A Father's Betrayal
Panicked screams filled the room as police officers busted through the large wooden doors. Men took off running in all directions. Children sat in shock while mothers attempted to comfort their crying babies.
Sadie* watched as her dad jumped the fence surrounding the building and sprinted away from the police, leaving her behind. Her father had always taught her to do the right thing and she wondered if he left her for a good reason. When she was taken to the police station, along with the other rescued children, she saw her father’s picture on the wall and heard them saying he was a “wanted man.”
Sadie was one of 166 women and children rescued by Ugandan police from a trafficking ring in the spring of 2018. As a preferred referral partner, Willow International was the first organization contacted by the Ugandan police to house the survivors. Willow responded immediately and welcomed 30 young girls into its loving aftercare homes.
At 9 years old, Sadie had trouble processing these complex events. She questioned everything—her dad’s intentions, her faith, her future. Although she was safe in Willow’s care, she still feared that she would end up like her sister who was forced to marry a stranger at age 14. She had nightmares of people coming to hurt her and was afraid to fall asleep. She repeatedly asked why her dad abandoned her when she needed him most and had little trust in others.
Through counseling sessions, Sadie began feeling safe in the aftercare program. She recently shared that she has hope for the future and is excited to enroll in school. Although she previously viewed her father as her hero and protector, she understands now that his choices were not always good. Sadie realizes that she had nothing to do with his decision to run and that his actions are not her responsibility.
Sadie is now sleeping through the night and no longer questions her father’s motives. She remains inquisitive about why things happen the way they do. That insatiable curiosity will serve Sadie well when she fulfills her dream of going to school and learning a variety of subjects.
Willow is committed to helping children survivors overcome trauma and teaching them what healthy and safe relationships should look like. When trauma occurs at such a young age, the road to recovery is not easy. Witnessing the strength, resiliency, and joy that the children exhibit inspires the Willow team each day. Sadie and the other rescued children are now able to play, learn, and grow in a safe environment—they are free to be kids.
*Pseudonym to protect survivor’s identity.