The night of her rescue, 15-year-old Lara* was overwhelmed and confused. On one hand, she was afraid. Lara felt responsible to support her mother and sister—she never told them what was happening to her night after night. What would happen when they found out?
On the other hand, she was relieved. This might just be her chance to break free from the grip of the woman who was trafficking her for sex.
A happy childhood turned upside down
Lara describes her life before her exploitation as “bindaas,” a Hindi word meaning “cool and carefree.” She lived in a suburb of Mumbai with her parents and two siblings, and she was studious, playful and a natural leader among her peers.
How is it possible that her life was turned completely upside down in just a few months?
Lara’s story is tragic, and sadly, it is not unique. But you can send rescue and protection to children like Lara and make sure they are cared for in freedom.
Will you give today and help bring even more rescue to children and women who have been exploited around the world?
Lara wanted to help her family
When Lara’s father died, her mother took over his cleaning job at a government hospital. It was a demanding job, and Lara did most of the housework while her mother was at work.
“Besides me, there was no one else to support my mother, and so I had to do the housework and would also babysit for a neighbor who also worked with my mother at the hospital.”
Where Lara saw an opportunity to help her family, her neighbor saw an opportunity to make a quick profit by exploiting a child. She preyed on Lara’s vulnerability and sold her for sex several times a week for six long months.
She was one young girl in one little house in one neighborhood in a nation of more than a billion people.
Lara's odds of being found and rescued were beyond bleak.
With a gift today, you can help find children just like Lara who are trapped in cycles of violence and fear by people who have absolutely no fear of being caught.
Generous people just like you ensured that Lara overcame impossible odds because IJM was there to receive a crucial tip about her location. IJM and local authorities found and brought Lara to freedom, but her journey was far from over.
The road to healing begins
On the day of the rescue, our team could not believe how young Lara looked. One police officer shared, “Her frail and tiny structure resembled nothing of a 15-year-old.”
As Lara began the journey of aftercare, she moved into a shelter with other girls who had experienced similar abuse. Suddenly there were rules, rhythms and structures to provide some order for the girls—yet for Lara, this was an overwhelming transition.
“I was feeling like I was alone at the time I was shifted to the aftercare home,” she explains. “I had never mixed with so many people, and I had never lived with so many people. I felt very weird there. I would feel suffocated, and I was not comfortable.”
But with time, she began adjusting to life at the shelter, and as she began participating more in the games and sessions, her true spirit began to shine.
Lara says, “Some of my characteristics started to come out, like leadership and…taking care of someone. People in there started to depend on me—saying that if Lara was given some work, she would do it very well. I started to enjoy that aspect and it made it easier to deal with others.”
Your gifts make lasting transformation and healing possible. Send a gift today to make sure more girls like Lara get the counseling and help they need.
Lara continued to make great progress at the shelter and became close with Lila, an IJM social worker who saw Lara’s bravery and encouraged her to continue pursuing an education.
Lila even went as far as helping Lara apply to receive government support, tracking down a copy of her birth certificate and helping her set up her first bank account.
When it came time for Lara’s abuser to be tried in court, an IJM legal consultant walked Lara through every step of the process to share her testimony.
Even though Lara has testified, these cases can take months or even years until a verdict is reached. To date, the case against the woman who exploited Lara is ongoing.
Thanks to people like you, Lara has been restored back to health and has graduated from the aftercare process. She has a great relationship with her mother and her sister and lives at home.
Help more girls like Lara
Lara’s incredible story of transformation and healing can only be told because people like you around the world have decided to stand with people who are suffering and alone.
Right now, more kids just like Lara are waiting for their day of freedom. They are exploited by neighbors and strangers. They are trapped in brothels and brick kilns and exploited on boats and in homes.
With your help,
they can be found.
*A pseudonym and stock photos.