Ida* was working in a local tailor shop when she was approached by a customer with an interesting opportunity. A man wanted to marry Ida and would pay a dowry to her family for the union. To provide for her loved ones and to better her own life, Ida agreed. The process moved quickly. That same week, the papers were signed and Ida traveled to China with her new husband.
Upon arriving in China, Ida went to her husband’s home that he shared with his two sisters. For the first five days, Ida adjusted to life in a foreign country and worked on building a relationship with her husband and sisters-in-law. On the sixth day, true colors were revealed.
The sisters demanded that Ida give them her passport and when she refused, they beat her and made terrifying threats. They locked her in a room and cut off all communication—later transferring her to a village far from the city. Ida knew that giving up her passport would mean giving up hope of escape. She hid the precious document in the light fixture of the room and continued to endure their torture.
Fearing for her life, Ida ran as soon as she had an opening. The sisters caught her and beat her so severely that Ida was hospitalized. Ida was extremely disoriented in the hospital and to this day cannot recall all that happened—she only remembers the pain.
When Ida returned from the hospital, her mindset shifted. Rather than defying the sisters, she did as she was told in hopes of gaining their trust. She completed her rigorous daily chores without complaint and attended to their every demand. Her plans paid off and the sisters began to let Ida roam the house freely. As more time passed without incident, they left Ida unattended while they ran errands. They no longer suspected that she would try to escape. Having successfully tricked the sisters, Ida fled one afternoon when they were away. She found a fellow Ugandan in town who took her to the consulate. Soon, Ida was on her way back to Uganda.
Ida was welcomed into Willow International’s aftercare program where she received comprehensive emotional, psychosocial, medical, and spiritual care. Willow’s Legal Services Program also helped Ida fight for custody of her daughter who was being neglected and abused by her paternal grandmother. Once custody was granted, Willow worked with the local police to facilitate the return of Ida’s daughter.
Both mother and daughter are now safe in Willow’s care where they are receiving counseling to address the trauma they have endured. They are free to focus on personal healing and mending their relationship after being apart.
Ida’s desperation to provide a better life for her family prompted her move to China. This is not uncommon among victims of human trafficking who are looking to support their loved ones back home. Willow is committed to providing these mothers and their children with comprehensive care. In 2018, 35 children of survivors received care including medical treatment, housing, and educational and vocational scholarships. These methods help prevent victimization and re-victimization among populations vulnerable to traffickers.
*Pseudonym to protect survivor’s identity.