ezekiel's chariot - 張敦楷 (pjammer) wrote,
ezekiel's chariot - 張敦楷
pjammer

"I met a girl who was unknowingly on her way to becoming a sex slave. I could have stopped it."

Sometimes, we have an opportunity to be a hero in the life of a defenseless person.

A story of someone who failed to do so and is haunted by his passivity (originally on Reddit)


--



I’ve only told this to one person, but I guess this is the Internet and none of you know me, so here it is. It turned out to be pretty long, sorry about that.

I was flying from Manila to Bangkok.

I was settled in, listening to my ipod, when a beautiful young Filipina girl took the seat next to me. Like, smoking hot.

She sat down, placed a small black purse on her lap, and stared dead ahead. I tried to sneak a few more glances at her face without being creepy, but it was too obvious, so I turned and watched the runway crew as they ran around in the humid Manila night, doing whatever is it that they get paid to do.

After the safety instructions were over, I noticed the girl still didn’t have her seat belt buckled. The flight attendant told the girl, in Tagalo, to buckle her seat belt.

The girl had the two ends of the belt in her hand, but after watching her for a moment I realized she didn’t know how to operate it. I offered to help her, and she accepted and thanked me in broken English. I connected the two ends, but when I moved in to tighten her waist-strap, she reached out and grabbed my wrist, probably afraid that my intentions were to defile her rather than help her. When she grabbed my wrist I noticed that her hands were shaking. I explained how to tighten the waist-strap and asked her if she’d ever been on a plane before. She hadn’t, and I could tell she was not enjoying the experience, despite the fact that we hadn’t even left the gate.

I explained, in simple terms, what she could expect, and at the end of my little instructional speech, I told her that she could hold my hand if she got scared and wanted someone to grab onto. Then I went back to my music.

My reassurances didn’t seem to help; I looked over at her as we shot down the runway during takeoff, and she appeared as scared as a person could possibly be. She never reached out for me, instead clinging to the ends of the armrests with such ferocity that I thought her little hands might break into pieces.

When we reached cruising altitude, my drunkenness and curious nature got the better of me, so I decided to interrogate this poor girl. She’d found a job placement in Bangkok as the nanny/housekeeper for a rich Thai family. The story sounded a bit familiar and suspicious, so I asked her where she’d found such a lucrative position.

She told me of “employment agents” who had come to her village looking for teenage girls to fill such roles. After being promised an unbelievably high salary, she and her parents agreed that it was a great opportunity.

What she didn’t know then, but most definitely knows now, is that the “rich Bangkok family housekeeper” story is one of the most common ruses used by sex traffickers to convince young Filipina girls to leave their homes. There are plenty of too-good-to-be-true stories pedaled by those who work in the sex recruiting industry, but this one is widely known in South East Asia.

I didn’t want to hear any more, so I put my headphones back in and looked out the window over what must have been Vietnam. I listened to music and tried to hold back tears (I was drunk, remember).

What, I wondered, would happen if I ripped the headphones out of my ears, explained everything I suspected would happen to her in Bangkok, and offered to pay for her $100 flight back to Manila, which I could easily have afforded?

I turned over the possible outcomes in my mind. She might call me a liar. The Thai/Filipino mafia might kill her, or me, or both of us. She might already know she's going whoring and was just feeding me a story so I would leave her alone.

The landing was a bit bumpy, and if this girl was freaking out on takeoff, I can’t imagine the terror she felt in the seconds before the tires screeched in on the tarmac in Bangkok.

But I didn’t want to look at her anymore, so I kept my eyes focused out the window, half hoping the plane would skip off the runway and explode into a ball of fire, killing us all and saving her from a potential lifetime holed up as a broken slave in a dirty Bangkok brothel.

I stood back from the luggage carousel, staring at the split rubber curtain, not really caring if my bag appeared or not. After a few minutes another young tourist walked over and asked me if I wanted to go down to Khaosan with him and get drunk until the next day, or maybe share a cheap room. It was late at night, and that’s what I was going to do anyway, so I agreed.

I spotted my bag slowly moving in and out of the silhouette of Filipino and Thai travelers waiting on their giant boxes and plastic wrapped suitcases. I ran over and grabbed it, then went back to Carlos and told him we’d better leave.

As I was walking out, I looked back to see the girl, looking rather overwhelmed, as she collected a small blue suitcase with a flower design printed on the side. A present from her mother, perhaps.

As I walked away, I almost dropped my bag on the white tile floor and ran back to her . . . but I didn’t. I walked out of the baggage collection area, and I forgot about her.

Or at least I wish I did. But I’ve never forgotten her.

