The Book

My name is Pamela Ravan-Pyne. This is the story behind my passion for assisting Iana Matei with her story about her work with trafficked victims.

I Kidnap Girls

I spent 8 years living in Romania where I worked with a humanitarian foundation serving abandoned children. In the late 1980s the world was shocked to see the situation inside Romanian orphanages. By the time I arrived in 1993, many of these children, approaching their teens had left the orphanages for the streets.

They lived down under the manhole covers, below the street, huddled around sewer pipes for warmth. The cold and hunger weren’t their worst enemies. These proved to be the men driving shiny, new cars, with dark, tinted windows that pulled over stared at the children. These men would motion, point to a child and an adult or an older child would emerge from the car and walk over to the child on the street and stand, huddled with him/her for a few minutes. Then the child would get into the car. The car would drive off and the child wouldn’t be heard from again for weeks, months, maybe never.

This was my introduction to child prostitution.

These children were promised food, a bed and clothes. What they weren’t told was that they would have to have sex with 20 or 30 people a day and probably travel to a different country where they didn’t know the language and their documents would be taken from them. They would be there illegally at the mercy of pimps. I saw this happen and I was unable to do a thing about it.

In 1998 I got a call from USAID. The woman asked if our foundation would assist a Romanian woman, Iana Matei,  who wanted to open a safe house for girls who had been forced into prostitution. She had spent the past 10  years living in Australia.

I met with Iana and I was drawn to her immediately. A short, pretty, blonde woman of about 40 who never stopped talking greeted me at the Metro station where I picked her up. It didn’t take long to realize that this woman not only knew her way around in the complicated, ever changing Romanian governmental system (something it takes years if ever for a westerner to comprehend) but she was getting things done. Many western foundations had come and gone because of the frustrations of not understanding the system and the corruption.

I quickly recognized that this woman had what it took to hold her own against all of this. I was right. In the last three years I lived in Romania, Iana established a safe house for girls who had been forced into prostitution. She was also instrumental in the conviction and imprisonment of some of the most notorious pimps of minor aged victims.

As the years went by, I returned to the states and resumed my life. What I had seen while in Romania haunted me. I still wanted to do something.

I called Iana one day. She told me she was trying to build a hotel where at risk girls could work. I wanted to help her.  Writing this book is my way of contributing. It’s not that Iana needs me to be able to write a book. She’s perfectly capable of doing that herself, and she probably would do it…if she weren’t busy rescuing girls and doing things that only Iana can do. Her story is worth telling, and it’s my honor to do so. Read it with your heart.

Explanation

In the telling of this story, I have changed details of dates, times and places to protect the identities of those forced into prostitution. I have also scrambled and compiled some of the details of their circumstances to further protect their privacy.

In 1998, when Iana was first contacted by the police, the girls she came for had been transported within Romania. However the situation quickly escalated into the transportation of girls over the border.  The girls I have depicted in the book are a representation of the girls Iana has spent the majority of the past twelve years rescuing.

Readership

For anyone who has ever possessed the desire to “dance upon injustice.”

It’s for those who:

  • Won’t look the other way as pimps buy, sell and transport millions of minor aged girls, forcing them into prostitution.
  • Will recognize the atrocities committed by those in pursuit of sex and cheap labor.
  • Want to be aware of the cruelties perpetrated on the most vulnerable in our society and celebrate the life of one who cares.
  • Wonder how a once battered woman, living in a corrupt, broken society, in her efforts to assist a few trafficked girls triumphs over a crooked administration and organized crime.
  • Wish to share in her victory as governments and traffickers alike, recognize her as a force to be reckoned with.

It’s how one woman, in the midst of saving others, saves herself.

This is the story of Iana Metei, Readers Digest European Of The Year 2010, for rescuing over 400 East European girls sold against their will into the human sex slave industry.

