Maria was just 13 when she met Jose.
Just a teen
Maria was just 13 when Jose approached her one afternoon in a park near her home in Central Mexico. He was handsome, charming, and promised her a happier future in the United States. They journeyed together to New York and arrived at a dingy apartment in Queens. Instead of encountering a world of new opportunities, Jose promptly locked Maria up and forced her to service men – sometimes as many as 30 a day.
When she resisted, Jose beat her so severely that she later needed reconstructive surgery. He threatened to kill her sister back in Mexico if Maria went to the police.
“He controlled me psychologically. He knew where my family lived,” Maria recalls. “I was angry but what could I do? I didn’t know English. I had no money. He had my papers so I couldn’t leave. I didn’t know how to get home.”
A brave escape
Eventually, the pain became so unbearable that Maria could no longer take it. During a rare moment alone, she fled the apartment and hobbled to the police station. Officers rushed her to a hospital and contacted one of Sanctuary’s anti-trafficking attorneys. Maria’s first stop on the path to her new life was a safe house, where she stayed while receiving legal help, counseling and English lessons through Sanctuary.
A year later, she’s learning to live a life of freedom. Her physical injuries have healed, and she has gained back the 30 pounds she lost. Today, at 18, she works in a restaurant, not a brothel.
Maria’s story is not unique. Throughout New York City, countless adults and children are trafficked for sex every day. Like Maria, many are young, vulnerable and far away from home.
You can help
Sanctuary’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative provides high-quality counseling and legal services to support survivors like Maria in escaping violence and starting over. But with few residential shelters available to victims of trafficking in New York City, many of our clients struggle to find a safe place to stay.
You can help. Sanctuary has the opportunity to establish a shelter exclusively for survivors of sex trafficking. Your donation helps provide a trafficking victim with a month of safe shelter, food and transit while she receives services and works to make a new life.
With your support, more survivors like Maria can take their critical first step to safety. We hope you will consider making a donation today.