Four girls were rescued in a recent Operation Underground Railroad undercover operation in Haiti.
The first 72 hours after rescue is extremely important for survivors to start to feel safe and not be traumatized even further, according to O.U.R. Aftercare Director Jessica Mass.
The Aftercare team is always present during operations to provide immediate victim advocacy to care for the children rescued.
One of the key factors, when we are talking with victims that have experienced extreme trauma, is to be fully present with people in their pain. These are times when you can’t feel the pain someone is feeling inside, but you can help them to not feel alone.
After a couple of hours as Jessica was sitting with the girls, she asked what their dreams are.
“What would you do if you could do anything?” she asked.
With tears swelling in her eyes, one of the girls held her hand out to Jessica. She showed Jessica her carefully painted and decorated nails and said, “If I could do anything, I would help other girls feel beautiful. I want to do people’s nails and eyebrows so they can feel the beauty that is in the inside of them.”
This hopeful young survivor had been through a lot of extreme trauma. People often ask how girls begin being trafficked and exploited. The answer is that they are often vulnerable due to poverty, lack of education, and the breakdown of the family. This particular girl was vulnerable due to all three of these categories.
Nearly 60 percent of the population in Haiti live on less than $2 U.S. dollars a day. That means that more than 6 million people are living in poverty in Haiti.
This young girl lived in a poor area that was an at especially high-risk for trafficking and sexual exploitation. She had to stop attending school in fifth grade, which also made her more vulnerable in her area.
When she was 14 years old (the equivalent of an eighth grader) she was raped and subsequently got pregnant. Her parents kicked her out of their house and shamed her for her pregnancy. Her trafficker picked her up and promised her a better life of care and love. However, that promise was quickly broken when he started selling her for sex.
“What gives you motivation and hope to keep going despite the extreme things you have gone through?” Jessica asked this brave survivor.
Tears started pouring down the girl’s face. She looked up and said, “When I was a little girl I was introduced to God and I went to church. I haven’t been in a long time but I know that there is a God who loves me and I love him. While I haven’t been to church in a long time, I really hope to go back. His love for me keeps me motivated. I know that God sees me.”
The bravery and hope of this young survivor is beyond her years. She is currently safe in an aftercare transition home, where she and the other survivors from the rescue operation have access to full aftercare services that Operation Underground Railroad is supporting. Their traffickers are in jail, and these girls are now SAFE.
Operation Underground Railroad’s mission is to shine a light to the world on the global epidemic of child sex trafficking, and in doing so rescue children from slavery and assist law enforcement in the prosecution of trafficking offenders. We place rescued children in safe havens providing appropriate recovery aftercare.