+++ Warning. This article could be a trigger for survivors of sexual abuse.
She was just a little girl. Lalitha. Nine years old. Innocent. Bright-eyed.
She had only thoughts of playing outside, dressing up her only doll that she had received as a present one lucky day several years ago. Sure, she had to help with some of the daily chores that kept their small household running. She had to bring a large steel bucket of water from the village water well every day. It was heavy and challenging to carry on her own, but she knew she was helping her mother who had to do so much of the work without help from anyone else.
She never knew her father. He had left them when she was an infant. Her mother was raising young Lalitha on her own. This meant her mother had to provide financially as well. She went to the fields every day to harvest whatever vegetables were ready to be picked. It was back-breaking work for very little pay. But it provided enough hot rice and spicy lentils for their small table. They never went without something to eat.
But then one day, something terrible happened.
Lalitha’s mother went to work as usual, asking the neighbors to watch Lalitha and her younger sister. However, this neighbor had sinister motives. He called Lalitha over to his house. She obeyed as she always did. That day, though, was different than every other day. On that day, Lalitha’s young life was shattered. That neighbor lured sweet Lalitha to his bedroom and he raped her. Took advantage of her. Robbed her of her innocence in just a few horrible minutes.
When Lalitha’s mother returned home from the fields that evening, she immediately knew something was wrong with Lalitha. When Lalitha, through sobs, tears, and much shame, explained what had happened, her mother, enraged, initially couldn’t imagine what she would do. Desperation raced through her emotionally distraught mind. Hot tears of anger rolled down her cheeks as she realized her daughter’s life had been changed forever.
But then she remembered.
She remembered the friendly and compassionate women she had met at the community meetings she had attended in the last few months. She remembered the way these women had explained there was hope and solutions for women who faced abuse and sexual exploitation. She remembered there was indeed something that could be done. She hesitated not one more moment to find these friends. These women were members of the anti-human trafficking team placed in her village by Dignity Freedom Network. The DFN team had held awareness seminars on women’s safety and prevention of trafficking and violence. Lalitha’s mother never imagined she would have to use their services. But she did and she was thankful for their help. The DFN team accompanied her to the police station to file a case against the man who had violated young Lalitha.
Thankfully, the police took immediate action, arrested the culprit, and sent him to jail.
Meanwhile, the DFN team members surrounded Lalitha and her mother with abundant support. They got Lalitha the immediate and sensitive medical attention she needed. They sent social workers to the house to walk her through the range of emotions and trauma she was experiencing. Their legal team was on call to follow up with the police. Their number one priority became this mother and her child. Their care was complete, holistic, and long-lasting. Now part of the DFN family, Lalitha and her mother would never be alone, never be victims again.
A few months passed and the man who had attacked Lalitha was released from jail on bail. He immediately began harassing Lalitha and her mother. They were frightened for their safety and began losing sleep over this new threat. Thankfully, the DFN team leapt into action once again and garnered police support. However, Lalitha was still in recovery from her trauma. This man’s evil presence triggered withdrawal and depression in her. Her mother couldn’t bear to see her like this and asked the DFN team if there was a solution.
There was indeed a solution. It was a solution filled with hope and freedom. And it involved rescue and prevention.
The DFN team offered Lalitha a place in their shelter home several hours from her village. They explained to Lalitha’s mother that this shelter was a safe and beautiful place for girls to recover, learn, live, and thrive, far removed from the threat of violence and abuse. Overjoyed at the prospect of this incredible blessing, Lalitha’s mother immediately accepted the invitation. Although saying goodbye to Lalitha was difficult, she knew she was sending her daughter to a place where she would be loved and protected, a place that would provide education, healthcare, recovery, and a chance at a better life.
In just one month’s time at the shelter, Lalitha was significantly more settled and happy. She was at peace, smiling, and overwhelmed with a feeling of safety. She had made new friends her own age and enjoyed going to school. She was learning to speak English and began expressing a desire to become a doctor one day! She went from having no dreams and ambitions to reaching for the stars. Because of the opportunity to live in this shelter and attend this school, Lalitha had the wings to fly to higher heights. What seemed impossible for her could now be possible. What a transformation!
These are the determined faces of girls whose futures are bright. Nothing will get in their way. Not on our watch.
Lalitha now has a safe home and is recovering from tragedy.
Her mother is thrilled for her daughter’s progress. Together they know that one day they will be reunited and will thrive again as a family unit.
Today? They are both safe and sound, wrapped up in the love, dignity, and compassion offered to them through the hope of a better and brighter future.
Dignity Freedom Network believes in rescue.
We will always work to remove vulnerable girls from dangerous perpetrators.
But we also believe in prevention.
Education. Healthcare. Safe Shelter. Skills Training. These things lift entire families out of poverty and into futures filled with hope and opportunity.
This is DFN. This is you.
Please visit our Church Partner page to learn more about how your church can take the bold steps to make rescue and prevention work together to reclaim and restore the dignity of at-risk women and girls in India today.
Or, Email Me. I’d love to learn more about your church and your mission to transform global communities.
++Our stories are always real. We change names and photos to protect the dignity of those we serve.