*To protect the identity of this survivor, her name and image have been changed* 

Deena* and Anish* sat together on the corner of a platform at the local train station. Deena was tense — she felt that Anish was too and that confused her. Surely they were making the right decision, she thought to herself. Deena did not have much support at home and that is why Anish promised to take care of her.

It had been a whirlwind romance. After meeting on Facebook, they had only been in a relationship for six months. But Anish told Deena he loved her, and she felt that – perhaps – she loved him too. She trusted in his plan and said yes to his proposal to elope in Chennai.

Why did he look so worried?

The confusion washed over her once again as they quietly waited for their train to arrive.

Free for Life’s partner team noticed the young couple sitting on the railway platform waiting. They seemed nervous — sitting upright and looking quickly around the station. The girl looked confused and they carried no luggage with them. After observing these red flags, the team approached the couple to ask some questions. 

 The monitoring team soon found out Deena’s parents were unaware of the elopement plans and had not given their permission for the marriage. Anish had picked her up from her village and paid for all travel expenses. They also learned that Deena was still a minor. They warned her about the legal age for marriage and explained that people with bad intentions will lie and use marriage as a tool for exploitation.

 While Anish initially listened to the team’s warnings, his cooperation was short-lived. He tried to escape by running away from the railway station, leaving Deena behind. He was quickly caught and referred to the police — it was suspected that Anish lured Deena into a proposal under false pretenses. Anish is currently in jail and a case has been filed against him.

Deena knew now why she felt such apprehension and why Anish looked so tense as they waited on the platform. He wasn’t who she though he was. As difficult as this reality was to process, Deena felt relief knowing that she did not move forward with someone out to betray her trust. It was hard to imagine the life of exploitation and hardship that could have followed. She was thankful the monitoring team was watching out for her and that she could return to her village safely.

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