Up Close and Personal
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Miriam had warned me. “Don’t think that if you rescue these girls, they’re going to hug you and thank you! Many are too brain-washed, too intimidated or insecure to remain free! It’s a difficult process requiring lots of love and patience.”
Nayeli was our first experience of how even with all our ducks in a row, a victim may choose a wayward wolf over our help. Pastora Lupita filled me in.
“Her parents are from a remote village in the mountains of Oaxaca where it is normal to sell one’s daughters. Although they had already moved here before Nayeli was born, they sold her to an older man when she was thirteen.”
“They were the same couple who sold their first-born to the profe, Mari, right?”
Mari was a middle-aged schoolteacher who’d never married but longed for a child. She bought a newborn baby from this couple and by the time Enrique and I came to the church, the boy was nine years old and everyone said he was “adopted.”
“Yes, that’s the same people,” Lupita told me. “Now they’re grooming their eleven-year-old daughter for sale in a couple years.”
Nayeli had three children by the man who’d bought her. She never tried to escape although she still refers to their sex as “by force.” In August, her sister-in-law, a good friend who lives with Nayeli’s brother, encouraged her to run away.
“I’ll go with you,” she said, because the brother did not treat her well, either.
At the last minute, Nayeli boarded a bus to Tijuana with her children; the sister-in-law changed her mind and stayed behind.
Upon arrival to her new life, Nayeli received a mysterious text. She did not recognize the number nor did it say who was the sender.
“Your partner has filed a complaint against you for abducting the children. He is asking the authorities to take them from you. You better come back immediately and straighten things out!”
Naively, she obeyed. When her sister-in-law heard what had happened, she encouraged Nayeli to talk to Lupita – “a nice Christian lady!” Lupita let all of them stay a few nights in her own small place, but ultimately, Nayeli’s parents found out and ordered her to come home. That’s when Lupita called Miriam, our anti-trafficking mentor, who told her to call me.
Miriam said we should take her to Ministerio Público, a government agency whose function is to defend human rights and protect families. We told her parents it was because she wanted to find out if her partner had indeed filed a complaint against her, but they refused to let her go.
“He didn’t file!” the mother said. “He just wants her back.”
“Why are you talking with Julian?” asked Lupita in an accusatory tone. “Why don’t you support your daughter?”
Later I learned the details from the social worker at Ministerio Público.
“This buying and selling is part of their culture. Unfortunately, we cannot often do anything if the event happened in another state or the victim is unwilling to file. Moreover, the parents now stand to make more money by returning the girl to the man. He can say, “Excuse me if I did something to make her run away! I’ll treat her better and here’s three thousand pesos as a penalty.”
“Of course, later he’ll blame Nayeli and make her work to pay back what he spent!” Lupita added.
Just before entering the government office, I explained her options to the young woman. She told me she did not want to file a claim against anyone, not her parents nor Julian. She just wanted to make sure they wouldn’t take away her kids.
Desperate, I looked around and grabbed two rocks, one of stone and one of clay. “Nayeli, look, I want to show you something!”
I held up the hard rock and struck it a few times against the cement path.
“This is a normal mother,” I explained. “She’s whole, even though life has given her a few blows.”
I picked up the lump of clay. Three smashes against the cement and it fell apart. “What’s happened?” I asked her.
“Right! Nayeli, that’s your mother! She’s damaged! She does things that a normal mother wouldn’t do! She’s going to try to force you to go back with Julian and he will pay her! Do you want to go back?”
“Well, he said we should talk and not stir things up too high.” She looked at the ground.
I called Miriam who told me what was obvious. “Without her statement, there’s nothing we can do. Don’t get discouraged, Ellie! This happens a lot! These girls are fragile. Just do what you can for her and leave the rest to God!”
In one of our long waiting periods, I told her about Jesus and how much He loved her. “I want you to experience God’s love, Nayeli! You’ve never known real love, not from your parents, not from Julian. Your children love you but God loves you a million times more! He wants to help you.”
She told me she always talks to God and then she feels better.
In the end, she went home with her parents who will undoubtedly sell her back to Julian. But she’s had a taste of freedom and she has the phone numbers of two Christian pastoras who would love to help her build a new life.
In God’s frustrating time…
Submitted by Ellie Goolkasian Lugo