STOP 4: HEARD0
I had the privilege to hear from yet another trafficking survivor. I will never tire of hearing their stories, learning about the agony the faced, and seeing their strength in the face of opposition. Kika's story was most impacting and I hope my words can capture her passion.
Kika was born in Venezuela. At at the age of 8, she was raped by her stepfather, and she lived in constant fear of him. At the age of 14, Kika began pregnant by an abusive boyfriend. Her family disowned her and she lived on the streets until she had her baby. She was able to finish her high school education with the help of night school, and soon got a job as a bookkeeper at a Hilton hotel. It was there that she befriended a man named Daniel. He was kind to her and she trusted him implicity. Daniel eventually moved to the United States, and soon asked Kika to join him there. He promised her a good job. She acquired a 6 month visa, and arrived in New York. Upon arrival, Kika immediately taken to a basement, where she wasn't allowed to leave, answer the door or phone, or even speak. The woman who Daniel had been living with, Sandra, enforced these rules. Sandra also took Kika's passport and the $2,000 she came with. They told Kika that she had cost them some money and she would have to pay them back, not only her own debts but Daniel's also. Sandra was verbally & physically aggressive and Daniel was emotionally maniputlative. Kika found out that Sandra was involved in a prostutition ring and she was to be part of it. Kika began working out of home in Queens, and her first night she had 19 customers. Daniel and Sandra were both responsible for the psychological force on Kika. They gave her a new name, new look and marketed her as a "prostitute from the Phillippines". She worked out of their brothels for over 3 years. She was never allowed to talk to the johns, she was there as a sexual object. She witnessed two of her coworkers being shot and killed. Sandra was her pimp and still calling the shots. The fees that the men paid to sleep with Kika went directly to Sandra. Kika was only able to keep tips. Occasionally she was forced to work in a high class bar, in which the men paid $300 - $500 and expected sex without condoms and other risky sexual behaviors. Kika feared sickness and disease because of this lifestyle, and she knew had a child to raise. Kika was arrested 3 different times for prostitution. Not once did anyone ask why she was there, how did she get there and was it her "choice". She recalls some of her most consistent clients were NYPD detectives. Police would often conducts "raids" on brothels, and would come in and close down the brothel, have sex with the women, and then choose who would get arrested and who wouldn't. After 3 years of this lifestyle, one of Kika's clients, Arnie, proposed marriage. He proposed with a diamond ring in one hand and a gun in the other. Kika felt she had no choice but to say yes. She was married to Arnie for 10 years, and they had two children together. But during that time Arnie was physically and emotionally abusing her. She eventually filed for divorce and left him, and was living in a shelter with her daughters. Time after time she appeared in court to get sole custody of her daughters, and she was repeatedly denied because of her arrest record. Eventually, she was seen by a sympathetic judge who was familiar with human trafficking and the truth of Kika's story came out. She got the divorce, the protection, and the physical and emotional resources needed for a recovery. Her and Arnie now share custody of the girls, and he is a Staten Island police officer. Kika has her green card and lives a normal life with her girls.
Kika was a picture of bravery and courage as she stood there to tell her story. She has told this story countless times before, and she still is overcome with emotion as she recounts her experiences. My heart breaks for pain she endured and for all the other "Kikas" still out there. It ignites the passion needed to continue this fight against sexual slavery. I pray we can see an end in our lifetime.