Stalin has been credited with saying, "One death is tragedy, a million is a statistic." If he in fact uttered that statement it would certainly be a hollow admission (or perverse prophecy) by one of the single most evil men that ever ruled. Unfortunately for the victims of any humanitarian crisis, whoever it was that said it, might just be right.
In Richard Stearns' book The Hole In Our Gospel he expounds on this sentiment citing a 2007 University of Oregon study to make his point. Three test groups were given 3 different sets of information. The first was told the tragic story of young Rokia, an African girl who was an innocent victim of poverty. The second group was given this statistic: That across four African countries there were some 17 million hungry, and another 4 million homeless. The third group was given both Rokia's story and the statistics. According to the study's findings, the first group when asked for donations was much more generous than either of the other groups. Blame it on compassion fatigue or lack of imagination, the story of one suffering child trumped the numbers. I find personally this often holds true.
So, in their own excruciating but immensely powerful words, I wanted to let the child victims of sex trafficking speak for themselves. And though children should never say such things, (because they should never have to), their voices must be heard.
Hanna, age 13
"I was moved around by these people, to different places. In Romania, I had eight clients a day; in Turkey four or five a day; in Spain, ten. In the United Kingdom, probably twelve. Of course some of the clients beat you. This is how they treat you. They don't care if you live or die. They just do not want to get caught. So, I took an overdose, I tried to hang myself, I tried to jump off a balcony. If I died they get another girl to replace what I am doing. It is easy for them. There are so many girls. So many." (source: UNICEF)
Tiola, age 13
"A few hours later a group of men entered the room and began to yell and beat me. Each one took their turn with me. One would hold me down while the others raped me." The leader then told her her husband had sold her for $250. "He said I had to obey him or else I would be killed." Tiola was then repeatedly raped and beaten for seven days and then resold. "He beat my head so badly I couldn't see out of my eyes for two days." She was told if she didn't work as a prostitute her mother and sister in Albania would be killed. (source: UNICEF)
Chong Ok Sun, age 13
"I had to prepare lunch for my parents who were working in the field and so I went to the village well to fetch water. A Japanese garrison soldier surprised me there and took me away, so my parents never knew what happened to their daughter. I was taken to the police station in a truck, where I was raped by several policemen. When I shouted they put socks in my mouth and continued to rape me. The head of the police station hit me in my left eye because I was crying. That day I lost my eyesight in my left eye. After ten days or so, I was taken to the Japanese army garrison barracks in Heysan City. There were around 400 other Korean young girls with me and we had to serve over 5,000 Japanese soldiers as sex slaves everyday-- up to forty men per day. Each time I protested, they hit me or stuffed rags in my mouth. One held a matchstick to my private parts until I obeyed him. My private parts were oozing with blood." (UN Distr. General report)
It is said that narratives such as Harriet Jacob's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and The Narrative of the Life if Fredrick Douglass helped change the way average Americans viewed slavery, and may have ultimately shaped the political environment that led to abolition. Maybe the stories of these three 13 year olds (the average age a child is exploited) and the countless others like them will do the same. Maybe those stories will wake average people from ignorance or apathy and bring freedom for the estimated two million children consigned to the fate of sexual slavery every year.