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Claudia Sacramento Malpica approached the stage ready to share her long, arduous journey to justice with a room full of 400 strangers. She took a deep breath, looked out into the crowd, and began.

“I was born in Mexico with a father who abused me, and I left the house at 15 years old to escape. I began to work as a waitress at a restaurant.”

One day, a man approached her. He seemed trustworthy and asked if he could buy her a soda. She drank it.

“The last thing I remember was waking up in his car while he drove me to his house. When we arrived, I realized that I didn’t have my wallet, my phone, or my ID card. He locked me in a room and didn’t let me leave. Every day, I prayed that I could return to my house to be with my kids – I had one son and one daughter at the time – but I couldn’t.”

The man kept her locked away and forced her into prostitution. If she tried to escape, he beat her so badly that she couldn’t leave bed for weeks at a time. He told her he was going to take her to New York, and her kids would remain in Mexico. She felt desperate and trapped.

“The journey [to the U.S.] was very long and difficult, without much food or water. We finally arrived, but he immediately forced me to sell my body. A woman would transport me to different places and they made me have sex with more than 20 men each night.”

Claudia was barely fed and was constantly being watched. She was alone, in a country whose language she did not speak. When she tried to escape, her captors beat her so extensively she lost feeling in her body. She feared if she kept trying, they would harm her children in Mexico.

Claudia was moved to several states throughout the years, including Washington DC , Maryland, and Virginia. She prayed for a way out and was desperate to regain control of her life.

Finally, one day, there was a police raid in the house she was being held.

“The police helped me escape to a shelter, and I was eventually referred to Tahirih. Finally, I felt, ‘Yes’. That yes, there is a way, a path, a journey to justice.”

After Claudia was rescued, she continued cooperating with the police on investigations of sex trafficking, wanting to do her part in ending the cycle of violence forever.

Claudia is now safe and living with her children here in the United States.

“I can provide them food, housing, education, and clothes, and above all else, tranquility. They have dreams and hopes. My oldest kids are graduating soon — my son wants to be a firefighter and my oldest daughter a nurse. My younger daughter is a happy girl in secondary school.”

Claudia’s new life brought her to find her husband, who showed her that there is always hope … there is always a better tomorrow.

Now, she serves as a community organizer with a group that helps immigrants know their rights, find transportation, register kids in school, and many other services.

“I love what I do, and it means a lot to me. Every time I see someone suffering the way I suffered — hungry, cold, and afraid — I see myself, and I do everything in my power to help them. There are no words to describe how grateful I am. Tahirih gave me back my hope and my strength, and helped me understand that, although something bad happened to me, that doesn’t mean I am a bad person. Even in shadow, in the darkest hours, there is light.”

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