One Compelling Video, One Amazing Woman
Thoughts on video footage that made our staff member cry.
I didn’t expect to be undone. It was like any other day at the office.
A small group of us settled in around Matt Parker‘s desk to celebrate and watch uncut video footage of the rescue of a 16 year old girl. One of our Search and Rescue teams had received a tip that the teenager was being sold as a sex slave. Trapped in a private brothel, the girl had been sold by her mother and was living as a sex commodity in a small locked room in a ’normal’ little house in India. Bravo Team worked with local authorities to extricate her from her bedroom prison. With long pauses of silence between action, the video was raw raid footage, un-narrated.
A handful of staff leaned in to observe a white van with wild red flowered interior pulled up to the curb. A team of Indian men shoved into a too-small space unloaded like circus clowns. Cameras. Men. Small pathways in a crowded neighborhood, past chickens and under laundry. A jolting hand-held camera view placed us behind the group, in hurried approach of the house.
Then I noticed her, the only women among men, running. She had beautiful black hair, a long traditional sari and as she ran, one hand clasped a big stylish purse to her shoulder. Together they entered, and stopped at a bedroom door. A colorful cloth curtain hung in front of the locked wood door like a thin prison veil. Knocking. The door opened with the same ensuing chaos of a reality TV Cop show bust. Men were speaking loudly, roaming the premises.
But the woman moved to the girl and held her, hugged her like a mother. Men were busy like warriors in a tangle of justice, but the woman understood a different part of the fight. She stepped into the mess, the fear, the confusion. She held the rescued child who still needed time to understand freedom. And I started to cry.
Later, I asked about the woman who comforted the girl. We contacted the team lead at India Rescue Mission and asked her name. What was her story? Turns out, the social worker was a woman who spends the rest of her time at a sewing machine. The lead investigator explained, she was a new addition to the team. And as he described their mass arrival at the rescue, he said, “She ran ahead.” She didn’t wait to be invited. She didn’t wonder what was the right thing to do.
She ran ahead to be present when the doors flew open.
She ran ahead to hold the trembling victim and offer comfort.
She ran ahead to give the one thing that girl needed after her prison had been unlocked.
The brave sewing lady made me cry because she moved into the prison, held the prisoner, and walked her to freedom.
To me, she is the essence of rescue. She is the model for us all. Maybe we can’t all bang down doors and hold crying victims. But we can move to be present when doors of freedom are swinging open for sisters, children, neighbors and mothers. We can step into the mess of everyday real life rescue. And, we can all join the fight against modern day slavery, each in our own way.
If you are already a part of The Exodus Road, everybody here at the stateside office is grateful for you. If you are still deciding whether or not to invest in rescue, please watch the edited video.
Decide for yourself. I’d love to have you join the fight as we all learn to run ahead. Together.
Teenager Rescued from Private Brothel from The Exodus Road on Vimeo.
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Kelley J. Leigh is Project and Content Manager for The Exodus Road. You can also find her at www.kelleyjleigh.com