"This is a kind of isolation I am not able to digest."

[Trigger warning.]

Sunitha Krishnan is the co-founder of Prajwala, or "eternal flame," an organization in Hyderabad, India dedicated to rescuing women and children from sex slavery. She has personally liberated 1,500 women and children from brothels.

Krishnan has worked tirelessly to create and define "India's anti-trafficking movement by coordinating government, corporations and NGOs," facilitating partnerships between them to find jobs for rescued women so they can live independent lives. She "works closely with the government to define anti-trafficking policy, and her recommendations for rehabilitating sex victims have been passed into state legislation."

She is, basically, awe-inspiring.

She recently gave a talk at TEDIndia in which she told "three powerful stories, as well as her own, and call[ed] for a more humane approach to helping these young victims rebuild their lives." She then sat down with TEDBlog for a Q&A about her work. The whole thing is a must-read, but I will provide one excerpt:
I think the kind of isolation I felt is something very global. I don't think it's very cultural. Of course the cultural context has different manifestations, but the isolation a victim of sexual violence goes through I think is a global phenomenon. ... I've met people who've been sexually abused in the United States, I've met people in Europe. They all have a similar kind of isolation from within -- the pain, the trauma, the guilt. It’s all the same

...No matter how many stories I tell, the larger feeling in the world does not change in this respect. I've had situations where people have had lengthy discussions with me, and I've spent upwards of two and three hours talking to them about this issue, and often when they seem to understand they don't, really. I won't mention the name of the place, but there was one particular place that the girls went to [for work, after being rescued], where it took a lot of effort to work with the employer. I spent a couple of hours of talking to this person and I thought the situation could work, but every time my girl who was working there talked to a male colleague, immediately I would get a call -- "Oh Sunitha, you know this girl is getting very friendly with the men here." So you see, her every move is watched. She can't be friendly to a man, she can't fall in love with anybody. I remember this particular girl falling in love with a co-worker there, and the employer actually called the co-worker and told him what her background was, saying, "How dare you fall in love with this girl? You have no idea what her background is." He also called the girl and said, "How dare you fall in love with this chap? Don't you know where you've come from?"

This is a kind of isolation I am not able to digest. This is a kind of isolation I don't know how to come to terms with, and this is where I feel like a failure. How much more can you explain to these people? I think I've told them enough. I've taken hours to tell them this story.
Sunitha Krishnan has personally liberated 1,500 women and children from brothels. And still she feels like a failure because she cannot break through that seemingly impenetrable wall of resistance to empathy for survivors of sexual violence, a barrier so vast it stretches around the globe.

This is why I tell my story again, and again, and again. I am working my teaspoon in solidarity with my sister Sunitha Krishnan, trying to tear down that fucking wall.

[H/T to Shaker Sarah.]

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