The true story behind The Whistleblower

By Alexandra Heilbron on July 29, 2011 | 10 Comments

The movie The Whistleblower stars Rachel Weisz as Kathryn Bolkovac, a police officer from Nebraska who gets a job as a UN Peacekeeper in Bosnia. However, she soon finds out that her UN colleagues are involved in using and providing children for the sex trade.

The movie is a true story, based on the book The Whistleblower by Kathryn Bolkovac, which details her experiences as a human rights investigator. It started when Bolkova spotted a recruitment flyer from military contractor DynCorp, posted at her police department. A mother of three, with two of her children in college, Kathy signed up to be one of 2,000 police officers from 45 countries to work as peacekeepers. During the training process at DynCorp in the United States, she already became aware that at least one man in her immediate group knew about the use of young girls aged 12 to 15 for sex in Bosnia.

Upon arrival in Sarajevo in 1999, she found restaurants or dance clubs that were fronts for brothels–where young girls were forced to dance naked and have sex with customers–that catered to international clientele, including her fellow UN peacekeepers. She was appalled to find that the Bosnian police knew about the practice and turned a blind eye.

She uncovered evidence of girls who, when they refused to have sex, were beaten and raped in bars by their pimps while peacekeepers stood and watched. She discovered that one UN policeman who was supposed to be investigating the sex trade paid $700 to a bar owner for an underage girl he kept captive in his apartment.

After reporting her findings to her employers in October 2000, within days she was demoted. Six months later, Kathy was fired and found out from fellow workers that her life was in danger.

Madeleine Rees, the head of the UN Human Rights Commission office in Sarajevo, believes trafficking in little girls started with the arrival of the international peacekeepers in 1992.

A recruiter would go to Ukraine, Poland, Georgia or Russia, and offer ten students the opportunity to go on a field trip to Italy. The recruiter would usually be someone the girls knew personally. They would take the girls to a place where for a period of two to three weeks they would be “desensitized,” in other words, repeatedly raped and burned behind the ear or under the feet, so the marks weren’t visible. Sometimes, if the girls weren’t cooperating, the recruiters would shoot one, to send a message. They were told that after working in the sex trade for two or three years, they would be able to buy back their freedom and go home. But the only way a girl ever returned to her home town was as a recruiter, starting the cycle over again.

After a two-year battle, on August 6, 2002, an employment tribunal ruled that Bolkovac was unfairly dismissed by DynCorp. Bolkovac’s book, The Whistleblower, was made into a movie starring Rachel Weisz. It opens August 12 in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, then expands to Ottawa on August 26. Kathy lives with her husband in Holland. ~Alexandra Heilbron

Comments & Discussion

  1. chris francisco • September 28, 2011 @ 5:01 PM

    Hello all….I just watched this important film. This is a story that must be told and retold. I am so grateful for the courage that Ms. Bolkovac demonstrated in the face of great danger. Being the son a World War II refugee mother that experienced the horrors of war, I know that rape has been a weapon of war throughout time. Additionally, the horror that “officials” in places of power turned a blind eyes to such horrors is grotesque. The excuse of a “greater good” is repulsive when activities of human trafficking,violence, greed are condoned. This film was acted with genuine respect and serious passion. Thank you so much telling a story that must be heard!


    chris francisco

  2. Christy • April 14, 2012 @ 2:57 AM

    I just saw the movie and is so touched by some of the grafic scenes. To think that one human can do this to another is inhuman, out of touch and mind. I was very disappointed to discover that I have never heard of this story till watching the movie. It is sad that we have become our own demons with our relentless appetite for drugs, paving the way for the Mexican drug lords with license to kill. Our relentless appetite for sex paving the way for human traffickers to prosper with another humans life.

  3. Robyn • May 11, 2012 @ 9:05 PM

    I just saw this movie. I am not only appalled by the lack of regard for human life by the authorities, but I am even more outraged that there is such a high demand for this type of criminal activity. WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR SOCIETY….

  4. Catherine • October 26, 2012 @ 4:27 AM

    I just saw the movie. I feel so appalled that we are living in such a corrupted and unjust soicety. Ms Bolkovac who acted rightously cannot regain her employment in the international community. Yet,the private contractor continues business with the US Government till today and no offcials get punished for their crimes. Aren’t the bad supposed to get punished? What does it tell us? We can’t even trust our own justice system, and the Government. It is so sad to see injustice in the society espceically within those who are working for the world’s just and peace. Do rightous people always have to suffer???

  5. martin green • November 1, 2012 @ 4:43 PM

    Ms Balkovac joins other commited humanitarians such as Craig Murray (ex UK Ambassador whistleblower) and Susan Lindauer (activist and Middle East specialist jsiled in US for telling the truth about 9/11) who find themselves completely overwhelmed by the evil characters who inhabit the military- industrial – intelligence complex, corrupt males one and all! I’m ashamed to be the same gender as these “%6&*&(s! DynCorp and companies such as Halliburton and Xe (formerly Blackwater) should be banned completely from working for governments anywhere. I hope Ms Balkovac finds some peace in her new life in Holland. When will decent people rise up and stop all this crap?

  6. Longchamp Pas Cher • November 16, 2014 @ 12:13 AM

    Romney probably will let go their income taxes once the various other shills discharge theirs. Like claim the Nancy Pelosi.

  7. Ros • April 29, 2016 @ 5:06 PM

    I am sure that the only way things like this are allowed to continue, is the lack of SUPPORT (since the mindset is: I will let the next person handle it if everybody uses this mindset there will be no one left to help). the forced IGNORANCE that people choice to maintain since it is unbearable and uncomforting for people to see, this is, unfortunately, the world we live in and unfortunately life is this dirty and ugly. In order to stop the problem, we must shed light on these types of issues, this can only become better once these horrors have been heard.

  8. Rodney • June 24, 2016 @ 5:44 PM

    This movie should be required viewing for all junior and senior high grades. This deplorable activity does not only happen in war-torn countries. It happens everywhere and in North America too; but some would like to hide that fact.

  9. christine • April 24, 2019 @ 11:38 PM

    What is the organization mentioned at the end that we can get involved

  10. Ann • August 6, 2019 @ 6:54 PM

    ..there are no words

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