Nine Year Old Girls Rescued in Laos
The first thing an expat said to me when talking of my move to Laos to fight against the sexual slavery of children was: “I didn’t know that was even a problem there!” Yes, it’s a problem. A big one. So big in fact that Laos communities are watching it happen without even realising they are witnessing a criminal act. The children of Laos are being forced to move away from their homes to find work, families sell some of them so they can eat for the next two weeks, and others are being trafficked into the darkest places you can imagine to be used over and over again for financial gain and personal pleasure.
Poverty is so prevalent here that it does not look out of the ordinary for a child to be working behind a bar, or selling merchandise on the street. These kids are doing what their culture has been telling them to do for years: do whatever it takes to provide for your family. What these communities neglect to put much thought into, and what tourists don’t realise, is that behind each child is someone pushing them to do so much more than you and I could even imagine.
Our girls have little to no education behind them leaving very few options to find work in a safe environment. Instead they are forced out in the open to be preyed upon by people who see them as dollar signs instead of the precious children that they are. Girls as young as nine years old are pouring into our homes with experiences that no human being should ever have to endure. My heart breaks every day as I meet with these girls.
A few days ago our rescue agent brought a 12-year-old girl named Katy* into our home. She had come from three months of forced sexual slavery which was happening behind the doors of a popular karaoke bar here in Laos. Katy thought she had found a job serving food and drinks to customers, and was so happy to be able to work and provide for her family. After one night of serving as a waitress Katy was asked by her boss to go to a room upstairs, take a shower, and wait for further instruction. She had no idea what was waiting for her. When a strange man entered the room and forced himself onto her Katy fought for her protection only to be met with blows that left her beaten and weak. Katy’s innocence was taken from her that night. She was left broken both physically and mentally after a night of repeated abuse, and this was just the beginning.
Katy is not just one girl but many. I have heard this same story over and over. Girls like Katy have fought back hard enough to earn themselves days of being locked up in dirty bathrooms and basements without food or water. Others have had to defend themselves against three or more abusers at one time. It’s sickening. And after all that they have been through; after the people that should be protecting them have sold them, and after the ones that promise them a bright future betray them, they still have the guts to say ‘yes’ to the Destiny Rescue agents that come into their workplaces and offer them an escape. These girls are strong. They have a resilience in them that I have never seen before. They are not just survivors. These girls are warriors!
We currently have over 180 girls in our care with more coming into our homes every week. They are healing, learning, and growing every day through counselling sessions, life skills classes, vocational training, public school, and traineeship programs that will ensure each child is equipped to reintegrate safely back into their community in the future. Our house parents who live with the girls in each of our four houses pour their love and care into the lives of these children every day.
The husbands that work as house parents during the day double as our rescue agents through the night. In my opinion they are the heroes of Laos. These men work tirelessly to see each girl they meet in the darkness of sexual slavery to be brought into the light where they can become whole again. Our small but strong and passionate team love showing these children how to be kids again. On the weekends we play soccer, take trips to waterfalls, and create days filled with games, music and food. Hearing the laughter and joyful screams of these children as they play is what drives us to do more.
We have the opportunity to give these girls the tools they need to rise up and be who they were created to be before wickedness tried to consume them. Every single girl in each of our homes shows hunger for more and soaks up every opportunity they have to learn and grow. These girls won’t be girls for long. They are quickly becoming the mighty women they were created to be.
The future of Laos is bright because a fire in the hearts of these girls is being ignited by the stand you and I have made to say that the sexual slavery of children will not be tolerated. These girls and future rescued children have the power to change the hearts and minds of their communities, and their countries. What we do right now will affect the hearts and minds of these children, and will create ripple effects that will spread throughout communities and cultures worldwide.
By Renee Chopping
Destiny Rescue Laos Volunteer
*Katy’s name has been changed to protect her identity
We are rescuing girls every week in Laos and our Aftercare Homes are filling up quickly! It takes a lot of time and resources to help these children heal and experience freedom again; if you would like to be part of the healing process of the girls in Laos you can join our Sponsor a Home program! For more information click here.