Lee escapes Thai brothel thanks to Destiny Rescue
IF NOT for Sunshine Coast-based charity Destiny Rescue, 17-year-old Lee would still be working in a brothel in Thailand, where she was often locked in a room and violently raped and beaten.
Two years ago she was rescued after undercover aid workers went in and discovered she was a child being forced to work in the sex trade.
Lee, whose name has been changed to protect her anonymity, was forced out of her home in Thailand when she was 15.
Her mother told her she needed to make money to send to them every month.
Lee travelled to the city, where she ran into a woman at a noodle shop who offered her a job at a restaurant.
But she soon discovered it was not a restaurant.
She was told to put on make-up and a short skirt and soon men starting coming in and asking her for sex.
"I was raped. I was a virgin. I now cry every night and (am) very sad," she said.
As a sex worker, she was often locked in a room and raped and beaten. She would normally have four to five customers a night, but sometimes it was as many as 10.
She worked in the brothel for four months before Destiny Rescue workers stepped in.
Destiny Rescue's experienced rescue workers often go into brothels in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines and India under the guise of being a customer.
They look for children who are being forced to work in the sex trade.
Destiny Rescue Queensland state manager David Bermingham said in the sex industry, the girls were often paraded on a stage when customers picked the one they wanted. The customers are then able to do whatever they like with the girls, and take them anywhere.
"There's no one protecting them," Mr Bermingham said.
"They could be taken back to a room and be gang raped. So many things could go wrong for them and there's no protection for them."
When the rescue workers step in, they take the girls for a meal and chat to them about Destiny Rescue.
It may take a few visits to build up the trust.
Lee said the rescue workers gave her a tip, and she was confused because she had not done anything.
"They left, and he said, 'Take care and stay safe'," she said.
The second time she saw rescue workers, Lee admitted she was scared.
"… They were talking about taking me somewhere else and I (thought) it could be worse than where I was," she said.
But she went with them.
"The first time I (was) afraid and nervous that it (was) another brothel.
"Now that I am at Destiny Rescue, I am very glad, and my heart is happy, because I have many friends and have made many relationships.
"All girls are happy and smile, not like the girls in the brothel."
Mr Bermingham said it was quite common in some countries for children to be forced into working in the sex trade.
In India, he said some children were being kept in cages. The charity has also discovered a brothel that is using four-year-olds.
He said the charity was reaching out to new countries, including the Dominican Republic.
"Because Destiny Rescue exists, there are children out there that are being given this chance. Without it, these children would have a very limited lifespan."