Survivor Stories

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Our clients are foreign-born survivors of violence…real people with real stories. Please note all names have been changed in order to protect identities.

Maria’s Story

I am Maria. This is my story. What I am about to tell you is something I never thought would happen to me, but I survived.

I was 17, a typical teenager living in my home country of Nicaragua. I went to school, had friends and a part-time job in a small grocery store to earn money for school. While working in the store one day, a young man approached me. He was nice and flirtatious. He was persistent, visited daily and insisted on taking me out. After several days, I accepted his invitation.

Following our date, he drove me to his house in a neighboring town. Things went from good to horrible. I was too young to understand what was going on, but I realized soon enough—he told me I was not permitted to leave.

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Under his aggressive control, I was forced to call my parents to assure them I was okay and was with a man I loved so they wouldn’t look for me. To make it appear legitimate, he took me to see my family after a couple of months and threatened he would kill them if I didn’t play along. He forced me to tell my parents we had plans to marry. He threatened to kill my family if I said anything about him and the situation I was in.

He said he was out of work and I would need to get a job to make a living. I offered to look for a job in a store, but he told me it wouldn’t make enough for us to live on. He forced me into prostitution and again threatened to kill my family if I didn’t comply. Over the course of five years, I worked in three different cities in Nicaragua. During this time, I worked the streets day and night and was only given two hours a day to rest. To make my quota, I had to perform sexual acts for 200 men a week. In order to stay alert and keep up my work schedule, he drugged me with cocaine, crack, glue and alcohol. If I didn’t make enough money for him, he would violently beat me. My work resulted in multiple pregnancies and several forced miscarriages. I had almost lost hope to ever become a mother, but I was able to carry one pregnancy and gave birth to a baby boy. My trafficker took my son away, gave him to his mother and forced me back out onto the streets. I felt abandoned and alone.

Soon after, he trafficked me into the United States and sent me to a location in Atlanta, Georgia. I was blindfolded and the exact location was unknown, but once there, other trafficked women explained the “working” rules to me. I was to serve men 12 hours a day and every penny I made went to the trafficker. I was terrified and scared, but I had to survive so I could see my baby. After four frightening months, I escaped the house and went back home to my family.

With my family’s help, I was able to rescue my son, but soon thereafter, my trafficker found me and forced me back into prostitution. Having witnessed my trafficker hurting other women, I was afraid he would do the same to me if I did not comply with his demands. Thanks to an anonymous tip, I was rescued by authorities later that year.

I am well now and continue to cooperate with U.S. authorities. Tapestri helped me through this process of healing by paying my rent and assisting with medical visits and bills, permanent residency and immigration paperwork, mental health counseling and ESL training. I’m also happy to say I helped authorities locate and rescue other minors trafficked and held by my trafficker.

Sabrin’s Healing Heart

Shortly after their marriage, Sabrin and her husband moved to the United States from Egypt. What was supposed to be a happy beginning, fueled by the American dream, quickly turned into a nightmare. Soon after their arrival, her husband began abusing her physically and mentally. The abuse involved physical contact, threats of deportation and homelessness. “He would throw me against the washer and dryer. My body was covered in bruises,” explains Sabrin.

After the births of their two children, her husband would threaten to send her back to Egypt and take her children away from her. Sabrin says, “I kept giving him chance after chance to stop, hoping he would change for the better. I didn’t want to see my family broken.” Sabrin called the police twice, but was fearful of her situation and felt she had no rights as an immigrant in the United States. Divorce was not acceptable in her culture and she feared for her children growing up in a “broken” home. She could not reach out to her community due to the shame and stigma which would be placed on her.

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However, the abuse reached an intolerable level and she feared its impact on her two children. Sabrin was afraid her husband might go after them. She was afraid, too, of what would become of her children if something happened to her. Who would take care of them, nurture them and encourage them to lead healthy, violence-free adult lives themselves? After deciding to take them and go to a women’s shelter, her shelter provider told her about Tapestri. She was surprised to learn of such an organization, existing solely to help refugee and immigrant violence survivors living in similar situations. She called Tapestri for assistance and her advocate, who also spoke Arabic, addressed her in a very culturally sensitive way. At last, Sabrin could share her story, feel at ease by using her native language and have someone listen and not judge or label her. Her advocate educated her on her rights, created a personalized care plan and guided her through the process so she could regain her confidence, economic stability and self efficacy. Tapestri was able to provide a trained interpreter and all information was kept confidential. Sabrin was also connected to partnering agencies through which she was able to begin the process of obtaining her U-Visa, acquiring passports for her children and learning job skills so she could be independent and provide for herself and her children. With her U-Visa, passport and other proper immigration paperwork in hand, Sabrin and her children would be able to stay in the United States legally.

Sabrin is now working as an advocate herself at a women’s shelter. She saved her money, purchased a car and is now actively saving to purchase a home for herself and her two children. With the help of Tapestri and encouragement from her advocate, she has found the strength and confidence to make it on her own.