Discover the raw, real-life experiences of human trafficking survivors through Because Organization's Survivor Stories. Each narrative is a journey of courage and recovery, highlighting the importance of support, education, and advocacy in combating this global issue. Your awareness can spark change!
**All identifiable information provided has been changed or omitted to protect the safety and privacy of the survivors trusting us with the delivery of their story.**
I came to this country as a little girl, brought over by my mom and her boyfriend, Tony. Life was always a struggle, but I managed to finish school and improve my English. College was out of reach financially, and when I couldn't afford to pay rent at home, my mom said I had to leave. So, I did, bouncing between friends' couches while working weekends at a convenience store.
But soon, I found myself without a couch to crash on and ended up sleeping near a fountain. It was dangerous, and I knew I couldn't keep going like that. In desperation, I returned to my mom, agreeing to pay rent from the little I was making. That's when Tony offered me a job at what I thought was a housekeeping business. The pay seemed good, and I felt lucky to have it.
For a while, things looked up. Tony would hand my paycheck directly to my mom, and she'd give me a bit of it. It wasn't much, but it felt like a fortune. Then the long hours kicked in, and my share of the money started shrinking. My mom claimed it was for bills, but it didn't add up. I was working more but getting less.
When I brought it up with them, things took a turn for the worst. We fought and I was out. I had no other place to go other than the house in the ghetto that some of the other girls were staying at. Tony was the landlord. Rent and bills subtracted from my pay, and the same situation started to happen with me getting less money back. I was trapped, working from morning till night, with barely any pay. I knew things were getting worse when Tony and another man, Austin, started offering "special" jobs to some of the girls. I was scared, knowing it was only a matter of time before I'd be forced into that too.
I started to talk to a guy, Jordan, from my old job. He was nice. We talked a lot. I told him about my job and how I felt stuck. He didn't get why I couldn't just leave. I couldn't tell him about sleeping by the fountain. Jordan said I could live with him and his friends, after that summer. I was happy but scared.
I told a girl at the house about moving out. Big mistake. Tony found out and threatened me saying I owed money for the phone and rent. He said I couldn't leave. I felt trapped. But Jordan told me to pack a bag and meet him. I left with just my purse, fearing that any more would tip off the others.
That night, Jordan was there, and we drove to his place. I was safe, but I left so much behind. I started waitressing, trying to slowly rebuild my life. Jordan was good to me. He didn't take my money and let me help with food and stuff. I am sometimes still worried about my mom, Austin, Tony, and the other girls. Even though it’s been years, I don't want them to find me. Now, I waitress and save money. I even Bartend on the weekends. I want my own place.
I never knew this was trafficking until I started talking about it. I just thought I was cleaning houses. But it was more than that. It's hard to think about those years now. People should know this can happen to anyone, anywhere. It happened to me. Honestly, I'm still trying to make sense of it and get myself back together.
I guess, sharing my story here is my way of opening eyes to the reality of trafficking. It can be happening anywhere, even in a house next door. I wish I'd known what was happening to me was trafficking at the time and had the guts to leave sooner than I did. Still, I'm doing better now.
I got caught up with my boyfriend while in beauty school, He was mysterious. The relationship was a dream for a long while. He took care of all my needs and made me feel special. I had a complicated family life due to drug abuse in my family growing up so I appreciated the special attention from my boyfriend.
He was supportive of beauty school at first. He asked me to move in with him and that’s when he changed his mind about beauty school saying that I need to take care of him and the house.
His friend gave me a cute tattoo he designed just for me, but I didn't know the real meaning of it until later. He would ask me to do more things around the house and for him since I wasn’t paying rent and those things made me start missing classes and eventually dropping out. He slowly became more controlling and jealous. I wasn't allowed to hang with my "girls" anymore. My girls didn't like him anyway.
Fast forward a couple of months and I found out he was in an -Omitted affiliation . I still loved him after I found out so I stayed with him. Out of nowhere one night he came home with another man who he chilled with before taking me into the bathroom and telling me to sleep with him. I said no... DV and SA occurred and was omitted...he would always justify himself and said that was my way of contributing for the roof over my head and my clothes. Those situations increased and the violence with it. I rarely was intimate with my boyfriend anymore.
The first time I had move - omitted for substance- for him I was scared and the men I met up with nearly attacked me until they saw my tattoo on my collarbone. They pointed at it and said that I was one of her boyfriend’s girls. I then realized that I was not his only girlfriend and was so angry that I confronted him back at the house and threatened to leave him. Description of boyfriends actions omitted for violence... he said that I was his women now. No one would touch me with his mark because they wouldn't dare steal from him. I was terrified but somehow still loved him for there were occasional moments when he was really nice to me or would apologize.
The men kept coming and I eventually stopped fighting it. I wanted out but hadn't spoken to my friends in months, did not have my own car, or own a phone anymore. He knew everything about my life and what I was up to, there seemed to be no way out for a long while.
Somehow I convinced him to let me go to- Religious place omitted for protection- for he was -Religious affiliation omitted- and he seemed pleased that I may want to convert. I went often and took comfort in the modest attire for it hid many of the marks, besides the ones on my face, every now and again. I knew that some of the other women knew from their stares and how they didn't want to be around me. There was one woman who I talked to a lot. I wasn't dumb enough to tell her anything for fear she would make more trouble for me. That woman ,eventually, told me about her sister who was in a domestic violence situation. Although, the story about her sister was sad, it was still 100x better than mine. She didn't have johns coming in or had to move -Omitted for substance. My friend explained how she snuck her sister out and took her to a shelter. I still didn't say anything until after my boyfriend's...DV Description.
Next time I saw the woman I told her that I had a friend that wanted to go to one of those shelters, but they don't know how. We came up with a plan that one day I would bring "My friend" and we would pretend to go to prayer and sneak out. That day came and I met the woman in the bathroom just myself. We snuck out to her car and she drove me to a shelter outside the city. I thanked her and stayed in the shelter for a good minute before my boyfriend found me. Someone saw my tattoo. He picked me up when I was walking to the bus stop. Omitted DV and SA Description of boyfriend's actions- I could barely move for a week before I had to get back to work. Omitted mental health concerns.
After a couple months I was grocery shopping and saw the woman from the...omitted religious place...I use to go to. My boyfriend was somewhere in the store. The woman came toward me which made me panic but quickly said that she normally shops on Wednesdays at 5:30 and walked away. I tried to grocery shop on Wednesdays at 5:30 but couldn't convince my boyfriend for a few weeks, until one time he dropped me off on a Wednesday. To my surprise the woman was still coming to the store then and I walked up to her. She apologized and said she would pay for train fare to the state over. That I could live with her friend until a shelter had a bed open and that would give me more safety.
That day I got on a train and met the woman’s friend. I stayed with the other woman I met and her family. Those people were good religious folk. It was about 11 weeks before a bed opened up. By then I had a job as a shampoo girl. I stayed at the shelter for about three months before moving in with one of the women from the salon. The women in the salon got together and paid for my tattoo he gave me to be covered up with a flower. I started training as an apprentice at the salon, while still doing shampoo. Saving up to go back to beauty school and feel much safer having a social life and out of the state. I will never go back or let someone control me like that again. I am still healing and working on my issues from everything, but honestly, I am grateful for the women who got me out. Especially the one from the...omitted religious place...who was brave enough to try again.
Sharing my story so people know that its still good to watch out for one another. Even though, we are taught to mind our business.