I remember that image of her awkwardly moving in towards her suitcase with the same vividness than I remember the most defining moments of my life.

It’s been more than two years since that happened, I’ve realized that it was one of the defining moments in my life . . . and I fucked it up. I didn’t do the right thing. I didn’t do what I knew to be right. I didn’t help this vulnerable person who I knew needed help. I turned my back and I sent her to the wolves.

Every time I think about it, I wish I could go back and do things differently. It was, without a doubt, the worst thing I’ve ever done.

tl;dr I met a girl who was, unknowingly, on her way to becoming a sex slave. I could have stopped it. I could have helped her. But I didn’t.

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No - wasn't me.

I just attended the Freedom Summit whose focus was on modern-day slavery (both sex and nonsexual) in the U.S. and abroad.

If this sort of thing is so widespread that he can assume it with no actual evidence then how is it a secret? Poor people in the Philippines are not totally closed off from the outside world. They have some access to mail and phones and newspapers. They must be aware that such things happen. I think it is far more likely that either the girl was with a reputable agency or she knew perfectly well she was destined for prostitution in Thailand. It is not the sort of plan she would confess to some guy on a plane. What if he was a cop or customs agent?
This myth that woman from Asia or Eastern Europe are being conned into prostitution is absurd. Unless they come from some village of illiterates with no TV they must be fully aware that many recruiters are looking for prostitutes.
Disagreed. Never underestimate the power of wishful thinking on desperate souls.

If privileged middle class Americans can fall for widely discredited Nigerian advance fee fraud to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year how is it that you expect Filipinos living on $5/day be well-informed skeptics?
7000 islands. A little less than half the population lives on $2 a day or less. About 20% of the population did not have electricity as recently as 2000. Manila is quite different from the rural areas...
Or, better yet, devote an amount of time working with a group that saves a lot of girls. There are sex slaves here in SF yanno. Plenty of opportunity to make up for something you wish you'd done and didn't.
This stuff goes on all the time. It sounds like this guy learned a lot. The next time he will tell her what he knows and offer to buy a return ticket. But then the girl will be "in debt" to the traffickers, who if they have a presence in her village, will cause problems for her and her family. Her family will not believe the story because they already know it but are hoping for the money sent back.

I think I told you about the slavery problems on the island I went to. They were real. People cared. They cared about no one fucking up their system.

The US Consulate thanked me for giving them a copy of the official state indentured servant contract since they had been trying for years to get a copy. But nothing followed from this.

I talked to Bangladeshi field slaves a lot since they would make use of the soccer field. They acknowledged that their passports had been confiscated and they were not paid as promised and they would never be able to pay off their debt and they were not free to leave, but they said they didn't want things to change because it was a lot better there as a slave than it was to be a free man in Bangladesh.

The ones that had it bad were the filipina domestic servant girls. They got raped by their employers. Of course both sides of the equation were christian, but the islanders were fundamentalists and the filipinas were catholics. That made them bad people who deserved to be raped. Some girls that were tied up and starved escaped and made their way to a nearby christian organization. The christians sent them back to their masters, in accordance with the bible. Servants who got pregnant were treated to forced abortions, courtesy of the free clinic that was run by seventh day adventists, as abortions are one of the services they provide to minority women world wide.

- J
Excellent observations. Im trying to figure out which of the "j" people I know this is. :)

j

Anonymous

March 23 2011, 02:37:34 UTC 5 years ago

Same as always Peter! :-)

Abuse of household workers goes on on the US mainland a lot too, and there are also many unpaid immigrant workers in the US. Abuse of workers is one issue.

Another is of slavery in general.

One thing I realized is that without the advantage of slavery, the locals would not be importing Bangladeshi field laborers since they really couldn't afford to pay the workers beyond food and lodgings anyway due to market conditions - the food raised (Taro and tapioca root and a special lettuce that grew in tropical conditions) was for local consumption and couldn't be sold for more than that anyway. Without Bangladeshi the locals would return to doing it themselves, which would be subsidence farming. Given that the Bangladeshi were OK with the arrangement, is slavery really intrinsically immoral? Hm.... And if so how does their condition differ from an american minimum wage worker who earns less than it costs him for room and board and gas to get to work? Both of them live hand to mouth and have no cash each month after food and rent are taken care of. The two main differences are that the american is unhappy and the Bangladeshi is happy, and the American can leave the job but the Bangladeshi is not free to leave due to his indenture.

- j
Your blog looks nice, even so it would be far better if you’ll be able to use lighter colors too as a professional design. This will make sure that a lot more readers come to check it out.Informative post by the way!