Using my free hand, I pulled my trembling body up on the edge of the bed and peered out fearfully from the red curtains of my prison. I could only pray, "Oh God, help me!" One moment the need to fight for my freedom filled me--wanting it so badly I ached. The next I wished death would take me, putting an end to it all.
It seemed as if weeks had passed since I had eaten; my stomach cramped with hunger. I knew I was dehydrated. My captors gave me just enough food and water to keep me alive. They injected me several times a day with some kind of drug that made me dizzy and weak but would not let me sleep. I found myself trapped in a world where everything seemed psychedelic with occasional returns to reality. I recalled a small, dim light in the center of the room, the murmur of voices all around me, and of course, those horrid red curtains. The reality of what happened to me was so hard to deal with that I found myself thanking God for the periodic blackouts.
My captors chained me to a bed for what seemed like eternity. My arms ached and my wrists burned as if acid ate away at my flesh. My bruised body found relief only in the numbness brought about by the abuse. I had tried to end it all by wrapping the heavy iron chain around my neck and falling to the floor, but my scheme failed. When my abductors discovered my attempt, it only brought more torture. Yes, death would be such a relief, from the slobbering animals that crawl onto my body and invade my very being. Daily I hoped for a miracle.
I am Melati. Melati is an Indonesian name given to me by my Indonesian mother and American father. Melati is Jasmine in English, a fragrant white blossom that grows in both countries. My story began when I left the safety of my home back in the USA to take a short summer vacation with some friends. Our destination was to the beautiful Indonesian island called Bali.
My dad, retired Major Samuel Matthews, found himself stationed there as a young soldier, and that's where he met my mom, Malia. Mom, a native Indonesian, lived on the island and worked as an RN at Rumah Sakit Umum Sanglah hospital. Their love fit the typical war romance story in which the soldier suffered shrapnel wounds and found himself in the hospital under the care of a beautiful young nurse. Mom treated him, and like a fairy tale, they hit it off right away, fell in love, and married. Two years later I came along, but, sadly, complications during my birth took my mother's life. Dad single-handedly raised me, and over the passing years he and I have grown inseparable.
Though I had not traveled much when growing up, it remained a life-long ambition. I had just celebrated my 20th birthday, and although I did not see it coming, my life would change in a way I could never imagine. I felt so grown-up and wise, but I had never ventured out of the country or gone too far without Dad.
Just before beginning the last year of school, Dad had asked what I wanted for a graduation present. Having always dreamed of visiting my mother's ancestral home on Bali, I asked for a trip there. He agreed, and all year I had anticipated it. With the help of my best friend, Elizabeth, we researched the region, did our homework, and planned the trip down to the minute. Two other friends from school, Sarah and Dawn, joined us on our adventure. Many young people, just like us, targeted this fabulous place because of its reputation of catering to Americans. We were excited about the prospects of beautiful beaches, fun, freedom, and boys! As with most school-weary college students, I felt all my hard work over the last several years merited a little fun and relaxation. Besides, what better way to get re-energized before settling down to my next long-term commitment? I didn't know then what I wanted to do with my life, but because of the nurturing values learned from my dad, I had a desire to make a difference in some way.
So, Elizabeth and I, along with Sarah and Dawn, booked our flight to the Ngurah Rai International Airport. Next, we made our reservations at Grand Hyatt Bali, the crown jewel of resorts in Nusa Dua, located on a luxurious stretch of magnificent beachfront. Our plans included hitting night spots and sight-seeing, but more than anything, I wanted to find my birthplace. Dad had given me the names of several people who had known my mother, and I hoped to make contact with them.
I had dreamed of this trip for months and now in just a short while it would become reality! Fourteen days to enjoy our getaway from the concrete jungle of New York City, where we lived, to an island paradise, and I couldn't wait! Soon, we would fly the friendly blue sky, on our way ... just the four of us. It all seemed just too good to be true!
Dad pleaded with me to allow him to chaperon the four of us. That might have come about because of his military background or maybe because he acted like a father. He promised he would not get in my way and would let us have our freedom. But, as most young adults do, and maybe being a little too trusting, I detested the idea that I might need a baby-sitter. Besides, I didn't want to look like daddy's little girl. After all, how much fun could I have with my dad close behind me? I felt I had to break away at some point and this seemed as good a time as any. Looking back, how I wish I had taken him up on his offer.
