Maria Suarez (Sex Slavery Survivor & Anti-Trafficking Advocate)
Susan notes: Maria Suarez spent 22 years in prison for hiding the table leg a neighbour used to kill the man who had sexually, physically and emotionally abused Suarez for five years after he hired her as a maid then kept her locked up in his home. She is now an anti-trafficking spokeswoman.
Her story is shocking, hopeful and humbling. Read the details below the video.
Maria Suarez: Enslaved and Abused
By Bill Butler for Vision (first published in 2007)
Sixteen-year-old Maria Suarez was very excited when she arrived in the United States to live with her sister.
She had watched her father and mother struggle to survive on their small farm in Mexico as she grew up.
It was now her hope that she could find a good job and provide all the things for them they had never been able to afford.
She didn’t speak English and didn’t know how to even begin her search for employment, so she considered it her good fortune to meet a woman on the street who spoke her language and told her she could find a job for her.
The woman took her to a tiny house and introduced her to an older man about 65 or 70. The woman told her she would meet his wife later and that she was to stay there that evening. She was told they would take her home the next day. Maria was very uncomfortable with this, but they convinced her.
There was no wife and she was not taken home the next day! Instead the man told her he had bought her for $200 and she was now his slave. He terrorized her, telling her he could read her mind and she was to do whatever she was told or he had the power to kill her parents. He claimed to be a brujo or witch.
She was to be entrapped in that little house, suffering terribly, for five years. The man beat and raped her regularly. Every day he abused her mentally, physically and emotionally. Her hopes and dreams evaporated as they were replaced by fear. She rarely saw or spoke to anyone during this time and was so paralyzed by terror that she made no attempt to escape or communicate her dilemma.
As though this experience wasn’t bad enough, after five years of this torture a neighbor entered the small house and beat the man to death. Maria was naively compliant when the neighbor told her to place the murder weapon under the house.
The result? Maria was convicted of the murder and sentenced from 25 years to life in prison despite the statement of her co-defendants that she was not involved in the killing.
She was released 22½ years later after a pardon by the governor of California. The Board of Prison Terms had investigated her record and found her conduct while in prison to be exemplary. Maria said she chose to use her time productively there; she chose to become a better person. She served as a mentor for younger prisoners, studied hard and acquired her high school GED (General Educational Development) credential, took college classes and conducted counseling and therapy groups.
Today, Maria Suarez is studying to become a social worker and works with The Coalition Against Trafficking (CAST) based in Los Angeles, California. She says she wants to help people who need the benefit of what she has learned through her experiences.