Setting Captives Free

A sex-trafficking survivor courageously shares her story in hopes of sparing other women the same horror.

Ruth Ada Kamara had just finished high school in 1987 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, when her boyfriend broke her heart. Or, more accurately, her boyfriend's parents, who chose another woman as their son's bride.

The day Ruth received the unhappy news, she confided her sorrow to Edna, a neighbor she'd known for three years. "Edna invited me to go with her to Liberia for three weeks," Ruth recalls. "She said the trip would be a great opportunity to put my problem behind me."

Edna promised she'd take care of all the travel details, and introduced Ruth to a man called "Bob," who'd accompany them on the trip. But Ruth didn't realize the heartbreak of losing her boyfriend was nothing compared to the horrors ahead in Liberia.

"I didn't know it then, but Bob would become my pimp," Ruth says. Looking back, Ruth realizes that Edna's behavior around Bob was unsettling. She's also now aware that Edna and Bob worked quickly. "The very day I told Edna about my problem, we left Freetown," Ruth explains. She didn't even notify her uncle, who'd housed her while she'd been in school (her parents were farmers in a village too small to have a school). "I thought we'd be gone only three weeks."

After they left Freetown, Edna said she had to retrieve some documents from her home, and instructed Ruth to go ahead with Bob. "She told me she'd join us later," Ruth says.

Bob drove to his family's home in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, where he introduced Ruth as his wife. She was afraid to say anything to the contrary. "I was scared without my friend," she says, "but I had confidence she'd come in a few hours."

Three days later, Bob said he'd take Ruth to Edna. They left at 10 p.m. "We went to a big compound with a security gate and security guards." Ruth wondered if she were entering a wealthy person's home.

Bob took her to a room, where, she says, "he asked me to have sex with him. I was shocked. He'd been so nice to me before that." Ruth's memories of that night are fragmented. "I told him, 'No, that's not the arrangement we had.'" But she realized she was defenseless.

"I was very surprised. I thought Edna was coming to meet us. But he said, 'Don't you know I bought you from that woman? I own you.' I started crying. I thought, I'm finished." Bob raped her that night. Ruth never saw Edna again.

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