How I met a Human Trafficking survivor.
I was in a mini van with several of my colleagues to meet a human trafficking victim in Mongolia. One of the staff from an NGO that arranged the meeting, made a briefing about the victim. The victim, I will call her A, went to Hong Kong to work as a waitress. When she arrived there, A was repeatedly raped and forced to be a prostitute in one of the red light districts. After several months, she had an opportunity to escape. She took the chance and run away. With a lot of help from both governments and NGOs she was able to return back to Mongolia.
While in Mongolia the NGO, that was arranging the meeting for us, provided a shelter, psychological assistance, medical first aid, and small grant to start a new life. What I am describing now is very short, but the details the NGO staff was telling us was shocking. I could literally see dropped jaws from my colleagues. I don’t want to sound dramatic, but I felt lump in my throat.
As I started to process the information, I started to feel apprehensive. What am I going to ask her? Even though I have interviewed people for many years, this felt different. Still not finding the answer, we arrived at the destination.
The place the victim was working was in a market. She was selling stuff. Since it’s quite obvious that four people were there to talk to her, we had a cover story. We were supposed to be an NGO that provides business grants to the poor.
My first impression was how ordinary she looked. A young woman around 24–26 years old. Not too tall, not too short. She was not beautiful, but above average looking. She could be your neighbor, your friend from school. I would have never guessed the ordeal she went through.
We went to a nearby cafeteria for a bit of privacy and started to talk. It was awkward at first, but after the introductions we started the conversation. When she was talking to us A sounded confident, like a person with conviction, a person who was given a second chance. She didn't smile much, but her manner of talking and her expression was undeniably warm.
During the conversation, I kept remembering that once she arrived at the shelter, she slept continuously for almost a week, just getting up for some food and water. It took her a while to start talking to other people. I, also, remembered that she tried to commit suicide, after meeting her family, who upon hearing her ordeals didn’t want a “prostitute” daughter.
I was really humbled by her strength of character and her perseverance. Then it suddenly occurred to me: she was not a victim, but a SURVIVOR.