Dad and I picked my friends up early and we headed for the Newark Liberty International Airport. I had asked him to drop us off and let us handle everything else, and he reluctantly agreed. However, on the way, he gave us a final lecture on how to conduct ourselves in a foreign country and the dos and don'ts to keep us out of trouble. I could see his concern, and even though I felt a little embarrassed in front of my friends, I knew he loved me, and that made me happy.
To ease his mind, all four of us girls had agreed to stay together, at least in part. We had booked at the same resort, on the same floor, with two of us to a room. We had exchanged all pertinent information and worked out little signals, should any of us get into trouble. We felt perfectly safe.
It all seemed to help, but he still remained a bit hesitant. So, he made me promise to call him as soon as I checked in, then every other day thereafter. I gave him my word; we kissed, hugged, and then said our goodbyes at the airport before hurrying on our way to freedom!
After arriving at the Bali airport, we immediately struck up a conversation with a cute guy who introduced himself as Wijaya. He was working as a baggage handler. Smiling at us while lugging our suitcases, he said; "Halo ... selamat datang", which means "hello and welcome." He spoke very good English, but with just a slight accent, which made him so interesting to talk to. He was so nice, and so well-mannered.
Each of us said hello in return, as the girls goggle-eyed each other, giggling as they walked to the waiting cab. We were all starving after the long flight, so after loading up the cab with our baggage, we asked our new friend about restaurants.
Wijaya suggested a place near our motel called "Kafe Batan Waru," saying, "They are sure to have something for you. It serves delicious Indonesian food as well as many other tasty dishes!"
We thanked him and then I surprised myself by boldly inviting him to join us. He readily agreed. We waved goodbye and heard him shout "sampai jumpa," which is goodbye in Indonesian, then the taxi pulled away and took us to our resort.
Sarah and Dawn had indicated that, because of being so tired, they would take a little nap and grab a bite to eat at the resort's restaurant. After we all were settled in our rooms, Elizabeth and I grabbed a cab and headed out to meet Wijaya at the Kafe Batan Waru. Wijaya had invited his close friend, Paku, to join us, which was fine and dandy with Elizabeth.
Soon, we sat down, ordered and began to make small talk over a delicious island specialty of fish roasted in Banana leaves. Wijaya and Paku had been longtime friends and grown up near each other, much like Elizabeth and me. We learned they both attended a local university and lived on campus. We also found out that they had never traveled outside of the Indonesian Islands. Amazingly, we discovered that we had a lot in common, even though we were from two completely different worlds.
Wijaya taught us that the Indonesian people gave names with special meaning to their children. "My name," Wijaya said jokingly, "means the victorious one and Paku… well his name means ore." Paku spoke up, “Hey, my name means silver, not just ore!” We all had a good laugh.
They filled us in on some of the local hot spots and a few fun places where many young adults went to hang out. Wijaya said something that should have set off a warning in my mind, "Please be very careful and do not drink too much. Our island is beautiful and can be a fun place, but you are not in the United States. There are many no-good fellows out there who would possibly hurt you. OK?"
We assured him that we were big girls and would be careful. Laughingly, I said, "You sound like my dad and you're only 24. Are you working undercover for him?" I had to explain that my dad owned an investigation organization which specialized in finding missing people or those running from the authorities. A strange, confused look crossed Wijaya's face, but we laughed it off.
We all made plans to meet up later that evening for a time of partying at a club called "Dewa's." Dewa's was a favorite night spot and we felt safe since it was so well-known. I found out later that Dewa means "little god" in the native language. It was then I remembered that I needed to call my dad, so I excused myself to make the call.
When I received no answer, I left him a message on the voice mail that said; "Hi Dad, sorry I missed you, but we have all checked into our rooms. I'm calling you from a little restaurant where we are enjoying a delicious meal in the company of two nice university students. Their names are Wijaya and Paku. Now, please don't worry. We are as safe as four bugs in a rug. Here is the number of the phone in our room. Its 2 p.m. Monday afternoon and I will call you every two days to check in like I promised. We are already having a good time. So, I will talk to you on Wednesday. Thank you again for this gift, you're the greatest! Love ya!"
