Nelson, VisionTrust's National Director of the Dominican, pointed them out. They were sitting right next to us on the beach. The three girls were around my age, some a little younger. They were chatting with three foreign men—two middle aged and one much older.
Nelson turned to me and said, "You don't understand what they're saying, but it's very sad." A woman came out to collect money from the men. Nelson translated, "If you take those two girls you could have a lot of fun."
The man she was talking to looked exactly like I've always pictured a villain—sharp features, sharp eyes. He started smoking while two of the men paired with the girls and walked down the beach. He sat with the last girl and waited—waited for another girl to come back so he could have two.
"Prostitution isn't legal in the Dominican," Nelson told me, "but it happens on all of the beaches. The police don't usually do anything unless the girls are underage." I had a hard time believing every one of the girls I saw were over 18. Nelson responded, "They probably are ... but they didn't start today."
I've known this happens. One of the Transitional Homes VisionTrust partners with is full of underage girls who were rescued from this very beach. They were each assaulted or abused, some sold into prostitution by their own mothers. I've known this happens—I've just never had it happen right next to me.
A girl in her early teens selling cakes walked up to the couple, clearly knowing the woman. The man offered her a cigarette and she declined, but continued to stand there, never making eye contact with him. I prayed she wasn't going down this path.
I stared at the man. I wanted to scream at him that he is scum, that he isn't a man at all. I wanted to tell the girl that she is loved and has far more worth than she could know. I wanted to throw up thinking of how this cycle continues — men buying women, using them, treating them like their property for an hour and then walking away. Some of these women even grow to appreciate the attention and the money. In many cases it's the only life both sides have ever known — mothers passing down their professions, fathers passing down their degradation, poverty closing in with what feels like no other options. There's no one reason it all continues and there's no easy solution.
But, there is work to be done. We can help break the cycle by sponsoring a child or partnering with organizations that free those locked in slavery. We cannot afford to be naive when God calls us to justice. We cannot afford to do nothing.