Flesh and Bones of Modern Day Slavery
by Linda White
Asha’s milk-chocolate eyes caught my attention. Set in her open, broad face they seemed so gentle, and yet I would soon discover they had seen more of the dark side of life than I could ever imagine.
Asha was visiting this country with a group of young girls from Bombay Teen Challenge. They were in America to learn and grow and tell their stories, and I was invited to hear them. A journalist, I’d been in briefings on human trafficking at the U.S. State Department in Washington and had even written editorials on the subject, but these girls added flesh and bones to the statistics and policy statements with which I was familiar.
Stirred by the evil of modern day slavery, the Bush administration pushed Congress to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000. The new law established the State Department office that publishes the annual Trafficking in Persons report—a catalog of human suffering. Imagine a 13-year-old Mexican girl smuggled into the U.S. to be a “waitress,” but instead taken to a trailer and forced into prostitution. Or a disabled man from Pakistan, unable to walk, kidnapped and shipped to a neighboring country where he was compelled to beg. Or women in Africa, born of enslaved mothers, who were themselves enslaved as “fifth wives,” beaten, sexually assaulted, and forced to work long hours.
These are just a tiny fraction of the stories of the 27 million people estimated to be held in bondage around the world. They are forced to be prostitutes, camel jockeys, domestic workers, brick makers and more. They are held captive and often abused. Yet they are human beings, created by God for His purposes, in fact, created for His Glory. Is there any question that enslaving them is evil?
Asha told me her story through an interpreter. The oldest child in an impoverished family in Nepal, she was in her late teens when a stranger approached her and offered her a job in Mumbai (Bombay), working as a maid in the home of a wealthy family. Asha would make enough money, the stranger told her, to send help back to her family. It was an opportunity. A way out of poverty. The woman seemed to be offering a future and a hope. So Asha took it.
But soon after they arrived in Mumbai, Asha realized something was wrong. She found herself not in an upscale neighborhood, but in the city’s noisy, crowded red light district. The stranger led her to a shabby building and an equally shabby room. When it dawned on her that she’d been brought there for prostitution, she protested. She tried to get away. But she could not. That first night, five girls held Asha down while men raped her.
In just a few moments, her life was ruined. Her honor was gone. Not even her own family would take her back now. Asha became a prostitute, she told me, because she had no other choices. As the years went on and she became middle-aged, she became a madam herself. She knew no other life.
That is, until she met K.K. Deveraj. The founder of Teen Challenge Bombay, Deveraj and his outreach team walk the streets of Mumbai’s red light district offering hope and help to the sex slaves and street kids they find there. Committed to the “poorest of the poor,” TCB rescues slaves and their children, provides food, housing, re-training, and, most of all, the Gospel—the true source of hope.
Asha’s story, and the changed lives of the former street kids she was traveling with, struck my heart. I knew then I wanted to write about human trafficking. But I write FBI thrillers—how could I incorporate the two?
We like to think of trafficking as happening “over there”—in Third World countries. But sadly, it goes on here, too, in the United States. Recently, two Filipino women, possible victims of labor trafficking, were rescued from a home owned by a Saudi diplomat in pricy McLean, Virginia. Soon after, two congressmen from that same area, just a stone’s throw from Washington, D.C., expressed their concerns about young, middle-class white girls being forced into prostitution by street gangs. Some of these teens are as young as 12 years old! Befriended by older men, they have no idea what they’re getting into until it is too late.
In my novel, “Seeds of Evidence,” a vacationing FBI agent finds the body of a little Latino boy on a Virginia island beach. Who killed him? Kit must find out. Teaming up with David O’Connor, a D.C. homicide detective on the island recovering from a shooting incident, Kit follows plant DNA evidence from the acorns in the little boy’s pocket. Their search leads them into the dark world of human labor trafficking.
“Fiction reveals truths reality obscures,” writes author Jessamyn West. I hope that those who read “Seeds of Evidence” will find true shope—hope for themselves and hope for the victims of human trafficking—as they take a white-knuckle ride through its pages. The 27 million enslaved people around the world are waiting for us to have our hearts stirred, to care enough to help free them from their bondage. God hears their cries—will we?
Linda J. White writes “white-knuckle fiction”: FBI thrillers with a Christian twist. The assistant editorial-page editor of a daily newspaper in Virginia, she and her husband, Larry (who worked at the FBI Academy for over 27 years) live in rural Virginia with two cats and a Sheltie who loves to herd them.