From Victim to Warrior
Wendy* was trafficked for five years. On each of those 1,825 days she made a promise to herself. She vowed that if she were ever free, she would become a voice for the millions like her still in captivity. She would not succumb to the horrors of her present situation, she would focus on tomorrow and as soon as she was able—she would fight. And fight she did.
In 2015, the first part of Wendy’s vision became reality when she was rescued. But years of exploitation had taken a toll on her body and delayed her return home. She suffered severe health complications and required two operations before she could journey back to her son.
When she arrived at Willow’s aftercare home in 2016, she was broken and exhausted—but determined to heal and rebuild her relationship with her son. The journey was not easy but she never gave up. At the end of last year, Wendy graduated from our aftercare program and launched the business she had dreamed of for so many years—a souvenir shop at a popular tourist craft market.
It was in a restaurant near her shop where she overheard a wealthy woman offering a teenage girl a lucrative job in the Middle East. Wendy knew this trick all too well as it had been used by her traffickers many years ago. The young girl looked desperate and Wendy could see the hope in her eyes as the stranger told her tales of large paychecks and her first airplane ride.
Wendy kept that promise she had made to herself and acted quickly to save the young girl’s life. She approached the girl and explained that the warning signs of human trafficking were evident in this job offer. Though polite, the teenager was not persuaded. Although reliving her exploitation was incredibly painful, Wendy knew that her story could spare the young woman from being trafficked. Wendy showed her the scars from her operations and began to share her story of abuse and sexual exploitation. When she finished, the girl took her hand and thanked her. She believed Wendy and promised not to take the offer, but she was desperate for a job.
Wendy knew that employment and a strong support network were all the girl needed. She offered to house the girl in her own small home, and she worked with a local restaurant owner to secure a job for her. Although painful, Wendy’s intimate knowledge of trafficking and her willingness to share her story saved a girl from a life of abuse.
The work we do at Willow reaches far beyond the confines of our aftercare homes. Survivors are armed with the knowledge to recognize and fight human trafficking and are empowered to protect their communities from exploitation and abuse. Like Wendy, they are given a voice and they use that voice to save others from a fate they escaped.
*Pseudonym to protect survivor’s identity.