April 2013 – Maria Elena was 13 years old when a family acquaintance told her she could make ten times as much money waiting tables in the United States than she could in her small village in Mexico. She and several other girls were driven across the border. They continued on foot. They traveled through the desert, making their way into Texas, then across the southern US. Maria Elena and the other girls arrived at their destination in Florida, a rundown trailer where they were forced into prostitution.
Maria Elena was gang-raped and locked in the trailer until she agreed to do what she was told. She lived under 24-hour watch and was forced to have sex with up to 30 men a day. When she got pregnant, she was forced to have an abortion and sent back to work the next day. Maria Elena finally escaped only to be arrested along with her traffickers.
Maria Elena’s story, as shocking and deplorable as it is, is not that unusual. Each year throughout the world, millions of people, primarily women and children, are forced into labor or are commercially sexually exploited, including many in Florida.
January was designated as National Human Trafficking Month to raise awareness about this issue and recognize the human toll that this type of modern day slavery exacts on so many vulnerable human beings. One Miami-Dade organization providing much needed awareness, education, and services is Kristi House. Since 2008, Kristi House has provided prevention and treatment services to over 200 girls and will soon open Miami’s first emergency shelter for girls who have been trafficked. The home will help girls escape from their predators, get off the streets and restore their lives.
Allegany Franciscan Ministries has provided $160,859 to Kristi House since 2006. For more information about Kristi House and its program, check out their web site, www.kristihouse.org.
For more information at Allegany Franciscan Ministries work on the issue of human trafficking, click here. Other resources include: www.sharedhope.org, and http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/human-trafficking.