A SWAT team waits in full gear at every corner surrounding the brothel. An undercover agent is inside wired for surveillance. At just the right time the SWAT team rushes the scene, there are a few gunshots, and the agent is saved from death and becomes a hero. A bad guy is killed and girls are crying as they cover their faces and cower in the corner. They are filmed as they are led out of the brothel and put into a van where they will be taken to a shelter. That’s a “rescue” as the movies would have it. NightLight has actually received requests from TV stations and independent filmmakers asking to film a rescue while they are in town. (As though these are scheduled events!) Ironically the media believes what they see in the movies. Well, what happens in the movies is rarely what happens in real life and not our experience at all when it comes to rescues.
Most of our rescues are not dramatic at all. We meet the women on the streets and in the bars, give them our contact and wait for them to accept our help. When they do, we meet them in a safe place, tell them their options, and quietly move them into freedom. Our latest rescue of a Central Asian woman though, was unusual even for us.
We met *Leena at the health clinic we hosted out of our center in the red light area. *Lionel, her manager (one of our favorites) had brought her to the clinic for a medical check up. Leena confided to our Russian speaking staff that she had been stuck in the brothel for a year and a half. She didn’t owe a debt to the trafficking ring but she had not been able to pay her room bill, had her passport confiscated and had no ticket to return home. We found out later that Leena was first trafficked to Dubai when she was only 16. Another girl in the ring was beheaded before she and the others were arrested for prostitution and sent back. That traumatic experience was only the beginning of bad jobs in prostitution. It had already been a long journey for her and now in her early 20’s, she was tired and was not motivated to keep taking clients. Her bill was growing and she had no way to get home. We offered her help and she said she would think about it.
A few days later Leena accepted and told her manager we would help her. That put us in a difficult position. Usually rescues take place without the manager/pimp knowing in advance. We have spent years building a relationship with Lionel, the manager. If we went behind his back to pull her out it could sabotage the open door we have with that brothel. We decided to take a risk and so we called Lionel and told him we wanted to talk.
We met Lionel at the brothel the following day. He said he had not been able to sleep because he was nervous about what we might say. I apologized for the stress and told him that we respect him. We see that he has a good heart and we have appreciated him allowing us into the brothel all these years. I told him since we respect him we wanted to be honest and direct with him. Lionel affirmed our relationship and said that he has welcomed us for many years and nothing had changed about that. He said we could ask him anything we want and he would gladly answer.
I chose to avoid any questioning because I didn’t want him to think we were snooping. We told Lionel that one of his women had spoken to our Russian-speaking friend and shared her situation. I told Lionel, “We would like to pay Leena’s room bill if you will let her go. We want to help her go home.” Lionel looked surprised and said, “I would be very happy for you to do that.” I asked permission to take Leena to our center later that night so we could talk and get her consent. If she agreed then we would take her to a safe place. We would connect her to an organization in her home country for job training and counseling. Lionel said, “That’s great! That’s what she needs. I don’t want to see her back here again.” Lionel paid for our tea and said to let him know what he could do to help.
Later that night we returned to the brothel and invited Leena to come talk. She listened to the shelter rules and options and signed her consent. Beng returned with Leena to the brothel, paid the room bill and retrieved Leena’s passport. “Thank you so much for saving her from all of this,” Lionel said. Beng noticed the tears in his eyes. Leena then went upstairs to get her belongings and say goodbye to the other women. Lionel helped carry her bags down and then I saw him hand Leena a $100 bill. She gave him a hug and said goodbye. Lionel’s eyes were teary again when he said goodbye and turned to thank us. We picked up Leena’s bags and together we walked out of the brothel to freedom!
There was no SWAT team; there were no gunshots. No bad guy was killed and no victims went through the shame of being filmed as they were ushered from a brothel. It was a quiet rescue; not the least bit dramatic. But it was no small event. God intervened for Leena in a miraculous way and it was exciting to be part of a beautiful rescue. His Love never fails.
*name changed to protect identity