Ten years ago UK journalist Matt Roper published an exposé on the trafficking of children in Brazil. That book (Remember Me, Rescue Me) found its way into the hands of Canadian Country Star, Dean Brody. Wanting to make a difference in the lives of those stuck in prostitution, Roper and Brody travel to Brazil and make the 1,500 mile journey along BR-116–Brazil’s exploitation highway. What they find there is heart-rending.
Highway to Hell: the Road Where Childhoods are Stolen tells of their trips down BR-116 and what they found there. Along that dusty highway whole communities exploit their children. Girls routinely are forced into prostitution by abductors, gangs and even their parents. Roper tells the horrors these girls face: violence, injustice, sexual slavery, addiction, murder. Some of the girls that he and Brody encounter are as young as ten or eleven years old when they are forced into prostitution.
In a conversation with a woman named Rita Marques, a woman working with the children’s council, they hear just how widespread and culturally permissible child prostitution is in the towns along the highway: “‘Everyone’s happy when a baby girl is born,’ she said not because of the prospect of their daughter playing with dolls or dressing up, but ‘because in abouta decade, they’ll have a valuable source of income'”(24). Later, Roper observes that along the entire 1,500 mile stretch of highway, he doesn’t know of a single case where ;a girl’s abuser, pimp, brothel owner, trafficker, or even murderer, had been tried and jailed” (216). This is a place where injustice reigns and girls are victimized. As a father of girls, these stories make me sad and angry.
Roper isn’t content to just describe the horrors of BR-116. He shares personal stories of the girls that he and Brody meet along the way. Some of these he has been able to help through Meninadança, a non-profit he started which works with at-risk girls along the BR-116 corridor. They provide residence for girls leaving prostitution and dance-therapy as a way of building self esteem into girls who are used to being devalued, used and abused. Brody also starts his own foundation to help raise awareness and support for the girls of these communities.
So Highway to Hell provides a ray of hope and a means for connecting tangibly with the work that Roper and others are doing to end child sex trafficking in Brazil. through his organization. I highly recommend this book. It will open your eyes to injustice and break your heart. But it also tells the story of two men who were moved to do something about the suffering and injustice they saw. five stars:★★★★★!
Thank you to Kregel Publications and Monarch Books for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review