I was invited to De Haven, in The Hague, to see the work this organization is doing with women in prostitution. When I was there, I was really impressed to see the love and passion Jessica, Jurriaan and their team had for these women. Their office, dining and living area, and kitchen were decorated with work the women do in therapy sessions and activities.
The Hague’s red light district is a bit different from Amsterdam’s, because you don't see tourists or women and children walking around, you only see men. The women stand behind the glass windows in their underwear, and hidden behind their smiles is a story of pain and trauma. Many women are forced into this work by their pimps or lover boys. It is very difficult to reach them; after a hello they turn away or close the curtain. But De Haven doesn't give up. They go there every day, slowly building up relationships and trust.
I walked in a street with Jessica and we talked to a few women. One Dutch woman, who has children and a husband, stood in the window three times a week to pay the debts and rent. She looked really miserable, but really liked getting my book Red Alert as a present and has promised to read it and to talk to me when I come back.
I took a few photos of the area. Suddenly, when we walked back to the office, a very angry man chased us on his motorbike because he was scared he was in the photos. We talked to him and asked him why he came here and gave him a book. I think he was a pimp because he was just hanging around watching the windows and men walking about.
In another street where women work, seated in their cars a few men were watching everyone walking in and out. We saw a man come and talk to these men, and then walked off. I think they were doing a drug deal. It was a scary, oppressive, and depressing place.
Some women come to De Haven and are slowly being helped to get away from this horrible place to start a new life. These women can also get counselling and practical help from the organization.
A week later I was invited to Belgium to speak in a book shop and in a church, and also go to Cherut Belgium. This is an organisation that works with women who are forced into prostitution. The book shop was called Philadelphia and was in Antwerp. People came in and out and I told them about Red Alert. People from A21, an organization that fights to end human trafficking, also came in after walking a walk for freedom to raise money and awareness for victims of human trafficking. A few of them also bought my book and it was nice to talk to people who also wanted to help these women.
In the evening, Joanneke and two other people from Cherut took me out to dinner, and afterwards took me around the red light area, where they showed me the cafe they run. Somewhere in Antwerp, they showed me a safe house where the women who ¬they helped escape can stay. They even have place for these women’s children if they have any. I learned a lot about the work Cherut does, heard stories, and met a few women. Cherut does wonderful, but hard work, sometimes even dangerous. It takes a lot of courage to walk around the dark streets and clubs in the district to help victims; the pimps are often nearby. But the hopeful stories I heard where really encouraging. I was happy to give a few sponsor books to be given out to women still forced to work behind the windows. Hopefully, after reading the book, these women will ask for help.
Cherut Belgium’s team works really hard. They not only visit the women, but help them to get out, be safe, get therapy, and finally help them in finding a place where they can live and work.