Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of a five-part series in which Carmen, a Polaris Project consultant and spokesperson, shares her experience in human trafficking. Next week, El Semanario will publish Part 5. Warning, this op-ed includes content about sexual abuse and violence.
After six long years trapped in the human trafficking networks that brought me to the United States – thanks to God – I got out alive. With the help of a good Samaritan, I’m now free from that world, where I was forced to sell my body.
It wasn’t easy to leave. I tried to commit suicide several times, thinking that was my only way out. I wasn’t going to give my traffickers the pleasure of killing me – I would rather have done that myself. But my attempts were never successful, and only God knows why.
I’d survived human trafficking, but the emotional trauma buried me deep.
One day, a stranger approached me in a public place and struck up a conversation. I ignored her at first because I was afraid to even speak to anyone. I felt like I was being watched by my traffickers at all times, no matter where I went, but this time that woman would change my life for the better.
The woman noticed I seemed paranoid and said, “Tell me what’s wrong. I can help you.”
I asked her not to come too close. Then she gave me her phone number so I could call her if there was ever a day when I needed help. That day came when I saw her again at a restaurant.
This time, the woman wasn’t alone. She urged me to talk to her and her boyfriend about what was going on, and they said they could help me.
At that time, I was at such a low point where trusting and distrusting were the same. I no longer cared if I lived or died, or if something happened to my family. I had to take the risk. So I told the couple a little bit about my situation, not caring whether or not they believed me. But they did, and they helped me.
No Turning Back
One late night, I called them. They came to where I was being held and took me home with them until the next morning. I didn’t know what I’d just done, or how I’d dared to defy my captors, and I regretted it. The threats, the beating, and all the abuse I’d suffered had in some way tied me to my trafficker, who kept calling me with more threats after he realized I’d escaped.
The next morning, the couple that had helped me encouraged me to report this crime and never look back.
They went with me to the Family Justice Center, where I ultimately made the decision to report my traffickers. I realized I had to disconnect from everything that was tormenting me for a moment and find the courage to speak up.
My story doesn’t end there. I’d survived human trafficking, but the emotional trauma buried me deep, and I needed psychiatric help to get out. However, I was able to recover and find the will and strength to go on living. As part of the process, I also had to overcome my fear of trusting people
I’ve achieved all of this, and much more, thanks to God. He’s put people in my life for a reason, and through them, he’s shown me his love to this day, and in this same way he’ll also allow me to help others.
To get help or to report a tip, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) and polarisproject.org, It’s a free, confidential, and anonymous resource that will help any caller in need, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, in your language.
Carmen is a Polaris Project consultant and spokesperson. *Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
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