Hi my Name is Yuri Guerrero, and I am a survivor of severe form of labor human trafficking.
My sisters and I survived decades of labor trafficking by a US citizen. We were slaves, exploited for the majority of our childhood, all my youth and some of my adult life. We were coerced physically and psychologically to performed labor services. We worked for nearly 20 years without any compensation. We were treated worse than animals, and we were ripped apart from our family, and suffered a horrible ordeal.
How did you meet your trafficker?
Everything started in Mexico when we were children. Our mother and father were unable to care for us. My mom’s friend, who had the appearance of an angel, came to our house one day offering love, hope and support. She was mother figure to us. However little by little she was gaining control over our lives to the point where she controlled everything. She controlled the way we talked, felt, thought, dressed, what we ate, and believed. We were children so we did what we were told.
When I was 15 years old she asked us to move with her to the US, so we left our family. She immediately stopped us from having any contact with them because according to her they were “despicable”. She made us feel ashamed because our mother was mentally ill. We were children looking for a mother figure to love us and protect us, because our beautiful, talented and sweet mother was unable to do so due her illness.
What happened after you began relying on your trafficker?
Eventually she decided to move to USA, because she is a citizen of this country. She brought us here illegally to work for her and her family. Here in the US it was worse because she kept our documents and constantly repeated to us that no one in this world will care about us. She claimed she loved us like a mom, and everything she did was for our good because she did not want us to become like our ill mother. We worked so hard without any compensation. I used to have 3 jobs and she kept all the money that I earned. We received no medical care, little food, and almost no rest. We did not have days off, no vacations, no social life, no education, no dreams… we lived in a state of survival. We were on the edge of losing ourselves due to the extreme stress and abuse that we were subjected to on a daily basis.
Did you try to leave?
I tried to escape several times but when night fall came and I realized I did not have any documentation and nowhere to go. My life story sounded so unreal even to me. Her words would echo in my mind that no one would believe me. There was no other option but to call her to come and pick me up to take me back to my life of sorrow. I had to accepted that this was my life now.
How did you gain the courage to finally escape?
It was hard. One day, after 19 years of abuse, I was not able to take it anymore. Actually, every day was unbearable but I resisted because my sisters were there and I did not want to lose them. On that particular day, when I decide to leave without returning back, I felt that I was drowning and I needed air. I was not able to care for anything else. I just needed air to breath, air to live. I remember very clearly how I felt that day and everything that happened after that. I would do it again in a heartbeat because that was the first step of my real freedom and my first step of healing and loving me. Eventually all my sisters escaped too! Now we are all working on building up our relationship in love, forgiveness and peace.
What happened after your escape?
The second step to healing was reporting our case to Mosaic Family Services. It took me 11 years to finally gain the strength to fight. When my sister and I reunited we did not want to talk about our story because we were very afraid people would reject and not believe us. A few people knew. At the time we did not know that all that we went through was a criminal act under the laws in the USA. However one day, in 2015, I woke up with the firm decision to report it! It was the only way I could move forward with my life.
How did you find out about Mosaic Family Services?
I knew about Mosaic Family Services through another agency. They gave me Mosaic’s information and I emailed them. Mosaic responded to my email and called me on the telephone. We had our first appointment with our caseworker Jerusalem. We were shaking and very skeptical if she would even help us. It was so hard to step in a room with a total stranger and tell her our story. We felt totally naked and vulnerable! But Jerusalem was so patient and kind. She showed sincere concern when we were talking and all her expressions and words were telling us, I believe you! I believe your story! That was huge to us!
How did Mosaic Family Services help you?
We asked for counseling and legal advice. She explained the process and set up an appointment with our counselor and lawyer. Mosaic helped us report the crimes to a special police unit that handles human trafficking cases. It was a painful process, remembering all the awful things that happened to us. Our case, like every case, is complicated and unique. All that we lived through, the process of the investigation and the court process was very difficult. Every time things became difficult, and the shadows wanted to suffocate me, I remind myself that now I’m free. Eventually, we went to court and in January 2017 the woman that hurt us was finally jailed!
What do you want someone who’s reading your story to know?
As a survivor, I’m learning to live with my scars and missing pieces. I used to feel broken, irreparable… But now I’m learning to squeeze from my life every single drop of joy and opportunity to live life to the fullest and enjoy my freedom.
I share my story because I believe every human being should have the right of freedom and dignity. Sadly, it is not that way. I want to empower survivors to keep healing and to regain their voices, their dreams, their freedom, their lives. I want to empower all the people that fight against the horrible crime of human trafficking, and exploitation to keep working to help free people. You may be regarded greatly in this life and eternity. I want to raise awareness, educate communities, to the point that it becomes contagious to take action against Human Trafficking. We can all do our part to overcome evil with good. There are many millions of people still being held captive, help them. Free them.
How can someone help?
I will keep healing for a life time, one day at a time, thanks to Mosaic Family Services. They are the light and bridge for restoration for survivors. You can help by making a donation to them right now.
How does life look like for you now that you are free?
I’m a lifelong learner and dreamer. I enjoy singing, art, cooking healthy meals, making jewelry, spending time with my family and empowering people.
At the present moment, I’m a Community Health Worker, Advocate & Mentor of children & Youth, as well as a Survivor Advocate Speaker.
In the near future I plan to get my Real Estate License, to keep using my voice singing, advocating, mentoring and empowering survivors and the community against Human Trafficking.
For a life of freedom, love, dignity and health!
Thank you Yuri for sharing your inspiring story with us today.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, help us provide live saving services to the most vulnerable in our community by making a donation today.