After leaving the message, I returned to our booth to find Elizabeth and the guys laughing and having a good ole' time. Wijaya explained that he had to be back to work in an hour, so he and Paku rose to leave, then grabbing the check, insisted on paying for the meal as his "welcome to the island" gift.
I thanked him and felt a little silly, but I asked if I could get his number. He smiled and wrote it down on a napkin and handed it to me as he asked for mine.
I reached in my purse and immediately saw one of Dad's business cards, so I turned it over and wrote our room number down and handed it to him. He glanced at the card, smiled, then placed it in his shirt pocket and they said, "sampai jumpa" and left. Elizabeth and I came away from that little restaurant cheerful and more optimistic than ever about our decision to visit this island.
Sarah and Dawn had decided to go with us, so later that night the four of us met Wijaya and Paku in the motel lobby. To our shock, the guys were driving a small, faded silver Toyota. It was so hilarious to see six people cramming themselves into that small car, but we made it and headed towards Dewa's.
The place was full of life, colorful lights and live entertainment. What a fun night we had! Though enjoying the partying, we still were very watchful, keeping an eye out for each other and being cautious about limiting our alcohol intake. I remember thinking, If the girls back home could see me now, they would be so jealous.
We left the club at about 1:30 a.m., Wijaya and Paku came back to our room where we talked and laughed for hours, making fun of each other's customs and accents. Both guys were real gentlemen and the conversations we engaged in were mainly about how different our countries, upbringing and lives were. We took turns talking about our families, and goals for our futures. Surprisingly, we realized that we had many of the same desires, such as making a difference with our lives. The time slipped away and one by one we crashed in exhaustion, some on the floor, and others on the furniture.
Awaking the next morning, I found a note from Wijaya stating that he would meet us at Dewa's around 10 p.m., since he had to work late. I thought about how sweet he was, of how he had kept very good control of himself, drinking ginger ale the entire night. Then he had driven us safely back to our resort, where he and Paku had escorted us to our rooms. It was nice meeting someone so sweet on my first trip to a foreign country, and then striking up a friendship so quickly... unbelievable! It seemed as if we had known each other all our lives and this only my second day here. I remember feeling quite relaxed, and that may have caused me to become a bit careless.
It was mid-morning on Tuesday, and after eating a junk-food breakfast, we spent the next few hours unpacking the rest of our stuff and checking our itinerary. Around 2 p.m., Elizabeth and I got dressed and made our way to the resort's entrance where a cab was waiting for us. Sarah and Dawn would meet up with us later at the club, not wanting to tag along on a boring museum tour or a trip to the library.
Elizabeth and I did a little sightseeing, bought a few small souvenirs and then, noticing the time, headed for Dewa's. It was about 8 p.m. when we arrived. Sarah and Dawn were already there.
The place was crowded and very loud; we could barely hear each other talk. We listened to the band, downed a couple of mixed drinks and had a few dances with some very eager young men.
About an hour later I began to feel a little funny, so I tried to locate the girls. Elizabeth was off to the other side of the club dancing with Paku, who had arrived a few minutes earlier. Sarah was dancing with some weird guy with long hair and numerous tattoos and Dawn was sitting at a table with two other girls, engulfed in lively chatter. They all seem to be having such a good time and I sure don't want to destroy their evening, I thought, as I began to get a little nauseated.
I glanced around for the restrooms which were located to my left, down a little hallway. I needed to get in there fast! As I walked, I remember feeling dizzy; the room spun around. The floor became blurry and I fell. I sensed an arm wrap around me just as I passed out. When I came back to consciousness I realized I was being partially dragged. I tried to struggle free, but the grip on me was too strong. At that point, I blacked out again.
I can't be sure how long I was out, but the next thing I knew, I woke up in a dark, dingy van, similar to a small school bus. I noticed that the rear windows had been tinted in a heavy color; my heart sank as I realized that my arms and waist were restrained. I could see the images of others in the van as well, each obviously confined to their seats. What on earth is happening? I asked myself.
