* This story was transcribed from an audio recording. The story is told by Mariana, the executive director of an aftercare home.
How it Began
“The victim is named Giselle, and when she was 22 she used to go to a Zumba class. It’s a public class with older people. She met this guy who [kept] watching her. She thought he was, physically [speaking], horrible – not handsome at all at all. This guy was showing a lot of interest in Giselle.
Giselle had an accident years ago, and she feels handicapped [from it]. Her self esteem was really low thinking that no one would be with someone as “handicapped” as her. Even though it was just a brain operation, nothing bad, sometimes she used to feel dizzy and she used to do things slower than a normal person. She thought that she wouldn’t ever get [a boyfriend], even though she’s tall and she’s attractive. When she met this guy, he started pursuing her. This guy was way older than her and started pursuing her little by little. He even started taking the class, this Zumba class, so he could be with her. For her it seemed like it was real love. He was really serious and formal even to Giselle’s family.
He started going out with her little by little, following all of the “rules”, since Giselle’s parents are older and old-fashioned. [He] started to follow all of the rules that you would in a relationship and he asked her to marry him. They got married, and when they were in this relationship things started to change. He started to manipulate her. Little by little he started making her go dance [in clubs], at first it was just to dance, and then he would ask for the money.
The thing is, this guy has a PhD in law, so he knows exactly all the holes the law has. He would never show up at those places where he would force her to go. After making her go to just dance, he forced her to go to a brothel and start having sex with clients. Little by little he would manipulate her and always tell her, “If it weren’t for me, you would be always single because no one wants to have a handicapped woman.” She started believing that. Even though she used to have a low self esteem, because of that, her self esteem became even lower.”
Giselle’s Escape from Trafficking
“There was a time where she couldn’t handle that anymore and she escaped and asked for help, and that’s how she came to the safe house. It was really hard for her to admit that this guy was an exploiter and a trafficker because she was really attached to him. They were married, and for her marriage was a commitment. It took her almost 6 months for her to realize that she was a victim and he was a trafficker, and that she was a victim of a crime.
After she understood that, then she wanted to improve her declaration before the authorities. She wanted to say the truth, and she wanted to divorce the guy because of the crime. But because the guy has a PhD in law, he knew that the authorities couldn’t get him because there wasn’t enough proof. There weren’t things to prove that the guy was a trafficker. In all the places where she used to go to work, brothels, dance clubs, and everything, this guy never showed up so there was never enough proof that the guy was a trafficker.”
Where She is Now
“After 8 months in the safe house, she graduated from the safe house. Now she has a job at a really prestigious hotel and she’s finishing her bachelor’s degree in English language and teaching. But she cannot divorce the guy and the guy can’t go to jail because there isn’t enough proof that the guy was a trafficker. It still makes her cry of frustration that she was kind of “in prison” in the safe house for 8 months [as she dealt with her situation] and the guy is still free. She is still afraid that this guy will do the same thing to other girls. Even though she is a survivor, she still cries and says that she still [has feelings towards this guy]. [He] is really romantic, he still sends her stuff like letters and movies, but now she doesn’t want to have anything with him.
She now knows this guy is a trafficker and he’s a bad guy. We are still helping her and helping the authorities to have justice in this case. Now she’s working and she’s really happy and she’s getting to know other guys. She is an example of a survivor.”
O.U.R. Aftercare: Shaping A Future
Operation Underground Railroad fully funds this aftercare home’s culinary and vocational training programs, so survivors like Giselle can have a plan and a source of income once they graduate. The road to recovery can be long and painful because of manipulation and emotional and physical abuse from these traffickers. Every time we hear a victim of trafficking has the courage to speak up, escape, and find recovery, that is a victory for us. And it should also be a victory for YOU! Because of your support, we can help more girls like Giselle. Thank you for your constant generosity! Together we are shaping a better future for many survivors.
What can YOU Do?
Aftercare is a very important step in the process of rescuing people from trafficking. For more information about how we integrate Aftercare into the process, visit our website ourrescue.org/aftercare.
Spread awareness. SHARE this article.