In 2004, Nicholas was so moved by the plight of two teenage prostitutes that he purchased their freedom. After paying the brothel owners $353, Nicholas returned the young girls to their Cambodian villages.
Later, Nicholas returned to Cambodia to find, one of the women married and expecting a baby. The other woman, however, had developed a drug addiction and returned to the brothel just days after she was freed. "It just broke my heart when she went back, but the brothel gave her meth. It was a way of controlling her," Nicholas says. "The underworld these women inhabit is complex and layered. Rescuing them involves so much more than just opening a door."
Still, there are signs that things are changing. "We tend to think that this is an absolutely hopeless problem, but I've watched Cambodia over the years. Because there has been pressure—the police demand more in bribes—some of the brothel owners go from dealing in girls to dealing groceries or stealing motorcycles or selling pirated videotapes," Nicholas says. "We can make them change the kind of business they do."
In centuries past, slavery was abolished thanks to the efforts of everyday people starting grassroots movements. Nicholas says it's time to start another. "People want to help if they think they can make a difference," Nicholas says. "They get involved, and they just find it incredibly fulfilling and enriching for themselves. The truth is trying to help other people has a mixed record, but invariably you end up helping yourself."
Find out how you can help girls like Pross from your living room. Visit our For All Women Registry and take action today.