Shame continue to keep children enslaved long after they have been rescued from sexual exploitation. Their minds replay what they have experienced; they are bound by their terrible secrets.

Words by Tracey Heers

Almost without exception, rescued children never want anyone in their families, particularly their mothers, to know what has been done to their bodies and what acts they have had to perform. Their shame is crippling, pervading their minds and robbing them of peace.

Their bodies bear secrets of terrifying depravity; their minds struggle under memories of severe trauma; flashbacks are common. Panic is close by, its icy fingers tearing at their fragile recoveries.

Healing takes time. It takes gentleness and so much love. The cords of shame must be unwound from their psyches, ever so tenderly. If the defenses of a sexually abused child are challenged too quickly, the result can be profound mental anguish.

This is Hansa’s Story…

Hansa is tiny, her stature like that of a 10-year-old.

She was interviewed on her third day in our care, a process to help the aftercare staff more fully understand each child and the specific issues they face. From here they can respond sensitively and intelligently to the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of each child as they begin their journey towards restoration.

Hansa was very fearful and shy. She answered every question with great care, like she was taking an exam that her life depended on. The questions came around to her mother. She broke, torrents of tears falling. She seemed too scared to move, not even to wipe away the tears. We stopped the interview immediately.

Later, Hansa was able to tell us some of her story in a less formal setting. Her story, while so personal, was also so typical of those of exploited children: a desperate but naïve village mother sends her eldest daughter to work in a kitchen in a faraway city to help feed her family. The restaurant is actually a karaoke bar owned by a cruel and greedy woman who makes money from selling Hansa’s young, tiny body. Hansa hinted at some of the terrifying events she had been exposed to. A child subjected to the lewd acts of pedophiles, far from home, and unable to tell anyone her secrets.

She will not tell us what happened in the bar for fear that her mother might find out. She bears her secrets alone, a terrible burden of pain and shame for one so young. Hansa says her mother loves her so much, that if she ever found out what had happened to her daughter it would destroy her forever. So for now she remains silent.

We hope that one day she will feel safe enough to tell her story and receive counseling to help her process what has happened to her. But it takes time for trust to build and lives to mend. Hansa desperately wants to return to her mother but continues to work to help meet the family’s needs. Her loyalty keeps her from the people she loves most.

Hansa says that being rescued was the greatest event in her life.

She now feels safe and loved. She has received vocational training and now creates jewelry. She is paid for her work and gets to send money home to her mother and siblings. She now walks upon the precious pathway to restoration and a brand-new life.

Get them out.

You can put them on the path to freedom.

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