“I had heard the stories, been warned of how hard it could be, and received training from my coworkers but there is nothing that can be done that fully prepares you for your first outreach experience. As I walked into my first brothel, I took a quick glance around and sat down on the couch that they gestured to as they welcomed my coworkers and I in. The outreach teams already had really good relationships with the women working in this brothel, so there was a lot of natural conversation. As a woman showed us her new dress and another woman joked around with us, I had a moment of realizing this was real life. I am here in this place, in a brothel, with these women, and they have no idea of the worth they have, how loved they are, and how beautiful, truly beautiful, each of them are. And even if I or anyone else told them, they would not believe it.
I listen and look at the women I am sitting across from or next to, and I wish I could tell them how loved and beautiful and worthy they are. I wonder what lies they believe about themselves and how people have treated them and wish I could take it away, but I cannot, so I smile and say what I can, and listen.
As a customer walks in, and gestures to the girl we are talking to, our teams say goodbye and that we will be back next week. We walk out the door, and a silent tear goes down my face.”
– Becca Bunch, Communications Director
Above is a reflection I wrote after my first outreach experience. The first time I walked into a brothel was over four years ago. I still remember exactly how it felt and the names of the girls who worked in that shop.
This is the view from inside one of the shops. It was abandoned a few weeks ago because the neighborhood is being demolished and all the residents had to leave.
When I walked into this shop, my first thought was “If depressing had a picture dictionary entry, this would be the picture.” It was dark, crowed, hopeless, and devoid of any life or joy. I’ve been doing outreach and visiting women in the shops for almost 6 years. Part of my weekly routine is visiting sketchy neighborhoods and loving on the women. I am used to seeing abnormal things. Abnormal has become my normal.
Even so, few weeks ago I could not shake the sense of hopelessness and desperation that this shop embodied. No woman chooses to end up in a place like this. No one wants to be there.
Any yet, these places exist. Yet, customers keep coming and economic necessity drives women to the cities looking for work.
I am still processing all of the emotions that have come out of it. I am glad for this painful experience because it means I can now serve the women at Starfish better.
– Jennifer, Starfish Project staff
THANK YOU for restoring hope to exploited women and girls. To support Starfish Project’s outreach and aftercare programs, go to: www.starfishproject.com/give