Our Kolkata team first saw Padma’s picture and details on an Anti Human Trafficking WhatsApp chat room. The team verified the information with the police and contacted Padma’s parents. They said she had been missing since July 3rd and told about Padma’s distressed phone calls. All they knew for sure was that she was with a man named Vinay in Pune, in a white building surrounded by many trees. Freedom Firm staff helped Padma’s parents file a First Information Report (FIR) against Vinay, and set out to rescue Padma.
On September 4th, a lead from an informant took us to an apartment building in a busy street in Pune where Padma might be hidden. Our social worker and a volunteer knocked on several doors before an old woman opened the door and mentioned that a man on the first floor locked his wife in the room while he went to work. The social worker felt strongly the imprisoned woman must be Padma.
The Freedom Firm team assembled and waited in a nearby restaurant for Vinay to show up. Hours later, they caught a glimpse of Vinay passing by on a motorcycle. He entered the apartment building, and the team jumped into action! A couple of tenants pointed the way to Vinay’s apartment. When the social worker knocked on the door, Vinay, standing with Padma behind him, opened the door. The police rushed in to arrest Vinay, while the social worker moved toward Padma.
She had two black eyes and bruises across her face. “How did you get those bruises?” the social worker asked. “I slipped in the bathroom, “ she answered, avoiding eye contact. She shrugged, “All couples fight sometimes, but we are happily married, “ she continued. She wondered if her mother sent the police or lodged a complaint against her husband.
Our team escorted Padma to the police station where they documented the case. Suddenly, her exterior calm and false bravado evaporated. Broken and weeping, Padma shared that her family, friends and everyone she knew in Kolkata had probably seen the compromising pictures that Vinay had posted. She could never go back home. Vinay even threatened that if she ever left him, he would release more explicit pictures of her. We tried to comfort her and said she was safe now.
For the last few weeks, Padma has been living in a private shelter home in Pune. Our social workers are counseling her and encouraging her to complete her education, and she’s making some new friends. We hope that in time, Padma will heal from the trauma she has experienced and find a new and better life.
There are many more girls like Padma who fall prey to manipulative men like Vinay. They go looking for love and find themselves forced into a life of sexual slavery. Consider supporting Freedom Firm’s rescue work among vulnerable girls and women in India.
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