Cristina grew up in a small community in Texas and had visions of a typical, America high-school experience, she says, “You know, the kind like on TV with football games, study groups, double dating, and fun.” After her father’s death in n industrial accident, her family struggled to make ends meet. Cristina and her older brother Mateo “Matt” dropped out of school – she was 14, and he 16 – to help support five other siblings and their mother.
Matt was working local farm labor jobs when Cristina learned of an opportunity to work in a family’s household as a nanny with the promise of the employer supporting her studies and providing her meals, clothing, and a room of her own. She thought their setting seemed perfect – fresh air, plenty of room, and miles of green fields. The education Cristina received was nothing like what she had in mind.
Cristina became a forced labor trafficking victim.
Forced to sleep on a cot in the kitchen, Cristina was paid 43 cents an hour and worked 12 - 14 hours straight, seven days a week. Her duties were not simply caring for two babies; she cooked, cleaned, tended to the employer’s elderly grandfather and two large dogs; on holidays Cristina prepared large meals for the family and their guests.
For nearly three years, Cristina lived in constant fear, enduring intimidation and physical abuse. She was not allowed to leave the house unaccompanied, nor could she see her own family during that time; only speaking to them a few times a year on the telephone while her employer dictated what she said. Over several months, Cristina was repeated raped by a friend of the employer and became pregnant. She was 16. Unsurprisingly, the pregnancy was used as a tool for further abuse, with the employer often threatening to “beat the baby out” of her and to give the child away if care got in the way of her household duties.
She received no prenatal care and gave birth silently and alone, on the very cot where the child had been violently conceived.
Angelina was born two days before Christmas. Fewer than 24 hours after giving birth, Cristina cleaned the large house in preparation for the holiday – including scrubbing floors on her hands and knees. The following day, she prepared a meal for 11 people, completely unaided. That evening, Cristina was emotional, afraid, and dizzyingly exhausted, merely trying to finish the meal and clean up before the baby awoke hungry.
When a guest returned to the dining room to retrieve her eyeglasses, she ran into a beleaguered Cristina. The woman, only known as “the guardian angel” wasted no time in calling authorities. Cristina was rescued and hospitalized that night.
Three people were later arrested – among the charges were kidnapping, rape, child endangerment, assault, and battery.
Cristina recently received her GED and is working on college applications. That said, Cristina has been rescued but she is hardly free. The physical and emotional abuse has long-term effects on the brain and body; her team is working to provide the care and support she needs to overcome depression, low self-esteem, as well as feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and anxiety.
Help us support Cristina as she works toward a fulfilling life, one unrestricted by fear and trauma. Donate to Cristina’s cause here.