The van traveled along a bumpy road and finally came to a stop. I strained to look out the front windows and spied a gate with guards positioned on either side; visions of a prison camp came immediately to my mind. The men scurried to open the gates so the van could drive through. Chills ran up my body at the clanging sound of the gates being slammed shut!
We pulled to a stop in front of an old warehouse of sorts. I could hear a conversation in some foreign language and there was a dreadful sense of tenseness in the air. Then the terrifying realization of what was happening seized my heart ... we were all being abducted!
A large metal garage door inched opened as the van drove inside, then screeched as it slowly closed behind us. Quickly, men climbed into the vehicle, pointing guns in our faces as they loosened us one by one. They pushed us out of the van and we were corralled like cattle in the center of a large musty room.
There were four or five girls about my age and two small boys in the group, all like me, in shock, crying and shouting to our abductors. Then two men with tasers came in and, going around the room to each girl, tased us and then shouted in broken English, "If you know what's good for you, you will shut up and do as you are told!"
After that we were stripped, and thrown into a shower room where we were ordered to take a shower. We were hurried out of the shower and made to quickly dry off. At that point a rather bulky woman came in and handed each of us girls a flimsy piece of clothing. To our great shock and humiliation, we were ordered to dress in thin, gauzy garments. One girl refused and was tased until she could barely move.
They gave us something to eat and drink, then one by one we were escorted from this large room to small motel-like rooms petitioned off by red curtains. Once placed in the room, we were drugged, thrown on a bed, and then handcuffed to bolts in the wall near the head of the bed.
I can't describe in words what took place next, but it was and has been the most dreadful time of my life! I vaguely remember the faces, but the alcohol and tobacco odor of my abusers, their filthy comments and the touch of their hands, still at times, make me vomit.
I learned later that Wijaya had arrived at Dewa's just as we had planned. No sooner had he entered the club, than he saw me staggering towards the ladies' room. Assuming I was drunk and not wanting to embarrass me, he decided to give me a little time. After a few minutes, when I didn't return, he rushed towards the restroom.
Later he would tell the authorities he had heard a scuffle and then a door slam. He ran to the door and looked over the railing from the second floor where he stood. That's when he saw two men forcing me into a brown van as a third stood guard with an assault rifle.
The stairs were two flights and he could not jump the railing. Quickly, so as not to be detected, he eased back into the shadows. Grabbing a pen and writing on his hand, he recorded the license plate number, and noted as well the make and model of the van. The tires squealed as the vehicle sped away and was soon out of sight.
Wijaya ran into the bar, alerted the manager and then used their phone to report the incident to the local police. Next, he gathered Elizabeth, Sarah and Dawn together and explained the incident to them. He then insisted they return to their rooms at the resort and as soon as they could, call their parents. Paku returned with them to keep them company through the night. Wijaya promised to join them later, but first he had to wait at the club for the police. The authorities arrived within minutes; they took his report and told him they would do their best to locate the van as well as visit the motel later for a statement from my friends.
As soon as he could, Wijaya made a call to my father from the business card I had given him. "Major Matthews, my name is Wijaya; your daughter is in trouble!" He told Dad the entire story and made plans to meet him at the airport as soon as flight plans could be arranged. Next he returned to the resort and made sure that the girls were OK and had contacted their parents.
Thankfully, Dad had some good connections with friends who were able to get him to Bali in short order. Just before Dad left, he made a few calls to some highly trained individuals who worked within his organization, who immediately initiated a plan to search for me. It was as if Dad knew something like this could happen and he was already prepared. He understood well that the key to finding a kidnapped person was in the steps taken within the first few hours of the incident, so he wasted no time.
Next, he called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a private, non-profit organization established to help locate missing children. He also contacted the Indonesian International Security Ministry, which deals with reported abductions in the Islands and in other foreign countries.
Dad then contacted an old military buddy and associate of his, General Justin Franks, who was living in Indonesia at the time. General Franks assured Dad he would do all he could to help. Not waiting on the police, he began working with Dad's organization, and coordinated an immediate search for me and the van.
Dad arrived the next day and met up with Wijaya at the airport. After thanking him for his concern, he got all the details he could from him. He made a quick stop at the resort to check on my friends. He questioned them about that awful night and then made early arrangements for them to fly safely back home.
