The other day, I learned that my friend was murdered.
I don’t mean to say it so matter of factly. It is just that the most horrible thing that could have happened to her did, and I don’t really know what to do about it.
The day was a confusion of shock and normalcy. After I learned the news, my old teammate and I prayed together and then I went back to work. I would find myself laughing at something when an image of her would flash through my head and I would feel guilty that I had gone on with my life.
I spent my day going back and forth about what I should write and how I should write it, knowing that her story needs to be told. Because she matters and so do the countless other women like her.
So I guess I will just tell you what I know.
Her name was Mon and she was my friend.
She was shorter than me but she always wore these platform flip-flops that made us appear around the same height. She schooled me at shooting pool regularly and would buy me a Coke when we would visit the bars in the hot, muggy afternoons. On the nights when we visited her, I would buy watermelon and pineapple from the local vendor. We would share it while dancing to Katy Perry songs.
Sometimes when we came she was with a man, their faces always changed. Some seemed polite enough and just looking for companionship. Others were not, grabbing her and speaking to her in a degrading manner. Whenever she was with a man we would just hang back and wave, praying that she would be safe that night.
She didn’t speak much English, so she would just smile a lot. And oh, how her smile lit up a room.
Whenever I didn’t know what else to say I would gently run my fingers through her hair, telling her how much I loved it and how beautiful she was. I think, given her line of work, she was told that a lot. And because of the way it was said, and who normally said it, the meaning of the words were perverted. But I believe when I said it, it was different and she could tell. And she would give me one of those smiles.
She was the close friend of one the girls that we spent almost every day with, who also worked in the bars. And she would always go around town with us and to church sometimes too. We would go to Butter is Better to get pancakes and then go shopping and have some banana roti.
There was a sweetness about her, but it was more than the way she moved about a room or how smiled at you. It was like the essence of her being, sweetness, kindness, gentleness all packaged into a tiny little frame.
It was hard knowing her line of work, because I knew how she was treated and what it did to one’s soul. She had the same story so many other young girls in southeast Asia. Poverty had forced her into the bar scene and poverty is what kept her there.
A lot of the women enter the bars because there is nothing else for them, they believe they will meet some wealthy foreigner and, as in Pretty Woman, fall in love and forever be taken care of. The reality is that it never happens like that, women who work in the sex trade constantly face violence. They aren’t seen as humans, but rather objects to be consumed. It leaves them empty.
Once in a blue moon a bar girl does marry a client, and she thinks all of her dreams are coming true. Finally, someone to care for her and protect her. But instead of the wedded bliss, she often faces a lifetime of bondage, a slave to his every whim.
But it doesn’t stop the women from holding onto hope, that maybe this next client, maybe he will be the one to save her from her living hell.
I wonder if that was what Mon was thinking that night as she went to the hotel room with him. The thought is too terrible to bear.
The next morning she was found, dead from internal injuries due to rape and the sodomy that left a glass water bottle in her abdomen. There are more details I could share, but I feel they are too dark.
The fact that she was murdered is gut-wrenching, but how it happened was even worse.
There is a darkness that seems to engulf the whole situation. Leaving in its wake broken hearts and terrible fear, but there is something else there, too.
Hope. I have to believe that light, that something good, can come from this. I have to believe that God can still make good come from such a horrible situation. And he can.
But the only way we are going to bring light to this story is if we remember her. She had a name, dreams, friends and family who loved her. She matters, her story matters and if we remember her, maybe we can do something about the hundreds of thousands of girls like her in the sex trade.
I know stories like hers happen all the time, violence comes with the job description. Most stories go untold, fading into the background of thousands of deaths that resemble hers. It is only because she was my friend that you are hearing about it now.
Her story does not have to end in darkness, through her death we can be moved to action. We can do everything in our power to make sure that another story like hers doesn’t happen.
So I am speaking out. I am telling her story to let the world know she is not forgotten. It is because of her and many like her that I will keep shouting at the top of my lungs that the sex trade MUST end. The objectification of women MUST end. The violence against women MUST end.
There are ways that you, yes you, can get tangibly involved to see an end to stories like this:
Pray- Pray as you have never prayed before God brings redemption to the stories of objectification, abuse, and manipulation. That people will be fulfilled by God and stop searching for fulfillment in lust. That women like her have the courage to leave and have a place to go to escape the trade. That the demand for the sex trade just stops.
Send notes- It is the call on my life to see women step into their full potential in Christ. As part of that I get the opportunity to disciple women who have left the sex trade in Thailand and the Philippines. I am going back in May to bring encouragement and love to these women, please send them your prayers and your love in a handwritten card so they may know they are not alone. Email me if you are interested.
Donate- And if you feel lead you may also donate to Wipe Every Tear, an organization that takes women out of the sex trade and puts them through college. They have a safe house in the same city this woman was murdered. Please do something.
Whatever you do, don’t let this woman’s story go unheard.
She is not just another statistic. She was a person. She was loved and cared about and she was brutally murdered.
Share this article. Get involved with organizations that fight this injustice. Together, we can end this kind of violence against people.