Good News: 15-year-old Girl Rescued from Brothel

June 5, 2024

Trigger warning: Abuse, sexual abuse, substances.

Excited, 15-year-old Shifa* sat on a bus in India headed to her grandmother’s house. As she looked out the bus window, a man and two women sat beside her. They talked with her and asked her about school, what she did for fun, and where she was headed. Suspiciously, they said they were actually going to the same place as Shifa. They were nice to her, but something about them felt off. 

Their smiling facades were the last thing she remembered before the heavy darkness of exploitation swallowed her.

Shifa woke up groggy with a pounding headache, not knowing where she was. She was surrounded. Men and women stood around her, bidding to buy her. To. Buy. Her. She couldn’t believe it. The three strangers on the bus weren’t her friends at all. They had drugged her, and she was now in the process of being sold into sex trafficking. After a few rounds of bidding, a woman bought out everyone else and took Shifa to a dark room, where she stayed for a few days before being moved to a dirty brothel. 

The brothel owner told her not to worry as he drugged her day after day. Because of this, she was in a constant state of weakness and disorientation. She didn’t know where she was and was terrified but didn’t know what else to do. The worst part was that from morning until night, 10 to 15 men would sexually exploit her. Seven days a week. If she didn’t do as the brothel owner said, she would get beaten. He also took all the money from the buyers. Shifa got none of it. 

This torture went on for a month. Shifa was exhausted. Every morsel of hope she had drifted away with each man that came through the brothel doors. She wouldn’t let herself think of her grandmother and her comfort as deep shame, confusion, and pain took over. 

Then one day, she heard a crash and people yelling downstairs. Before she knew it, she was whisked out of the brothel, and a blinding light hit her. She climbed into a car with one of the rescuers and driven to a safe home far out of the city, away from anyone who wanted to harm her.

In late December, the Atlas Free Network Member conducted a rescue operation with the help of police and other parties, leading to the rescue of Shifa and one other underage girl. This led to the arrest of 13 perpetrators. Shifa and the other girl bravely provided written statements for evidence in the trial against the perpetrators. Shifa is free, safe, and healing with counseling and has a chance to return to school. This justice and healing wouldn’t be possible without people like you.

This isn't always how sex trafficking happens. It's not always a "taken" situation. Oftentimes, people are tricked or slowly coerced into sexual exploitation from someone they know and trust. No matter how people become trapped, one thing remains true: Sex trafficking thrives in the dark and often subtle places.

Fortunately, Shifa's story is a courageous one. 

Millions of people just like Shifa are trapped in brothels right now. Stand up for them today with a monthly gift. Team Freedom members give once a month and send immediate rescue, relief, and safety to people trapped in sex trafficking. You can be one of them. Because of this community, 35 people are set free from trafficking each week on average. 

*Name changed to protect the survivor’s identity.