Next, he went to the authorities to see what progress had been made and to give them the information he had obtained. Dad said he had become upset when he realized how little had been done by the local authorities. He threatened them with everything from media coverage to pulling strings with high ranking officials in the US and Indonesian government.
When they realized who my dad's friends were, they treated my case with more urgency. Finally the ball was rolling!
Dad next met up with his old friend, General Franks, who had traced the vehicle to a warehouse about twenty miles outside the city. Though he and Dad were tempted to take matters into their own hands, they contacted the local officials. They gave them all the information they had obtained, and then inquired as to what they were going to do.
Surprisingly, the island police acted quickly. They assembled a task force made up of some of the most specialized personnel on the Island. They would make a raid on the complex and allow Dad and General Franks to accompany them, with the understanding that they would stay out of the way and not interfere. The two men gave their word and the authorities set their plan into motion.
Surveillance was necessary to obtain enough probable cause for the raid, so that would take an additional ten to twelve hours. An undercover officer was given a picture ID of me, and my name. He was then sent inside the compound to see if I could be located and to check the layout of the target area.
Looking back, I now recall being awakened in the night sometime thinking I heard my name whispered. I rose up and peered outside my red curtained prison and saw a man staring at me as if he had seen a ghost. He smiled, snapped my picture and vanished.
Once my identity had been verified and everything was in place, they picked up Dad and General Franks and brought them to the location. They met with the rescue team at the planned rendezvous site to go over all of the details. They would need to act quickly to ensure everyone's safety.
The hour of 3 a.m. came as the personnel slowly and silently surrounded the property; they gave the signal and the raid commenced. The abductors were taken completely off guard! Some guns were fired, but thankfully no law enforcement people were hurt and only two of the abductors were killed.
Twenty-six girls, as well as five young children, were rescued that night, thirty-one lives delivered from their tormenters. It was a miracle... an absolute miracle! All I could do was cry and thank God! The entire event was well publicized; the bad guys were arrested while their victims received much needed medical attention and counseling.
I was so thankful to finally be free from my red-curtain room of hell and made sure everyone knew so, beginning with Dad and Wijaya. Though it may never stop, at least some damage was done to this terrible practice through my abduction and rescue, and for that I am grateful.
Dad and Wijaya and the island police became national heroes and the grateful families poured out their praise for a job well done. Reports stated that these were extremely dangerous people and that Wijaya had shown amazing courage as well as very quick thinking to respond the way he did. His actions had been the key to the successful rescue of these victims and the capture of the bad guys. Because of the meaning of his name "the victorious one" he became an instant celebrity. The news spread world-wide in short order, thanks to the modern day net.
So, how am I doing now?
Well, it has been eight years since that terrible five-day ordeal of torture, sexual abuse and cruelty happened to me. What started off as a dream vacation turned into an ugly nightmare and could have ended in an even a greater tragedy, had it not been for the people and events coming together as they did.
Yes, it was difficult and it still hurts tremendously, but I am thankful for the deliverance that came that night. That experience has changed me forever and I have become so much wiser, as well as more conscious of how often this type of thing happens.
In my initial research for our trip, for some reason I had not even looked into this type of danger. I found out later that Indonesia was a source, transit, and destination country for women, children and men trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor. There are so many victims, many who are crippled for life and some who do not survive. Many are just children, whose innocence has been destroyed forever. I hope and pray that no one else will ever go through what I suffered. Daily I thank God for that experience, for it has given me new purpose and direction in life!
I am also so thankful for my dad, Wijaya and all those wonderful people who risked their lives and came to my rescue. I will forever be indebted to them and will never doubt my father's wisdom again. I try to tell him often just how much I love and appreciate him.
It took a while to get through the haunting dreams and fearfulness, but I can say gladly that I am doing fine now. My life has become so much more meaningful!
During my healing process I decided to give my life to helping others who have gone through this same tragic abuse. I picked up some specialized training and with the help of supportive friends, I am now an international advocate for victims of the sexually abused and exploited people, world-wide. As long as God will give me strength, I will devote the rest of my life to helping rescue those who have been abducted. I want to provide counseling for survivors so they will be able to go on with their lives. I have also created a ministry with the help of my dad, my friend Elizabeth and my husband, which provides free assistance to anyone in need of our services. We have a network of people throughout the world ready and willing at a moment's notice to spring into action when needed. We named the ministry "Free from the Shadows" because it was from the dark shadow that Wijaya was able to take down the information that eventually led to my freedom.
