In June 2014, I traveled to SE Asia with three other writers to meet with a humanitarian organization and witness their efforts to eradicate sex trafficking. The undercover investigators were and are the most selfless people I've been privileged to know.
I took on the role of customer / girlfriend / partier and stepped in and out of seedy brothels to meet beautiful, underage girls pressed up against old men who all look like they could be my dentist.
We sat in a hotel room and talked with two sex workers and listen to their stories about how they had been trafficked as young teens. We went to an aftercare facility for children and flipped through case files of pedophiles who abuse hundreds of young boys a year.
My time there was full of despair and hope — despair at the dark, hidden, whispered about failings of humanity, and hope in knowing there are good, loving people who want to stop it.
Bright Lights and Brothels is about a night I spent inside a commercial brothel in sex-tourism district of a popular city in SE Asia and my experiences there.
Write About Her is about a couple hours I spent sweating in an SUV with tinted windows, watching the investigators through a set of binoculars who confirmed that the girls working in a dark brothel on the outskirts of a rural village had been hard trafficked over the country's borders.
Prior to the SE Asia trip, I had spent time in Guatemala with a separate humanitarian organization, learning about a village whose malnutrition rate for children had been at 90%. Now — through mother-to-mother education, technological advances, and the generosity of good people around the world — that malnutrition rate is at 10%.
Photos by Heather Armstrong