was seeing grown men – fathers, sons, and possibly abusers – standing in a river of tears at the end of the exhibit. Their hearts had shattered as they moved through the story of a little girl’s life gone awry.
It says a lot about the power of story.
For me, my heart was broken in Cambodia so that I could affect change on the injustice of modern day slavery. For some women, the thought of abuse is provocation enough. And for grown men, perhaps they have to walk through an experience before they “get it”.
The point is: I’ve been moved to action, but I guess I’m wondering though… have you let your heart break yet?
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