For me it was a miracle of timing, willingness on the part of everyone involved and my good fortune of meeting someone as nice as Wijaya. But I realize that not everyone will be so lucky, so that thought has helped me to want to make a difference for others.
I was asked to give this testimony today and I want to thank all of you for coming out to help celebrate the opening of our new shelter we are calling Freedom's House. The photo you see of the young girl peering through the red curtains is the one the undercover officer took of me when he came to the little prison room to verify my identity. I asked if I might have a copy as a reminder of that tragic time and to show to others as I share my story.
Now on a more positive note, I have some exciting news. Dad has recently become a grandfather to my precious little boy whom I named Wijaya. Believe me, he is my father's pride and joy! I guess it's no secret that Wijaya, my rescuer and hero, is now my loving husband.
© Loyd C. Taylor
Though the story above is fictional, though many of the aspects of it are completely true.
Special thanks to Edith, storymama/Laura Robotyn and Gramma Kathy and Bill.
Most of the following information was obtained from the Wikipedia Encyclopedia
As I looked deeply into the face and eyes of the lady in the photo, the image of one trapped came to mind. Out of that bit of inspiration, the story above came to me.
On the topic of kidnappings, abductions and human trafficking, I have included some information for you.
We learn that Indonesia is a source, transit, and destination country for women, children and men trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor; Indonesian victims are trafficked to Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore; a significant number of Indonesian women who go overseas each year to work as domestic servants or "cultural performers" are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude and commercial sexual exploitation; to a minimal extent, Indonesia is a destination for women from East Asia, Europe, and South America who are trafficked for sexual exploitation; there is extensive trafficking within Indonesia from rural to urban metropolitan areas particularly for sexual exploitation and involuntary domestic servitude.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a private, non-profit organization established in the United States in 1984 under United States government mandate. Largely funded by The US Justice Department, the NCMEC acts as clearinghouse of information and as a contact point to parents, children, law enforcement agencies, schools, and communities providing assistance to help locate missing children and to raise public awareness about ways to help prevent child abduction, child sexual abuse and child pornography.
Approximately 2000 children become missing every day
There are close to a million children reported missing annually in the United States alone. Since many are not reported, the actual number of missing children is believed to be much greater. Obviously, there are many more children missing in the rest of the world. It is estimated that 200 to 300 children are abducted by strangers each year in the USA and over 100,000 more children are victims of an attempted abduction. In addition, there were more than 40,000 adults missing in the USA last year.
The key factor in finding those who are missing fast is information reported to Law Enforcement Agencies. You, the 500,000,000 people who surf the internet daily, can be the EYES and EARS that make Bannerkids work. Remember, we are all important to God
In 2001, there were 840,279 missing persons (adults and children) reported to the police and entered into the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC). This represents the smallest number of missing persons reports since 1992 (801,358).
The FBI estimates that 85-90% of missing persons are juveniles. In approximately 725,000 cases (or 2,000 per day) the disappearance of a child/adult was serious enough that a parent called the police, the police took a report and entered the report into the NCIC.
The 2001 missing persons reports were down 4.1% from 2000. The total increase since the passage of the Missing Children's Act in 1982 is 444% (154,341 in 1982 vs. 840,279 in 2001).
The primary NCIC categories in which missing persons reports are entered are:
"Juvenile" - 651,209 cases, (down 5% from 2000). Police enter most missing children cases in "Juvenile," including some non family abductions where there is not evidence of foul play.
"Endangered" - 119,237 cases (a decrease of 1.2% from 2000). Adults and Juveniles defined as "missing and in the company of another person under circumstances indicating that his/her physical safely is in danger.
"Involuntary" - 28,765 cases (a decrease of 8.8% from 2000). Adults and juveniles missing under circumstances indicating that the disappearance was not voluntary (i.e. abduction or kidnapping).
Source: FBI, National Crime Center Information (NCIC), Missing Person File.
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