Terrify No More

March 25, 2011

I recently finished Terrify No More by Gary Haugen, who is the CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM). In this book, Haugen takes the reader inside of IJM’s work to let us see what is behind rescuing modern-day slaves. In order to illuminate the process, Haugen takes the reader through a raid and rescue at a brothel in Svay Pak, Cambodia. Svay Pak is a haven for pedophiles, and the brothels there are known for having especially young girls.

It’s so hard to give a synopsis of this book. As a reader, I felt a bit like I was watching a horror movie- watching the story unfold through splayed fingers as my hands covered my face. But, covering my eyes doesn’t make the reality go away. Indeed, as I read the book, I was (and am) deeply disturbed. But, as I pressed through reading the book, I also saw redemption. I also saw hope. I also saw bravery. Haugen takes the reader through the excruciating process of investigating, documenting, tactical planning and executing the raid. It’s hard to pick one person from the book to high light. So many heroes. Victims who go back to brothels where they were enslaved in order to show hiding places during subsequent raids (which results in more victims being rescued). Brave investigators who go in with video cameras to document the sex slaves. They could (and likely would) be killed if their covers were blown.  What they see as they do their investigations is haunting. Dehumanizing. Sharon Cohn Wu (who at the time the book was written was  IJM’s chief legal counsel) is a rock star. Her leadership left me hopeful. She is a Harvard-trained attorney who left a high paying job in order to do something more meaningful. She’s brilliant and tenacious. She and her interns were tireless in their documentation of each trafficking victim. Documenting age, name and act perpetrated. Careful not to use inflammatory language. Just stating the facts. If every t was not crossed and i was not dotted, the slaves would likely wind up back in the brothel. When Sharon Cohn Wu is fighting on your behalf, it’s time for the perpetrators to get worried.  She also held the Cambodian governments’ feet to the fire in enforcing their own laws to protect children.  With bribes being another income string for Svay Pak police officers, fighting corruption was (and is) a major hurdle in bringing about justice.

Again, I’m struggling with what to share, so I’ll just share a few of my take-aways.

  • I felt encouraged that people who are smart and capable are engaging in this work.  Smart, capable people can usually demand a good deal of money.  Those working at IJM are trading in high paying jobs for jobs that bring them a moral and spiritual return on investment.  Indeed, money is not the only type of compensation.  Moral and spiritual satisfaction is another form of compensation.
  • IJM is a Christian organization.  Those involved in the investigation, documentation and tactical planning for raids are assiduous in their planning.  Every detail is attended to with excruciating detail.  That being said, corruption is a huge issue.  A last minute call from a police officer to a brothel owner could blow the cover of a raid that had taken enormous time and resources to plan.  This is where the Christian part comes in.  With all the meticulous planning, there was still a huge need for God to show up.  They needed God to intervene on their behalf in order to bring these girls out of brothels and into after care. They needed God to intervene so that the raid wasn’t blown before it ever started.
  • I love that IJM is trying to disrupt the flow of human trafficking in order to make communities less hospitable for traffickers.  All of the evidence and documentation that is collected during the investigatory process is used by IJM attorneys to doggedly prosecute perpetrators and hopefully put them in jail for a very long time.
  • Eight to ten year old girls (and often even younger) are being raped multiple times daily by pedophiles.  If they aren’t “good enough” or don’t smile enough when the pedophiles are done with them, they are beaten.  I’m at a loss with how to process this.  When the little girls (IJM documented cases with little girls as young as five) are rescued, then they have to live with what has been done to them.  After care is a huge challenge.  There aren’t enough facilities, and rehabilitation is beyond challenging.  These girls have been violated in a visceral way-often for a very long time.  Often, they were sold into slavery by a family member.  I’ll be writing about Hagar International soon, but they are one of the organizations that is working in aftercare in Cambodia.
  • It renewed my commitment to be involved in Fair Trade in some way.  I want to be involved in a movement that gives families that have been involved in prostitution another way to make a dignified living.  On a side note, I recently watched the documentary Born Into Brothels.  Many of the children in the documentary came from families in Calcutta that have been involved in prostitution for generations.  The little girls spoke matter-of-factly about how relatives were pushing them to “join the line”.  What else to do when both mom and gradma were prostitutes?  I’m hopeful that Fair Trade can be a part of the solution by bringing in other work that pays well and brings dignity.
  • Gary Haugen sums it up when he says that IJM is trying to do the work that is important to the victims. Therefore, their mission involves four key components: 1. victim relief, 2. perpetrator accountability, 3. victim afercare and 4. structural transformation. Click here if you want more detail on their work.

3 Responses to “Terrify No More”

  1. Denise Says:

    Thanks for having the fortitude to read this book and share about it. I’m touched deeply, Robin.

  2. dawn brozek Says:

    I enjoy your blog very much Robin. I’m also interested in trafficking/slavery. Are you familiar with Apne Aap? They do terrific work as well. apneaap.org

    • Robin Johnson Simpson Says:

      Great to hear from you, Dawn! I’ll definitely check Apne Aap out. Thanks for the recommendation.

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