Everything started with a candy.
Karla Jacinto was only 12 years old when she met the man who would change her life forever. His name was Mario, who met Karla at a subway station in Mexico City. First to stay close to her, he gave her a candy, then he told her that he was 22 years old and that he worked in buying and selling cars. Soon he began to give gifts, flowers and chocolates to her on regular basis. Like any girl, Karla was delighted with Mario’s actions, not noticing the deception in which she had fallen into.
Karla Jacinto, victim of sexual exploitation and trafficking in persons.
One day, without her mother knowing, she put together two suitcases and ran away with Mario with the promise of living happily ever after. They both left for the state of Tlaxcala, where the first thing he showed her was a sports car. For three months, Mario treated her like a “princess”. Not long after, Mario took her to a brothel to sexually exploit her for five years.
In this lapse of time, Karla was exposed to the worst side of human beings. On her first day, she was obliged to be with 30 clients, which, between men and women, was increasing daily. She was forced to work until she reached the unacceptable number of 43,200 violations. In all that time she did not receive a single peso of what clients paid, and on several occasions she tried to take her own life.
Like Karla, millions of children, men, and women around the world are victims of human trafficking or also known as modern slavery. It is estimated that 21 million people are being exploited in different forms of trafficking around the world. This includes sexual exploitation, slavery, forced labor and organ harvesting. This figure, however, is relative, since human trafficking is an underground business that happens in almost every country of the world.
In Mexico, it is estimated that more than 376,800 people are victims of modern slavery, which is the second most profitable business with 99 billion dollars, only behind drug trafficking, which exceeds 150 billion dollars annually.
The easiest way to become a victim of human trafficking is deception; promises to get a well-paid job, offers for being an actress, model or singer are the most common. People often take advantage of vulnerability to hook them in. The lack of affection or belonging to a dysfunctional home are other factors in which people take advantage of to make victims fall into their traps.
The situation that Karla went through is one of many that happens to thousands every day. The Puebla-Tlaxcala corridor, marked as a red zone in Mexico, is used both as a checkpoint and destination for thousands of people brought from both inside Mexico and abroad.
Karla can consider herself fortunate to have left a world where one out of every 100 people are rescued. She managed to get out of a cruel reality thanks to a man who convinced her to escape from this situation. This man, who used to be a pimp, talked to her several times while posing as another client. Karla had to face all her fears and look for the courage to free herself, after a couple of months she managed to collect a little money and left, never to return again. Today her story has been told through various sources of media. She was even invited to speak in the Congress of the United States and with Pope Francis.
Karla’s survival story has been a source of inspiration for many men and women who have lived through the same conditions as her. Karla continues to confront her experience, working alongside organizations and foundations that support victims and fight to end human trafficking once and for all.