by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Pam PyneOak Grove author Pamela Ravan-Pyne will sign copies of her novel “I Kidnap Girls: Stealing From Traffickers, Restoring Their Victims,” at the Gladstone/Oak Grove Curves, at 16074-2 S.E. McLoughlin Blvd., from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 18.

Ravan-Pyne, 57, will share her fictionalized account of Romanian human-rights activist Iana Matei and her initiation into the world of human trafficking. Her novel recalls how a phone call to one woman led her to three girls who needed help, and into the middle of the FBI’s clash with a Romanian organized-crime ring.

Ravan-Pyne became involved with human trafficking and Matei’s work with victims while spending eight years living in Romania working with a humanitarian foundation serving abandoned children. In the late 1980s, shocking news reports revealed the situation inside Romanian orphanages, but when Ravan-Pyne arrived in ‘93, she saw that many of these children who now were approaching their teens had left the orphanages for the streets.

by: BOOK COVER COURTESY: PAM PYNE - 'I Kidnap Girls'“They lived down under the manhole covers, below the street, huddled around sewer pipes for warmth,” she said. “The cold and hunger weren’t their worst enemies. These proved to be the men driving shiny, new cars with dark, tinted windows.”

She watched the cars pull over to allow an adult or an older child to emerge and walk over to the child. After some presumable inducement, the child would get into the car and “wouldn’t be heard from again for weeks, months, maybe never.”

Although promised food, a bed and clothes, children weren’t told they would have to have sex with 20 to 30 people a day. Typically, they were smuggled illegally to a different country, where they didn’t know the language and their documents would be taken from them, at the mercy of pimps.

In 1998, Ravan-Pyne got a call from USAID asking to assist Matei with opening a safe house for girls who had been forced into prostitution.

“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,” Ravan-Pyne said. “Many Western foundations had come and gone because of the frustrations of not understanding the system and the corruption.”

In the last three years that Ravan-Pyne lived in Romania, Matei established a safe house for girls who had been forced into prostitution. She also was instrumental in the conviction and imprisonment of some of the most notorious pimps of minors.

As the years went by, Ravan-Pyne returned to the United States and resumed her previous life, but what she had seen in Romania haunted her. Still wanting to do something, Ravan-Pyne called Matei.

“She told me she was trying to build a hotel where at-risk girls could work. I wanted to help her,” Ravan-Pyne said. “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.”

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