One human trafficking survivor’s story

■ By Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Reporter

Below is the story of a local trafficking survivor, whose name has been changed to Abigail to protect her identity. It will not, under any circumstances, ever be revealed.
Abigail grew up locally. She learned from a very early age that if anything happens to her that it is a result of her actions; that she did something wrong. This was constantly reinforced by family, including her mother and later, after she married, her in-laws.
Her parents separated when she was a baby. She remembers telling her mother when she was with her dad that she did not want to visit him any longer because he beat her. Her mother would respond with; you must have done something wrong. This message would stay with Abigail throughout her life. She figured at an early age that it was useless to say anything to anyone. She felt that if she deserved the treatment, then it didn’t make any sense to speak up.

A bad family life led to poor choices

Abigail was also told by family that the only thing men would want from her is her body. When she was 12, she starved herself. She started looking to boys for validation and love at a very young age because she did not have that at home. When Abigail was 14 years old, the “cool boy” in school wanted to go out with her. All the girls wanted to be with him, but he chose her. She was invited to his house and being very naive, she went inside, to his room where she was sexually assaulted, even though she asked him to stop.
She met someone else not long after and got pregnant. As a young mom, she began to party heavily to cope with the sexual assault. She ended up moving out of her mother’s house and in with the baby’s father at his parents’ house. There, she was physically assaulted, continually. His parents would tell their son, “just don’t beat her when she is holding the baby.”

Weston Park
Abigail wanted to leave, but was told that she could not take the baby with her and be homeless on the streets. So, in 2002 (in her early 20s), she packed some things and went to Weston Park. She would stay there at night, then go back home in the morning to take care of her child. Of course, because she was at Weston Park during the night, she turned to drugs to heal the pain and to stay awake. The times she fell asleep, she often woke up to someone sexually assaulting her. This happened numerous times; the first time she had only been living on the streets for two weeks. She chose to continue using drugs so that she could stay awake; she walked up and down the street at night to keep from being sexually assaulted.
Shortly after she started spending her nights at Weston Park, she was approached by a woman who told her that she could stay with her in her house. Abigail explained that she didn’t understand at the time what that was going to entail, but she desperately wanted off the streets and out of the park.

From bad to worse
When Abigail went to stay with this woman at her house, she was sent to motels to perform whatever act she was told. The lady had everything set up so that her “girls” were not on the streets but going to private homes or motels. She never saw any money that she earned. Abigail said the woman was very mean. Eventually the woman who was pimping her out passed away and the woman’s daughter was imprisoned. Abigail turned to prostitution for survival. Remember, she had no money, no self-esteem, had been routinely beaten and sexually assaulted. She didn’t know anything else and was still living on the streets.
She met a guy who ended up being her boyfriend. He would sneak her into his mom’s house every now and then, so she had a place to stay for the night and could sleep. Then he started beating her and pimping her out. He even put her up for sale on the online sites without her knowledge. He had complete control over her. He would tell Abigail that he loved her and made her believe that she was the only person. Again, he also controlled the money. So, while she may have had a place to sleep at night, food was another story. She was constantly hungry.
On more than one occasion, they would be in a motel room and her boyfriend would tell her that a man was coming to pick her up and that she had to go with him. If she didn’t go, she was beaten. Her “boyfriend” was constantly in and out of prison.

Too scared to be free
Every time he was incarcerated, she would feel free. However, she was far from it. This is a small town and every time he was released; he knew where to find her. One of the times he was incarcerated, she was picked up by some of his friends, (she did not know this at the time) was driven to Banning, beaten, and left there. For some reason, they needed to teach her a lesson.
Another time, someone she thought was a friend picked her up to go out. She woke up in a motel room and was bleeding so badly she couldn’t even sit down. To this day, she has no idea what happened to her that night. During the interview, she stated that there are not enough showers that she could have ever taken to feel clean. She knows of locations in this valley where her blood was splattered on the walls from violent assaults.
Due to the manipulation, she felt abandoned when her boyfriend was in prison. In her warped thinking, he at least offered her a place to sleep and there was no way to fuel her habit and afford a motel/hotel room. Her body and her life were not her own. Abigail was controlled with abuse and drugs.
Finally, after many attempts, she has been out of the life for more than a decade, she’s sober and has been reunited with her family. She has a passion to help others who have been or are in a similar situation.

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