I will never forget the stench. Or her haunting blue eyes, wavering between consciousness and a death she might have welcomed.
She couldn't have been older than 12, this half-naked, starved girl I now cradled in my arms, hurrying around dark corners of a brothel in Northeastern India. I was on an NGO mission to rescue girls sold into sex slavery.
Some were badly burned or beaten. Others too catatonic to know reality from nightmare. All robbed of their childhood.
She passed away not two hours after our team liberated her from her prison. I wish I knew her name, but I doubt she had one. She was probably assigned a number, corresponding to her cot location.
I felt rage. A loss of innocence. Fierce purpose.
From the backroads of India to our backyards in Houston, human trafficking is a modern-day reality. Women and children forgotten by society, treated like animals, sold to repay someone else's debt.
How could they be given their lives, and I mine?
I will never stop fighting for those without a choice. I will speak for the unspoken, name the unnamed, create a future for those without a past.
I will always remember that girl with the haunting blue eyes.