This post from The Exodus Road is being reprinted with permission.
The Exodus Road is committed to fight for the freedom of every person on the planet. Their work has rescued hundreds of people from slavery. They are working to empower the rescue of victims, while equipping the nationals to continue the fight and encouraging collaboration among like-minded organizations.
If you would like to join them in their work, you can go to their volunteer center and learn about all the ways your talents can be used.
Undercover operatives with The Exodus Road have very difficult jobs. They enter bars and brothels and meet young girls whose bodies are for sale. They feign interest in purchasing the girls’ time so they can begin negotiating with traffickers or “mamasans” (brothel madams). As they talk about price, operatives try to discover as much information about the girls as they can. How old are they? Are they prostitutes by choice? How long have they worked as prostitutes?
Then, our operatives must make excuses and leave without closing the deal.
They report back to The Exodus Road without tipping off the traffickers. It’s not easy for the operatives to walk out knowing the girls will continue working after they’ve gone.
The following is a composite* letter written by covert operatives. It’s addressed to a fictitious girl, representative of the girls in the bars and brothels. It serves as an exercise to help operatives process their experiences after undercover assignments.
I only saw you briefly one night, but it broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I had to shut down those feelings and pretend to be something I’m not so you might have freedom one day.
I want to apologize because it must have seemed like I rejected you. I saw you dancing alone in the corner of the club—a young and innocent girl who tried to appear older. I escorted you to a table and bought you a drink. Within moments, the mamasan sat with us. I know you knew little English, and it may have looked like I was trying to buy you for the night. I wasn’t. I was trying to obtain your freedom.
I put my arm around you, but I didn’t want to touch you like others have. I wanted to draw you to my side, if just for a moment, to give you the security of a father, of a man who cares what happens to you. There are people looking and fighting for your future, and I am one of those.
Again, I left so quickly, not because I found you worthless, but because your mamasan was getting anxious for me to buy time with you. However, I want you to know you are beautiful in so many ways. I want you to know your true worth. You are precious. You are a treasure. You are strong. You are important. You are worth saving.
Learn to hold on to this truth and don’t let it go. I’ve only seen a bit of what you endure, and I want to take you out of this environment so you can experience a true family.
If I could have, I would have bought you that night—not just for an hour but also for the rest of your life. I wanted to take you out of the bar so you could live in freedom. You will be sealed into my memory forever. I will speak of you often and pray for you more often, hoping, waiting and praying for the day I hear you’ve been set free.
People know you’re out there. Good-hearted people are working to free you. I’m so sorry this is happening to you. It’s not right.
I hate that I’m leaving you here, but I won’t forget you. As I say goodbye, tears stream down my face because I feel like I’m abandoning you. But, my faith is strong, and I trust the people staying behind to find and free you and girls like you.
A Covert Operative with The Exodus Road
This composite letter was assembled from various authors. It was edited for length, grammar, and clarity. This exercise is primarily to help the operatives process their experiences. We share it in this format to allow readers to understand the intricacies of undercover work.
You can read more survivor stories here.