Delicate / Brutal

culture and society, heavier things, storytelling

I arrived home super early this morning, peeked in on the girls, took a hot shower, and fell into bed. Woke up this morning with the same dull chest pain that has stayed with me for the past week.

SE Asia was hard and incredible and devastating and amazing. We packed a hundred experiences and a hundred emotions into the span of a week. I could write for days about it. I could write a book about it.

I cried with a sex worker. I rode on the back of motorcycle taxis. I reviewed pedophile cases, and now I can’t get the images out of my head. I watched an undercover investigation happen from the back seat of an SUV and ducked every time I saw headlights. I questioned God. I watched horrible things unfold but I sat on my hands and smiled – as instructed – so as not to cause suspicion. I met people who have devoted their lives to rescuing victims and prosecuting evil people. I laughed with my friends in the back of a pickup truck and rubbed at the pain under my sternum by myself in the shower. I danced on a rooftop. I visited a Buddhist temple. I sat and talked with girls identified by the number pinned to their bikini bottoms. I connected with them. I felt a deep love for them. I wanted to rescue them. I left them behind.


The Exodus Road invited us out to see what they were doing, no strings attached. We weren’t paid to go out there, and we’re not required to write about it, either. “Meet us, learn about us, and if you like what you see, maybe you can tell people about us” was the invitation from Matt Parker, CEO. Over the years, I have become cynical? suspicious? wary? of NGOs, non-profits, and charities. What are they really doing? Where is the money really going? Who are they actually helping? I get three pitches from charities per week, inviting me to partner with them. I took the Exodus Road’s invitation. I went. I saw. I asked a ton of questions. They were patient and open and forthcoming.

I don’t know how to tell these stories. Is this too much to tell? Are these words too vulgar to say? This is truth, but is this sensationalism? The f-word, for example, in its verb form, was probably one of the words I heard the most this week, as it’s common vernacular in these cities. It’s not an impolite word. It’s a business word. It’s a service offered and a service bought. Children say it. Adults say it. It is said in polite company; it is said in brothels; it is said by the sweetest interpreters and the loudest partiers. And here I am sweating how do I talk about this incredibly important injustice and not upset my readers by using intense language? Can I tell these stories while blurring over the harshest parts? Can I tell these stories and remove the parts that made me ill? The parts that feel unreal? Can I tell these stories but keep them PG-13 rated instead of whatever is above XXXXXXXXX? How do I find the right balance?

“It’s hard to get people to go into brothels to do the undercover investigative work,” Matt said while we all shared a meal. “They don’t want to go into brothels and see nudity and be propositioned because that’s not what good people do. But good people need to go where bad people go to make a difference.”

And so that’s where I am. I’m asking you good people to go with me into stories about what bad people do so we can make a difference.

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  • Reply MissCaron June 24, 2014 at 10:33 am

    God bless you and the folks involved with Liberty Alliance. I know that it’s difficult but the words MUST be spoken. We must offend. We must rattle cages. We must make people feel uncomfortable. Or nothing will change.

  • Reply Kelly {the Centsible Life} June 24, 2014 at 10:33 am

    I can’t even imagine what you saw and experienced. I think it will be hard to share, but it’s worth telling if only to open the eyes of those of us who haven’t walked in your shoes and seen the things you did. I don’t think you can brush over the harshest parts-I think those are the most important, and the most real.

    I often find myself sitting in my bubble because it’s easier, because it doesn’t hurt as much, but watching your journey I’m reminded that I need to get outside my bubble more and see and do things that are hard. It’s really the only way to make the world a better place.

  • Reply Britiney June 24, 2014 at 10:36 am

    I’m scared but I will go.

  • Reply tara June 24, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Roo, I don’t think any of us can begin to imagine the kinds of things you saw and experienced on this trip. But I hope you try to explain it to us in whatever form you feel is necessary to get the point across. Sex trafficking isn’t a pretty subject. You’re not going to talk about slumber parties and coffee breaks and butterflies. It’s much uglier than that. I, for one, want to hear all about it in as much detail as you feel comfortable telling us in! Glad you are all home safe!

    • Reply Lisa S June 24, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      I agree with Tara. Lay as much of it out as you can.

  • Reply Cathie Bryk June 24, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Roo ~
    This most certainly will be one of the hardest things to do. To find a balance for something that isn’t balanced. Something that is so off center. Something that isn’t right. I applaud the work Exodus Road is doing. I applaud the trip that you ladies took to learn how to make a difference.
    And as a reader (and nearly never a commenter) I am ready to go with you.

