For us at Freedom Firm, every rescue and every victim rescued is a reason to celebrate. When I receive an update that the team is getting ready for a rescue operation with the police, I wait in anticipation for news from the field teams. Sometimes waiting is bittersweet at Freedom Firm. The sweet part, the victim being rescued and moved from danger to a safe place. The bitter part, her not cooperating with us or the police post rescue. Keeping her silence against the traffickers, a choice caused by fear, ignorance, trauma and invisible bondages.

19th April was a special day and evoked strong emotions for us at Freedom Firm. Our team in Madhya Pradesh was coordinating with the local police and preparing to rescue two minor girls. In our minds, we were preparing to rescue victims between 16 to 18 years of age. From 2:30 pm to 5 pm, I checked my phone multiple times for an update. Were we successful? Were the minors rescued? Or was there some tip off which would result in the girls disappearing and the brothel shutting down? Finally at 5:08 pm, my phone pinged and I received the update. The rescue was successful and two victims were rescued. I continued to wait for more details; how many people were arrested, when would the First Information Report be completed… An hour later I learned two victims were rescued. One was 10 years old and the other was 12 year old. 10 and 12, I couldn’t believe my eyes! I have no idea how many times I re-read the message. These were not minors or girls. These were children. Small children that were at such a tender stage of development.

13 year old Rashmi and 10 year old Anamika

We were in shock. We were angry. We were sad. We were heartbroken. We were concerned about the effects this crime would have on their bodies and minds. But we were also glad. Glad that for these two children, the sexual abuse and exploitation was finally over. I couldn’t help but wonder what our investigators would have felt when they saw these two children, after all they were fathers too. What our social workers felt when counselling and comforting such young children, they were this age and had sisters this age at one time. It is truly a miracle that the team didn’t fall apart. It has actually motivated them to look for more children and minors that are trapped in sexual slavery.

I then think of the perpetrator, the 26 year old woman who was their pimp, the person responsible for reducing these children to objects and toys that depraved adults would pay to play with. The anger once again returns. This anger often fuels our rescue and justice work; putting pressure on the police to rescue the girls, ensuring evidence is collected from the brothels, checking to see First Information Reports have the relevant laws and acts added to them, and our advocates fight bail applications and push for convictions…

Every emotion; anger, sadness, brokenness, grief, shock… is important. These emotions are what keep us from getting numb and desensitized. It spurs us to work with focus and determination. It keeps us going on even when survivors turn hostile and turn against us and record false statements. These emotions backed with experience help us to understand a survivor’s helplessness and bad decisions.

Trauma is not imagined. Post traumatic stress disorder is not an unconquerable grief. With our victims and survivors, it is a brokenness of the heart. The shock of their innocence being taken away in such a violent manner. The anger that all of humanity failed them. It blinds them to the truth and it is up to us to help them slowly uncover the truth one layer at a time.

I am certain each of you reading this have experienced these emotions that we at Freedom Firm have gone and continue to go through. It is these emotions that have made you walk this journey along with us, for that we are grateful. Let us continue to let our love, anger and commitment fuel us so that one day we can live in a country where children walk free without fear of abuse or trafficking.

Catherine Raja National Director, Freedom Firm