When I was 15 years old, I left my parents’ home in Mexico. I was sexually abused by my stepfather, and I thought I would be safer moving out with my boyfriend at the time. I became pregnant at 16 years old with my daughter and her father turned into a monster after she was born. He hit me several times and even threatened to kill us with a knife. So, I chose to leave him and return to my parents’ house when my daughter was 6 months old.
Being a young single mother, I was forced to leave school and work to provide for us. I got a job at a restaurant where I met a polite young man who said he was visiting town. After that, he visited frequently, and we became close friends.
During one of his visits to see me, my daughter got very sick, and I didn’t have enough money to take her to the hospital. He offered to take us to see his cousin who was a doctor, but he lived in the next town. In my desperation, I accepted his offer, and it turned out to be the worst decision I ever made. He became my abductor.
We arrived at a house where a woman came and took my daughter, and my abductor forced me into a room where he raped me. Afterwards, I immediately looked for my daughter but couldn’t find her. He made me get in the car and he drove away. He took me to a house where a woman was waiting for me. He told me to go with her and do as I was told, or else he would kill my daughter. I became a sex slave.
I was sex trafficked all over Mexico for about 5 years and if I met my monthly quota, I would get to see my daughter once a month. I tried to escape several times, but he would always find me. I was forced to recruit girls as young as 12 years old and teach them everything I knew. It was soul breaking. Had I not had a daughter to fight for, I would’ve gladly ended my life. I was living a true nightmare.
In 2006, I was smuggled to Los Angeles where I was forced to live in a tiny apartment with other women and girls who were also trafficked. My abductor had men watching us, making sure we didn’t go to the police because if we did, he said he would kill my daughter. Then my abductor sent me to Atlanta where I lived in a small apartment with other women who were forced to work under him. This time we weren’t allowed to go out of the apartment, our clients came to us. I remember thinking that I will never be able to escape this living hell.
Until one day, something in me made me share my story with one of my clients. He believed me and said he wanted to help. He helped me escape and buy a plane ticket to Mexico. I traveled to the town where I knew my abductor’s sister held my daughter captive. I took a taxi to the house, stormed in looking for my daughter and told his sister that the police were on their way. When I found her, she yelled “Mom, you came for me!” I picked her up and we left as fast as we could.
If I stayed in Mexico, I knew he would find us. The client who helped me get to Mexico also helped us cross the border so I could seek safety in the United States. We stayed with him until I could get on my feet. I got a job, my daughter started school, and I met nice people who wanted to help me. One of them was a man I married later and had a daughter with. He introduced me to his church community where I was able to find God and begin healing. However, my marriage to him wasn’t good, and he would use the story of my past to emotionally abuse me throughout the relationship.
One day I was detained by the police for driving without a license and was placed in deportation proceedings. While I was in jail, I was terrified I would be deported to Mexico without my daughters and my abductor would find me. My church community raised money to bail me out. Upon my release, I found out my husband abandoned our apartment, sold our belongings, and left my daughters with a family friend. This was the last straw that led me to file for divorce. Having no place to go, I was referred to a women’s shelter where I was able to stay with my daughters for 9 months.
It was there that I heard about the Tahirih Justice Center. I shared my story with them, and I was able to petition for a U visa, receive therapy for my daughter and me, and secure low-income housing. My story also sparked an FBI investigation. In 2012, I heard that my abductor was arrested in Mexico for sex trafficking, and a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.
I am so grateful to my lawyers and social services advocates at Tahirih. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to reconstruct a life in which my daughters and I are safe. Today I have a great job that provides for my family, I am mentally and emotionally strong, and I found a man who truly cares for me and my daughters.
Puedes escuchar la historia de Brenda aquí.