    • Reply Roo June 24, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      Totally started crying at this comment. Thank you, Cathie.

      • Reply Cathie June 27, 2014 at 10:00 am

        you are so very welcome <3

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  • Reply Kirby June 24, 2014 at 10:59 am

    First: I love you. Second: I cried just reading this. Tell the story girl, share it all with us. Don’t sugar coat. Sugar coating is what keeps people in disbelief. Throw this is the faces of people who ignore, who don’t want to hear, who don’t want to believe, who don’t want to know the ugly, dirty, sad, terrifying truth. It’s not being mean, it’s not being harsh, it’s being real and that is what those people, those souls-those beautiful souls being tainted, deserve – for their story to be told unedited, unfiltered b/c it could save the life of another child, teen, woman being stolen from them.

  • Reply Kristin June 24, 2014 at 11:01 am

    I live in an area of the US where sex trafficking is at an all time high and it makes me sick. It makes me sick every time I turn the news on and another teen girl is gone missing because we all know where she’s been taken. But we need to be made aware of what is going on, here in the US and abroad. We need to know because knowledge is power. And even if all we can do is pray for these girls and these evil people that are the leaders of this nasty industry, then at least that is something. And maybe, hopefully, more people will be called to stand up and act. Prayers for you in sorting it all out in your head and in your heart.

  • Reply Lindsay @ fueled by diet coke June 24, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Preparing my heart for the truth. Bringing these stories into light is the first step to redemption.

  • Reply Krystyn @ Really, Are You Serious? June 24, 2014 at 11:21 am

    I hope you do share. And you are brutally honest. Because most of us sit in our homes and think it only happens somewhere else and it’s not real people. We need to know.

  • Reply Abby June 24, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Sometimes I have a hard time believing there is this much evil in the world but I know we need to hear the hard stuff – the truth – even though it is probably unimaginable. I’m ready.

  • Reply Rebecca June 24, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Be honest. Don´t sugarcoat it. You won´t feel true to yourself if you do. Add a disclaimer for language and people can choose to read it or not, but I hope they do.

    • Reply Roo June 25, 2014 at 10:43 pm

      Great idea. Adding a disclaimer.

  • Reply Titania Jordan June 24, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    I am here. With open ears and a heavy (yet hopeful) heart.

  • Reply Sharon June 24, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Lay it on us girl, you gotta get it out, and the world needs to hear it. we are willing, and those that can’t handle it, know how to navigate over to the TIHIF section. So let it flow. just pu it out there, and maybe you telling us, the dirty, ugly, sad truth will help another family from lossing something this way.

  • Reply jennifer p June 24, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    like with every issue or problem ,the only way things change is if people talk about it .the more that people talk ,the more they learn,and the more they do ,so that someday things will change.you’re brave to do these things and to talk about them.

  • Reply Lisa Perkins June 24, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Let it out, life’s not sugar coated! Do what will make you feel like you gave it some justice. We are all big people here! You are so amazing for even having the courage to do this.

  • Reply tara June 24, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    I read this last night…scary to think it’s happening in our own backyard too. Let it all out Roo!


  • Reply Meghan June 24, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    I truly think that if you make it PG-13, make it easier to digest, it negates your purpose and your trip. We all know these things happen. You simply going, stating the facts, tells us these things happen. As someone who’s worked in another country, helping other people, I can tell you that, just like your Guatemala trip, we here at home have zero connection or REAL idea of what is going on unless someone tells us. And I guarantee that people do not really CARE until you start telling real stories about real people. Tell us like it is. We can handle it.

  • Reply Julie June 24, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    I appreciate you being such a clear communicator of your motives for writing about this and also for the time you’ve taken to make sure it doesn’t come across as sensationalism. The End It movement slogan says, “Nothing happens just because we are aware of modern day slavery, but nothing will ever happen until we are.”

    You’re doing a good job.

  • Reply Andrea (Lil-Kid-Things) June 24, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    The hardest things we have to share are often the ones people need to hear the most. You’ve seen a nightmare and we have to be able to do SOMETHING to stop it.

  • Reply Katie June 24, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Share the stories. Don’t soften the blow or sensor the words. I’m a child protection worker in the US and I cry out to God all the time over the cases I investigate and the children I interview. I’ve had to focus on breathing slowly and biting my tongue – literally – so that I don’t throw up as a coworker goes into explicit detail over a 2 year old’s recounting of long term sexual abuse by their uncle or mom’s boyfriend. Tell their stories. Tell them loudly and bluntly and damn the offense that anyone feels unless your words are offending their soul in such a way to move them to action. “Lord, break our hearts for what breaks yours.”

