NEO Philanthropy funds grantees in the U.S. that help survivors of human trafficking recover from their abuse. Those affected by trafficking often have a dream of a better life, but then are forced or coerced into working in inhumane conditions, in a climate of fear. In this post, we highlight some of the brave survivors who have worked with our grantees to overcome trauma and thrive.
Working for a diplomat sounds like it could be an exciting, interesting or even glamorous opportunity. For Faith*, the situation she was forced into was far from a dream. Once she arrived in the U.S.,
Faith was forced to work around the clock as a domestic servant for three years. During that time, she was not allowed to go to the doctor, or given adequate food and received as little as 50 cents per day.
No one rescued Faith – she escaped on her own. After landing on solid ground, Faith taught herself English and bravely decided to sue her traffickers for all the money they owed her. She partnered with the Human Trafficking Legal Center who placed her case with a top global law firm and assigned her a powerful team of pro bono attorneys.
In 2016, Faith won a $1.1 million default judgment against her traffickers – but her story doesn’t stop there. She now travels the country conducting trainings as a survivor advocate. She has become the person she needed during her nightmare.
Faith says, “I have my peace, justice, freedom and now… I can raise my voice even higher than before with no fear. I am glad I did not give up and kept pushing. I didn’t lose hope.”
Learn more about the work of The Human Trafficking Legal Center.
When she moved to Florida to marry an American citizen, Maria* envisioned the life she had dreamed of – one filled with love and opportunity. It wasn’t until she had been completely isolated from her family and friends that she realized her dream was far from her reality.
Maria was forced to work as a house servant for her husband and mother-in-law. They expected her to cook and clean every day and care for her spouses’ elderly grandmother. Maria had no outlets or escapes because she was not permitted to have friends or work outside the home. To make matters worse, Maria was screamed at if she was seen eating food. To avoid punishment, she ate either early in the morning before they awoke or in hiding while she walked the family’s dog.
Eventually, Maria’s abusers threw her out of their house. With nowhere to turn, she found refuge at a shelter that served victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. During her time at the shelter, Maria was connected with VIDA Legal Assistance, Inc. VIDA assisted Maria with filing for employment authorization, a Social Security Number and the search for a new home. These steps and actions have given Maria the security she lacked and the power to avoid persons like her abusers.
Learn more about Vida Legal Assistance Inc.
A Worker’s Right
Mr. Jimenez* was a Guatemalan H-2A worker who came to the U.S. legally to earn money for his family. At his job, Mr. Jimenez was forced to live in a trailer that had holes in the roof and his only source of water was from a hose. He worked 15 hours a day, some days without any breaks. The work environment was not only physically but also mentally brutal. The employer frequently yelled at the workers, calling them names and constantly threatening to call the police and have them sent back to Guatemala at any moment.
After finally escaping these harsh conditions, Mr. Jimenez found help with a local Legal Services office. Unfortunately, Mr. Jimenez’s problems were not over. Once word got back to Guatemala that Mr. Jimenez had left the job, the person who recruited him began harassing Mr. Jimenez’s father and wife. When he was recruited, the company forced him to sign a contract called “confidentiality and guarantee” under which Mr. Jimenez agreed to complete the contract period, regardless of the conditions and not tell anyone about any costs or fees that were paid, or else he, his father and his wife would have to pay.
The Legal Services lawyer turned to Justice in Motion for help. Justice in Motion contacted one of their Defender organizations in Guatemala, who reviewed the contract and determined that it was illegal and therefore unenforceable under Guatemalan law. After receiving the Defender’s advice, Mr. Jimenez felt much safer and more assured of his rights. His relatives in Guatemala also felt confident in ignoring the recruiter’s demands. Mr. Jimenez could now fight for his rights against his employer without fear of hurting his family.
Learn more about Justice in Motion.
*Names changed to protect confidentiality.