I Lost Her
Because I was ignorant, I did not help as I should have.
This MAY be a case of human trafficking.
It is not confirmed.
I live in America, where life seems free to most people.
There is no obvious slavery.
So what we do not see, is not reality for us.
I had left the gym about 5 pm and went by Walmart for something.
When I pulled in, I saw a young girl with a baby begging for money and food.
I parked my car, and went into Walmart, and decided if she was still out there when I came out, I would help her and give her money.
She was still there.
She looked a little desperate as she held up her sign.
I drove up to her and talked to her.
She had a very soft voice, very polite.
She had an eastern European accent, so I asked where she was from.
She said Romania.
I knew nothing about the country or conditions there, so this did not impress me enough.
It is never in the news that I watch.
My husbands’ grandfather was from there; that was all I knew.
Her appearance was very neat, modest and proper.
She was a pretty, shy girl.
She was very respectful as she answered my questions.
I asked where she lived, and she said Motel 6.
I asked how long.
She said 1 week.
I asked where her husband was, and she said she did not have one.
I asked where her family was, and she said she had none.
Then she mentioned her mother, and two more children back at the motel.
She said something about her mother injuring her foot / leg and could not work.
Her mother was somewhere, about an oil change??
That meant the other children were alone in the motel?
I confirmed 3 children, and no husband?
I asked how old she was, and she said 19 years old.
Then she volunteered the she could not work because her passport was “at the airport.”
This meant a lot to her, but I did not understand the situation.
I asked which airport, and she gave me a blank look.
All she knew was she did not have it, and could not explain well enough in English what happened to it.
I asked her why she was in America, and she said Romania was very poor, and there is no money, food or jobs there.
At this point, I did not know if she was an illegal, or legal, immigrant.
One way or the other, she was in trouble.
A girl not in trouble would not be standing at Walmart asking for money.
Something was wrong.
I was puzzled.
She looked so innocent, and lost,
yet someone, or more than one person, got her pregnant 3 x.
She had 3 children by age 17, as the child she had with her was at least 1-2 years old.
This meant she was having children as a young teenager.
I was not catching on.
It had been long day, and I was not thinking quickly enough.
I gave her what cash I had, and got on the phone looking for help with food and shelter.
It was after 5 pm, and everything was closed.
I gave her the phone number to a homeless mission, and my phone number.
I said I would call her at the motel.
I asked her name, and she told me Vanesa (last name I keep confidential)…
What I forgot to ask was her room number.
She did not know the phone number for the motel.
I said I would look it up.
What I found out the next day was that there were 2 x Motel 6 in town, and they were both far away from where I found her.
I called both motels, and there was no room under her name.
I did not ask whose name the room was registered under, so I could not contact her.
She had my number, but she did not call me.
I was going to take her around for help, but I lost her.
This weighed on me, so I emailed someone I knew at the mission.
He told me that her situation sounded like “human trafficking,” where children are bought as slaves, or promised a new life with money and jobs, to escape the poverty in their country.
Their passports are controlled or not given to them.
They are forced into prostitution, or some slavery situation, and any money they earn is taken from them.
They are afraid of harm, so they are easy to manipulate and keep their trafficking a secret.
This shocked me.
I had not considered that, since I have had no experience with it.
The next day was raining, but I went back to the Walmart looking for her.
Each day I go there looking for her, hoping she will show back up, but she is not there.
I have given up.
She is gone, as far as I know.
I has been 2 weeks now.
I looked up human trafficking and Romania, and was distressed to find out it is the trafficking center in Europe.
Most slaves get sent to neighboring countries or are used there for prostitution, or free labor.
And now, I realize they may get brought here, to America.
I do not know for sure if Vanesa is being trafficked, but I have been praying that God protects and provides for her.
That innocent little face, the frail body, and holding a baby will stay in my mind for a long time.
If I ever encounter something like this again, I will be more alert, and try to do more than what I did, ask the right questions, and not leave them standing there.
I should have brought her back to the motel, to verify her situation.
Traditional Romanian girls
Here is some information I found out about Romania:
“The trafficker always comes with a promise attached,” says Gabriela Chiroiu, who heads up anti-trafficking programmes for Caritas Bucharest.
The trafficker will offer work abroad as a waiter or hotel staffer, or a job taking care of elderly people.
Since many Romanians do in fact have such jobs in Italy, Spain and beyond, the offers sound believable.
But once the traffickers get people across the border, or simply away from a familiar place, they sell their victims into forced labour, beggary, or prostitution.
Young women end up working in nightclubs or brothels.
Men are sold into unpaid, arduous construction or farm work.
And children and adults are forced to beg and steal, giving all they earn to the trafficker and following his or her instructions.
A paraphrase of the government booklet text outlines which criminal does what during the trafficking process:
· The recruiters: “those who sell illusions, deceive, defraud, and abuse people’s trust.”
· Those responsible for smuggling and transport
· Those providing counterfeit IDs and travel documents
· Those who watch the victims so they don’t escape
· Those involved in the management and control of nightclubs, brothels, farms
· Those who deliver the money
· Those who launder the money
“It’s not like a chain. They operate as cells,” says Chiroiu. “If one group is caught, the others remain
According to the U.S. State Department’s 2014 “Trafficking in Persons” report, one-third of Romania’s trafficking victims are underage girls.
There, traffickers have a keen eye for those made vulnerable by their desperation to leave, making the girls ideal victims.
The Eurostat 2015 report notes that Romania was one of the top five countries of origin for victims of human trafficking in the EU, as registered by organizations (governmental and nongovernmental) throughout the bloc.
Since its 2007 accession to the EU, Romania has become a major sex market in Europe — a development that can be seen on the streets of the capital, Bucharest, and in online advertising of Romanian erotic massage parlors.
Strip club owner Gheorghe Anghel Alin, 30, said the market is booming. He has invested in two strip clubs in the past couple of years.
Some girls are trapped and sent to Spain, Italy or elsewhere, but most are taken to Bucharest because of the city’s newly renovated allure and the ease of transportation.
Romania a global center for human trafficking
(CNN) — Romania has become a major transit for the sale of people into the European Union.
Victims as young as 12 years old are trafficked into Romania from destinations as far-reaching as Honduras, Afghanistan, the Congo, and China.
Once they reach Romania, many of these victims are assigned for passage beyond into Western Europe.
While Romanian law officially prohibits all forms of human trafficking, the country’s strategic geographic location — a crossroads between East and West — makes it a source, transit and destination country for the people trade.
The country’s 2007 admission into the European Union brought more relaxed border regulations and enhanced its attraction for international human traffickers.
Human Trafficking map – country origins and destinations.. I am shocked and saddened that America, the “land of the free,” is one of the biggest destinations, and purchasers of slaves.
countries of origin – yellow, red
countries of destination – blue
Keep your eyes open for trafficking victims.
they may be standing right in front of you.
Make a difference, and help them escape this situation.