She held a book in her hands, unopened, while she stared into the space in front of her. The girl across from her room had packed a backpack and walked out the door a few hours ago. No one had suggested it out loud, but those remaining walked around listlessly, suffering a vicarious disappointment. They all knew she was going back to him. Not everyone could give up the dream. Or maybe she just couldn’t stand the withdrawals anymore and knew he would give her a fix. It weighed heavy on those who were left, like a heavy coat that had gotten wet in an unexpected downpour. Her place would be taken again soon enough and there would be another fragile, yet fighting heart beating in the room across the hall. A fourteen-year-old had joined the house only two weeks ago. She kept a ragged stuffed dog in her room and bright light always shone through the cracks around her door at any hour of the night. However, she would deny this dependence with an unlooked for fierceness, complete with vulgarities that turned the heads of even the most veteran women. Twenty seemed like a wizened old woman compared to childish, jaded fourteen.
The fear had dissipated considerably in the last several months. Though occasionally she would have moments of panic or sense the phantom hands, their visits were far less frequent and she felt stronger against their manipulative touch. They could no longer make her do what she did not want to do. One thing remained. Guilt. Yes, she knew that he had been guilty. She could no longer defend him or believe he was capable of fulfilling her dream. But she still saw a condemning finger in every friendly glance from a man, every dollar bill, and every little reminder of him and how she so easily had given in to his every wish, even when her conscience balked. She was the kind of woman universally looked down on for lack of morals. Lack of hope might be more accurate.
The book she held was a paperback copy of the Bible. She wanted to open it, but didn’t know what to read and was unsure if opening to a random page would provoke a special message from God or if that was too much like roulette. The counselors and women who ran the house always seemed to know the exact page for every occasion.
She prayed, “Um God, you won’t mind if I try to read this will you? If you would help me out, I don’t really know what I’m doing.” She opened the book to the New Testament. She hoped that was right. She thought that was the part about Jesus. She began to read, slowly trying to remember how to pronounce the names she must have heard before long ago. The room gradually darkened until she realized she could barely see the page. With the lamp shining brightly, she continued.
When her eyes felt dry and she was forced to close them for a while, she finally closed the book. It seemed that Jesus knew people like her and still loved them. He also seemed serious about people following him. She cringed, thinking about how foolishly she had followed her abuser. She wondered how someone could follow Jesus now that he was in heaven so far away. That was when she felt them. She felt two hands resting on her head. She shied away instinctively, and then sensed that these hands were unlike the ones before. These hands were not seeking pleasure, they were offering peace. She imagined that they had been wounded and carried great burdens. She let them rest gently on her head.
“Jesus?” she whispered, like a child sneaking into her parents’ room in the middle of the night, hoping for an embrace, but unsure if she would be sent back to her room without anything. “Do you forgive me? I’m…I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for this horrible thing I’ve done. And I’m so sorry that they killed you. That must have been awful. I swear I won’t go back to him. I’ll follow you now if you’ll let me.” She grabbed the corner of the blanket and wiped away the tears. She felt the embrace she’d looked for, making her…whole. The corner of the blanket was quickly drenched as she felt an entirely new kind of hope, not a hope of surviving, but hope of thriving in an intimate love. He was a like a miracle worker, drawing out the poison of a deadly snake bite and offering life again. After the tears, she lay down to sleep, completely at rest.
Photo is mine.
Thank you for reading! If you are interested in learning more about human trafficking statistics or want to help, you can find information here.
The actual percentage of women and children who escape or are rescued from trafficking is quite small because of the manipulative nature of trafficking. Unfortunately, many who have escaped will return to their pimp because of addictions and old habits of the mind. This story is one of hope, but it is not the reality for many.