The call came on a Saturday morning.
At first it seemed like good news. Chinese authorities had found and rescued Nhat, a Vietnamese teenager who had been trafficked across the border two years ago.
Nhat’s family was elated. Their daughter was only 14 when she followed a friend into a trap that led her into China, where she was sold to a man who wanted a wife.
This is known as “bride trafficking,” a term that fails to capture the horror of the experience.
When a girl or a woman is trafficked as a “bride,” she is being sold like a possession. The man who buys her doesn’t actually marry her, although sometimes there is a ceremony or party. But it’s rarely an official marriage; it’s just a show for family and friends.
The “bride” is then in the hands of this complete stranger, and often his extended family too.
She has no freedom. No rights. She is their slave, and even if she is treated well, she is still a slave.
Occasionally, women who are sold in this way report that their “husband” was kind to them and tried to look after them – short of letting them go free, of course.
Nhat’s experience was not like that at all.
In the hands of the man who bought her, Nhat was the subject of brutal violence. Her return to Vietnam last weekend was in a wheelchair. Blue Dragon arranged for Nhat to go straight to hospital for emergency treatment.
Right now, Nhat’s outlook is grim. She is permanently paralysed and her injuries are extensive. Doctors are unsure if she will recover. Unable to treat her further, the hospital has released Nhat into the care of her family. Blue Dragon is continuing to support her and her family through these very dark days.
Her rescue and journey home should have been cause for great excitement. Sadly, Nhat’s ordeal is far from over and there is a strong possibility she will not survive.
Human trafficking is brutal. Nhat’s story, like the stories of all the millions of people in our world who experience slavery, must inspire us to take action.
It would be easy to give up, overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem. Or to fall back into platitudes and empty words of sympathy.
But sympathy isn’t enough. That’s why Blue Dragon is doing all we can, every day, to end this terrible crime.
We’re rescuing people who call for help from slavery. In partnership with other agencies around Vietnam, we are running activities and programs to address the causes of trafficking at the root. And we are making sure that human traffickers are caught and penalised for the horrors they inflict on their victims.
Nhat deserves to live in a world free from slavery. None of this should have happened to her – this should not be her story.
We will not rest until every child and every person is safe from human trafficking. We must keep the hope that this is possible.