Hopeless, lost, taken, broken.
At age 21, I went to Panama to compete in a roller speed skating tournament. There I was kidnapped by two men who drugged me and took my documents and belongings. I felt like an animal in a zoo at that moment.
My traffickers took me through Central America; I was flown to Honduras, traveled by foot to Guatemala, and transported by truck to Mexico. In each country, I was locked in a house and frequently beaten, drugged.
While I was in Mexico, I managed to escape twice but was taken back by my trafficker. I was forced to walk through the desert. I lost track of days and time. In the desert, I witnessed the rape and murder of a minor. Eventually we traveled through the sewage system and then crossed the river into the United States, near El Paso. I was then taken to Houston in the back of a truck. I was hopeless.
Once in Houston, I was restricted to a room in a house. I was drugged, and severely beaten. I found out that my ex-boyfriend, was behind my kidnapping (abduction) when he came to the house. He was running a criminal enterprise – robberies, diamond scams, and shoplifting. Later on he tried to ask my family for ransom.
Since the money my family sent to him was not enough, he forced me to work, as a servant, to pay off the debt for transportation. He trained me to participate in his criminal enterprise. He would threaten to beat me if I refused. I don’t know how long I was with my traffickers, but one night I was able to escape because I didn’t want to participate in criminal activity. He fell asleep after smoking marijuana and I ran out of the house. I lived on the streets begging for money. Someone gave me 5$ to call my grandmother, who then called someone in the U.S to help me.
Aftermath & Moving forward
After my escape I tried to get help from FBI and HPD, but I feel like in 2011 not many people understood what human trafficking meant. HPD did not believe my story and they wanted to deport me. FBI never called me back for an interview. For 3 years I tried to get help but it was very difficult, I had a hard time trusting people. Finally I met a pro-bono attorney who understood the elements of human trafficking. He was able to help put my experience together in a coherent manner.
Though I was finally approved for a T-Visa, I struggled for a long time to get help from many agencies not just law enforcement. What could be done differently, for future victims, is an increase in education on the elements of human trafficking, as well as patience and compassion for those seeking help.
DO NOT LOSE HOPE AND BELIEVE IN GOD
Thank you for sharing your story. It takes courage. Human trafficking is one of the greatest threats to humanity currently. It’s not going anywhere and it’s thriving. For those willing, please visit http://ourrescue.org and donate. Every cent counts. We have to stand and do something. Carolay, please keep telling your story. Be a voice for those who don’t have one. – Kate