Competitive/Comparative Titles

To date, Iana has written one memoir, A Vendre Mariana. 15 Ans, in collaberation with French author, Anne Berthod, that was published in France, Germany, and Spain. A text only version exists in English. Written from a journalistic perspective, A Vendre Mariana. 15 Ans contains a wealth of information and provides an initial look into Iana’s character and personality while giving an accurate account of what took place with dates, times, and places.

The book i Kidnap Girls that I’m writing with Iana delves more into the “why” of the Romanian trafficking situation and reads much much more like a novel, placing the reader into the lives of the girls and their quest for freedom. It also provides a more in-depth look at what was at stake for Iana and the factors that played into her decision to take on the challenge of providing a safe house for the girls.

Most non-fiction books on the subject of Human Trafficking in Eastern Europe are written from a distant, academic standpoint, by people who at best, have traveled to countries of origin, stayed a week or two and then written a book. These books begin with the title Human Trafficking: and range in subtitles from Human Security and the Balkans (University of Pittsburgh Press 2007) and War On Trafficking: U.S. Policy Assessed (Rutgers University Press 2007) to, Focus On The Clients (Springer, 2008).  Human Trafficking in Europe: Character, Causes and Consequences (Palgrave MacMillan 2010) covers a wide scope from political freedom and security to international relations.

Anthony DeStafano’s book, The War On Human Trafficking: U.S. Policy Assessed (Rutgers University Press August 2007) states in his introduction referring to trafficking and forced prostitution in Romania: “Iana Matei’s story is particularly relevant because it illustrates an important point in this book: U.S. policy initiatives concerning trafficking, particularly in the area of law enforcement assistance have emboldened a wide variety of people to take significant action on the issue. In Matei’s case, American diplomats encouraged her activities with rescued women. The involvement with U.S. law enforcement officials in establishing a regional anti-trafficking crime organization in the Balkans meant that Matei and some of the women she was helping could assist in the apprehension, conviction and punishment of a number of traffickers.”

I Kidnap Girls neither seeks to substantiate claims made by others about human trafficking and forced prostitution, nor to deny them. It is instead a memoir, not so much depicting the way things are and how the issue of human trafficking should be handled, but about the way these issues affect the work that Iana does. It’s not that Iana doesn’t have opinions about the multifaceted subject of trafficking, and how governments respond and the way law enforcement carries through or does not. She possesses strong opinions, and they will come out, but they come out in the telling of her story. Her views are all filtered through the same lens: How does this affect the girls and the women that I work with? How would this help or hinder those who have already suffered so much?

The purpose of Iana’s story isn’t an expose so much as a recording, not of facts and figures of which she is the expert and many books or televised broadcasts about trafficking and forced prostitution in Eastern Europe quote from statistics she has provided. Its’ goal, is commercial in nature. Iana needs money to run her shelters and provide services to vulnerable children and youth.

Her vision goes beyond trying to outlaw prostitution or decide weather or not clients should be prosecuted. Since most victims of trafficking and forced prostitution get sucked into their situations in pursuit of jobs, her theory is that jobs provided rob the trafficker of his power. By making girls and women self-sustainable, a trafficker coming through isn’t offering them anything they don’t already have or that they can’t obtain for themselves.

In I Kidnap Girls, Iana conveys the challenges of girls and women in the process of gaining stability in an unsteady economy within an unstable government while dealing with the psychological and physical effects of years of abuse all amidst societal disapproval and alienation.

The sequel to Unstoppable Redeemer, The Unstoppable Woman focuses more on Iana’s personal journey to self-sustainability amidst abuse, imprisonment, displacement, and total governmental upheaval.

The book that comes closest to Iana’s yet is very different from hers is Aaron Cohen’s book, Slave Hunter: One Man’s Global Quest to Free Victims of Human Trafficking (Simon Spotlight Entertainment 2009). Aaron Cohen also rescues those forced into slavery and prostitution. However, he doesn’t live within the situation, in one spot, day after day, wrestling with the same obtuse government officials and the same “soft” law enforcement. While he does write a memoir, it’s more about the rescue than the day to day after care and it lacks the singular focus of location that Iana’s work possesses.