Book Club Channel
Set the Sex Slaves Free: An Interview with Daniel Walker
I realized in that moment that I possessed sufficient evidence to prosecute all of the bad guys in that place and that if anyone was DANGEROUS in that place, it was me! They were the ones who needed to be afraid. And I was reminded that God was present in that brothel as much as he was present in any church, suffering with those who suffer, and waiting for someone, anyone, to show up in his name and rescue the oppressed and those enslaved there.
Describe your first experience as an investigator.
One of the first times I was deployed was to a small village in Southeast Asia. We had heard that young children were being sold as sex slaves. I went into the village posing as a pedophile. I had a former U.S. Special Forces soldier with me providing additional security. Within a few minutes of entering the village, we were offered two girls who were about fourteen years old. My companion seemed content with this, but I asked if they had anyone younger. The soldier looked at me incredulously while the pimp disappeared. He returned a short time later with two girls between six and eight years old.
I was actually thrilled when he walked into the room with them. I was recording everything with a covert camera and knew that I had just gathered the kind of evidence that was necessary to send the pimp to jail and to facilitate the rescue of the children concerned. My training and experience ensured that I was able to keep the necessary façade going in order to gather the right evidence. It was only later back at my hotel that I wept.
What one or two stories from your work especially stand out for you?
I spent three days in another factory-style brothel in Southeast Asia where all of the women there were being held in captivity, having been lured there from surrounding countries with promises of legitimate employment. After I had purchased time with them and was taken to a back room, once they sensed that I may be able to help them, they began sobbing and pleading with me to rescue them and to contact their families to tell them they were alive and to let them know where they were. It was very distressing to see them in such a helpless situation and it only made me more determined to get them out.
The second story that sticks in my mind is walking into a brothel and having women from Thailand, the Philippines, Latin America and China ordered to line up in front of me. These women were also in slavery and were unable to leave until their debts had been paid. The amazing thing for me was that this brothel was in suburban Las Vegas, Nevada, in the United States of America.
What was the most difficult thing about your work?
When we had collected all of the necessary evidence and were ready to act but corrupt officials tipped off the bad guys and when we got there, the women and children were gone and I returned home knowing they were still out there in the rape-for-profit industry.
You lived constantly within the shadow of the twin dangers of violence and strong sexual temptation. How did this affect your spiritual life during those years?
It made me cling to God and pray, knowing my life depended on it.
And yet you did experience a heavy toll on your personal life as result of doing this work. Can you say a bit about that?
Yes, ultimately the work destroyed me and my marriage.
Deborah Arca joined the Patheos team in 2009, after more than ten years of managing programs for the Program in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of music/theatre programs for children, and a music minister.