    So proud of you for going, for feeling, and for coming back to share the stories of those who would otherwise be silenced.

  • Reply Jen June 24, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    I can’t imagine the things you saw, the heartache and pain and ugliness. I want to hear your stories though. I have absolute faith that you will do them justice.

  • Reply jill June 24, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Reading just this, my heart is already broken. As Katie said, “Lord, break our hearts for what breaks yours.”

  • Reply Laura June 24, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    No one has asked these girls for their permission; you sure don’t need ours to write about the truth. If you can find a way to tell it, we will find a way to listen.
    I keep talking with Mike about non-profits that catch my attention, but in the end there’s usually something questionable if not cringe-worthy. I would really, really like to know what you think about Exodus Road.

  • Reply Lauren @ Faith and Macaroni June 24, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    I agree with the sentiments above: don’t dilute it. The hardest things to hear are usually what we need most to hear. Go, Roo!

  • Reply Shannon June 24, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Please do just go. We want to hear the real truth. Nothing watered down please. We need to know. Thank you.

  • Reply Jackie June 24, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    It is only with the conduit of the holy spirit that you will be able to process this. Those of us who are at home, thank God for the work you’ve done. It will be our privilege to battle for you (and these victims) in our prayers.

  • Reply Alex @ Kenzie Life June 24, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    I’m willing to go there.

    “Good people need to go where bad people go to make a difference.” Wow. Please share, unfiltered, what you want to share. That type of works sounds incredibly, heartbreaking, profound, rewarding, and a thousand other things all at once.

  • Reply Nikki June 25, 2014 at 12:03 am

    Please tell us all the gory details. I’m in happy in my current job right now and looking for something to give me a purpose. I’m so intesterested in the work you did and how maybe I can help!

  • Reply Jodi June 25, 2014 at 2:22 am

    Girlfriend, you have to do this. You have to speak up for the girls you left behind, who can’t speak up for themselves. Shine the light on those dark places. Much love to you.

  • Reply Michael from Dadcation June 25, 2014 at 10:00 am

    I think it’d be a disservice to the organization if you don’t tell it the way it is and was, in all the inappropriate yet appropriate vernacular required.

  • Reply Sandy The Fearless Scribe June 25, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Speak the truth in all its harshness because They, the victims, deserve it.

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  • Reply Annie Reneau @ Motherhood and More June 26, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    I’ve been hopping around all four of your ladies’ blogs this week, both dying inside and welling up with a ferocious desire to DO something. I love that you guys went on this trip and are using your gifts and platforms to share your experiences and these stories. So many of us who are in similar, privileged, relatively sheltered shoes feel helpless when faced with these truths. Thank you so much for shedding light on a reality that is so hard to understand and so easy to forget is happening in the face of soccer schedules and laundry piles. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Reply Catherine June 27, 2014 at 11:42 am

    I haven’t been getting your feed through Bloglovin’ for some reason so I came over last night to check if you had posted anything. I had to leave it until this morning as I knew it would be hard to read and I wouldn’t get any sleep. I am ready for it now. Looking forward to reading your words. Sending hugs your way (and I really mean that – I have lived in third world countries and seen things and know a little bit how those images and people stay with you in the deepest way).

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  • Reply Rebecca June 29, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    I agree with all of the comments. To help these girls, to help others to see, the stories must be told. Rattle cages, shine the light and spread the truth. And thank you for being so brave. We are with you.

  • Reply Courtney July 2, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    I agree with these comments. You need to tell the story. Too often, these types of news stories are sugar coated and many people don’t think it’s as a big deal because the truth is unfathomable. So I say, tell it as you saw it. The shock of it, I’m sure, will open many more eyes to the things you saw. If not, I’m afraid the stories will go by without discussion.

  • Reply Lana July 2, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Yes. After leaving the church several years ago, I promised myself I would “fight for the little guy” and encourage anyone else to as well. My strong sense of justice, wants to encourage you to be bold.

  • Reply Lizzy July 2, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Please tell the story of the children and women for them, for yourself and for all of us. Sugar coating doesn’t fix anything. Sugar coating allows others to think that things aren’t as bad and brutal as they really are and it does a disservice to the victims of what you saw and experienced. i am confident that you will find a way to tell your story and theirs in a way that you are comfortable with but will also get the point across. I agree with a prior poster that a disclaimer may help. I also have another suggestion. I think you should write from your gut to get it all out of you. Get it all out…let us hear it. Then I suggest that you return to the piece after you have had time to process it and give us your point of view of your experiences again. It’s just a thought and I hope that I explained what I meant to say.

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