Daniela hoped for a better life for herself and her daughters. Instead, they were trafficked.
This is part of series from The Colorado Human Trafficking Council (“The Council”). The intention of The Council’s public awareness campaign is to call attention to all types of human trafficking in Colorado, and to educate our communities about what it is and how traffickers, recruiters, and buyers operate. The goal is, if we all know more, we can stop it, and prosecute the perpetrators.
Daniela’s experience is heartbreaking. Her narrative is a composite of several different real cases of sex and labor trafficking and is representative of how human trafficking happens everywhere, even in Colorado. Details have been taken from different experiences in order to protect the privacy of the people involved. Many cases, such as this one are complicated; they can have overlapping occurrences of sex trafficking, domestic abuse, labor trafficking, and more. Sometimes, when several crimes are happening at once, it can be even more difficult to identify what is going on.
If you suspect sex or labor trafficking is happening to you or someone else, call Colorado’s Human Trafficking Hotline at 866-455-5075 or text 720-999-9724.
In Daniela’s narrative, we learn she is a single mother with two daughters from Venezuela. She has little family or support there, and her girls have no father around. She has an online relationship with a man from the United States, and they fall in love. At least, that is what she thinks. With promises of marriage, and a job in a motel that her new fiancé owns, she moves to Colorado with her girls to live with the man she loves. At first, everything seems very good. It feels like they will have a better life here than they did in Venezuela. Daniela’s fiancé put Daniela—and her young girls—to work right away. He didn’t pay them but Daniela thought this was okay because the man was taking care of them. Gradually however, her fiancé started to treat them badly. He called Daniela names, bullied her and threatened her. Eventually, he told Daniela that if she tried to leave nobody would believe her and that her girls could be taken away from her. He held all her identification, there was no way for her to leave the country and return home. She wanted to protect her girls, but it was very obvious they were in danger. Daniela was scared and very ashamed. What she thought was love was really a trafficker exploiting her and her daughters for his own personal gain.
Daniela’s experience is complicated. It can be difficult to understand how this could happen to someone because it goes against what many people think about when they hear the words “human trafficking”. To clear up some of these misperceptions, here are some truths related to Daniela’s experience:
- Traffickers don’t always use physical force: Traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of potential victims. For example, Daniela’s trafficker knew she was looking for a father-figure for her girls, and he filled that role. He fraudulently offered love, a better life, and security for her and her daughters to build trust, until they were under his control.
- Not all traffickers are strangers: Traffickers can be an intimate partner or someone that a victim/survivor loves; often a trafficker is someone with a personal connection who has built an element of trust, like in Daniela’s situation.
- Traffickers create dependence: Traffickers can hold immigration paperwork, take advantage of language barriers and lack of familiarity with U.S. labor laws, and create a situation of debt-bondage where their victims feel they owe their trafficker something. Victims stay silent because they don’t know what to do; they are scared and feel trapped— just like Daniela.
- It is not easy for a victim to leave: Traffickers often threaten to physically harm victims or their families (and can follow through on these threats) to continue taking advantage of someone and keep them silent.
Traffickers can exploit almost anyone by finding their vulnerability. Daniela believed she was in love and wanted a legitimate job and place for her family to live. Her trafficker took advantage of her trust.
To report a suspicious situation, even if you are not sure, call Colorado’s Human Trafficking Hotline at 866-455-5075 or text 720-999-9724. A trained hotline advocate will answer your questions and walk you through next steps.
Colorado’s Human Trafficking Hotline and text line also has a vast referral network of services available to help people who have experienced, or are experiencing, sex or labor trafficking. Hotline advocates can connect people to resources for food assistance, crisis services, mental health, substance abuse, legal services, and more.
Visit The Council’s campaign website at ThisIsHumanTrafficking.com to learn more about human trafficking and what you can do. By taking the time to understand what human trafficking is, and by being aware of the different types that happen here in Colorado, we can get justice for survivors and make our communities safer places.
About the Council
Established through legislation in 2014, housed under the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, Office for Victims Program, the Council coordinates statewide anti-human trafficking efforts for the ultimate purpose of preventing human trafficking in Colorado. Dedicated to the justice and dignity of human trafficking survivors, the 35-person council represents state and non-government agencies, lived experience experts, law enforcement, prosecutors, regional coalitions and task forces, legal services, victim service providers, academia, and faith-based organizations.
The Council is designed to:
- Bring together leadership from community-based and statewide anti-trafficking efforts
- Build and enhance collaboration among communities and counties within the state
- Establish and improve comprehensive services for victims and survivors of human trafficking
- Assist in the successful prosecution of human traffickers
- Help prevent human trafficking in Colorado