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Angela's Story: Survivor of Human Trafficking
Growing up in a small village in Latin America, Angela had big dreams of becoming a famous writer. Sadly, her family struggled to make ends meet and she had to leave school at a young age to help support her nine brothers and sisters.
Angela thought all hope was lost until one day she heard about an opportunity to continue her education while working in the home of a family who was moving from the village to the United States. They promised Angela that they would help her enroll in night classes if she worked as their housekeeper Monday through Friday, nine to five.
After months of convincing her parents, Angela finally got the chance to make her dreams come true. But she would soon discover it was actually a nightmare.
For three years, Angela was paid roughly 30 cents an hour to work 12 hours straight, seven days a week. She cooked, cleaned, cared for two infants and an elderly parent, while also being responsible for all of the household maintenance, including preparing large meals for many guests.
She was forced to sleep on a mattress in the family’s kitchen, was not allowed out of the house, and endured constant threats, verbal abuse and intimidation.
A Way Out
The abuse continued until a friend of the family spoke to Angela and sensed fear in her voice. This prompted the family friend to alert authorities who called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSE) tip line. The ICE assigned a Victim Witness Specialist to her case who sent out officers to investigate and rescue Angela from the abusive environment.
The Victim Witness Specialist knew about how Safe Horizon’s Anti-Trafficking Program (ATP) supports and advocates on behalf of victims of human trafficking by providing:
- Basic necessities like clothing, food, and a safe place to stay
- Supportive counseling
- Linkage to medical treatment, mental health and educational services
- Legal assistance for her immigration status as well as advocacy with law enforcement
The Victim Witness Specialist called ATP and coordinated a referral for Angela to come and get help.
Angela was assigned a caseworker who advocated on her behalf to obtain a T-Visa. A T-Visa is a special visa issued to exploited workers and other victims of human trafficking. With a T-Visa Angela was able to get a part-time job to support herself.
Once Angela had housing and could support herself, we set her up for success by helping her enroll in a GED program. With an education, Angela could learn English and pursue her dream of becoming a writer - possibly in two languages!
Angela also struggled with the psychological impact of living and working in fear for so long. ATP referred her to our Counseling Center to receive therapy and help her overcome the traumatic experience.
Safe Horizon not only helped fulfill the empty promises of her traffickers, but empowered Angela with the tools she needed for starting a new life. Angela says she considers the staff at Safe Horizon a second family and that she is well on her way to writing her own destiny.
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* Client names and identifying information have been changed to protect their privacy. Images used are representations of Safe Horizon’s clients.