During the last five years of House of Change’s existence, there have been several girls who decided to run away from our rehabilitation center. And we understand why they did that. Working for many years with victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking, we understand how difficult is for these young girls with broken bodies and souls to overcome their deep pain and trauma. Women who have suffered cruel violence and exploitation need so much strength and courage to fight for a new, different life. Not all of the victims handle that. Lada was one of those who didn’t.
Lada was born in Moldova. Her parents died early, so she grew up and was educated in an orphanage. At age of 16, she was directed by the social services to vocational school. Unfortunately, Lada didn’t complete her studies. She began living with a man who promised to marry her. But this never happened, because Lada got pregnant and the young man left her. She remained on the street, without a profession, job or money for living. After she gave birth to a girl, the situation became even worse. Now with a little child, she couldn’t find job at all. So for the next two years Lada was surviving with her daughter, living in a friend’s apartment. Finally, in 2007 she gave up and accepted a job she had been offered long before, in a restaurant somewhere in Turkey.
After leaving Moldova, she disappeared for more than a year. Because of this, the child protection committee took away Lada’s child, from a friend who was looking after the little girl. However, after a long absence, Lada returned to Moldova. She told a friend that in Turkey she was forced to provide sexual services. She desperately tried to find her daughter, but it was too late. She had lost her child forever.
Lada started to drink heavily, but didn’t seek help anywhere. She didn’t want people to know about her experience.
In 2009, Lada went to Dubai, this time fully aware of what she would be doing there. But she wanted to earn enough money to find daughter and take her back. She worked there but again came back home without much money. After a year, she accepted another job in Malaysia, where working conditions were described as very good, with more money paid. She was met at the airport in Malaysia by a lady who took her straight to an apartment where a hidden brothel was organized. When she saw eight other girls in the apartment, Lada understood that again she had been drawn into slavery. But this time, the conditions were terrible. Traffickers took all her documents, violated her and informed that she owed them $15,000.
In the apartment she met other Moldovan girls, and they agreed to escape. So they waited until one day an opportunity came for them to flee. Some of the girls were caught by traffickers again, but Lada was stopped by the police. She tried to explain what had happened to her, but instead of freedom she was arrested and was put in prison for two years.
After her release, Lada continued to leave on the streets of the Malaysian city until she met a man who suggested she lived with him. In 2013, Lada was again arrested by the police. This time, Lada ended up in one of the worst prisons of Malaysia because her crime was related to drugs. Deprived from food and clean water, beaten and violated, Lada became seriously ill. She survived only because of Red Cross nurses who served in the prison.
In the hospital, she shared her story with a doctor. He helped her to go to China, where the only Moldovan embassy in the region is located.
Lada finally arrived in Chisinau, Moldova in February, at night time, wearing only her cool dress. Because of this, she was detained once more by police and interrogated. In the morning she was released by La Strada officers. Eventually, Lada was sent to House of Change.
When this young woman crossed the threshold of our rehabilitation center, we saw a broken and lost person. She tried to hide her pain, but it was too evident that her wounds were very deep. Our House of Change team surrounded Lada with attention and love. We wanted to help her. But she didn’t let anyone come close. She spent just two months in our center. She dreamed of continuing her vocational studies to become a confectioner, to have a family and children… but one day all these dreams became too much and scared her. She thought all these things would be impossible to her to obtain, and that she would be betrayed and exploited again. That’s why Lada decide to run away that night.
For victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking, so much time, effort and courage is needed to overcome their terrible experience and trauma, and to learn how to live normally in society… to find the courage to live differently. Until there are such stories, until trafficking exists, we need to be on the front line!