Our outreach teams go out every week into brothels. They might bring flowers, jewelry, small gifts, chocolates- anything that could serve as a conversation starter and a reminder after we’ve left. Brothel owners are willing to allow us in as long as we don’t disturb regular business. We’ve even had a brothel owner call us and tell us that he believed a girl would die in the brothel if we did not take her.
Our outreach teams are very careful. They make casual conversation about family and America and where the women come from. Typically these women are coming from rural parts of the country. They typically left home at 12, 13, 14, 15 to go earn money so their brothers can go to school. They probably thought they were going to work at a legitimate massage parlor or hair salon.
Once they’ve arrived at the brothel, they really have no way of leaving. They’re terrified, they’ve never left their small villages, it’s their first time in the big city, they may not be able to read, and they have very little cash. They don’t have to be held under threat of violence; they have no other option.
Our outreach teams form relationships with these women week after week. Because our customers order jewelry, we get to offer them a chance to experience freedom, establish independence, and develop careers.
Becca, our Communications Director, reflects on an outreach visit she had a couple weeks ago:
“Tonight I went on outreach to visit with women in the shops. As I was sitting in one, a customer came in. Usually I am quite aware of customers’ presence, and pay attention to how the women respond, and figure out if it’s best for us to leave. Tonight, I was just thinking about the girl in front of me. I didn’t know until after we left and my coworker told me that the man who walked in asked how much I cost.
This has happened many times before. In the past I have been angry and irritated. Today, I shrugged it off. I am not sure if it was wrong of me to not feel anything, to just shrug it off because it’s something that’s become a bit normal.
As I thought about it a few hours later, I realized that I have that privilege, to just ‘shrug it off.’ The women I am going into the shops to visit, don’t; they don’t have that luxury.
I don’t always know what to do with those thoughts except to lift the women and customers up. Please stand with me today and be thinking of the women and girls we visit on a weekly basis.”
-Becca Bunch, Communications Director, processing her experience on Outreach.
Our Outreach teams visit the brothels every week to form relationships with women. We hope they’ll come to Starfish Project to experience freedom, establish independence, and develop careers. Thanks for supporting the women at Starfish Project as they write new Stories of Hope.