(TT GUARDIAN) – Having arrived in Trinidad and Tobago before the COVID-19 pandemic in search of a better life, Marcia Jimson (not her real name), 17, was sold for $10,000 to a trafficker who then put her to work as a prostitute in an upscale Chaguanas home.
Jimson was one of a dozen Venezuelan women who were trafficked by a businessman who kept them against their will until they were rescued by members of the T&T Police Service five years ago.
Yesterday, Jimson, now 21, broke her silence on the controversial issue of human trafficking, saying she regretted coming to T&T for a job opportunity, as she ended up being used as a sex slave for two months by desperate and sex-craved men—many of whom came from professional backgrounds.
As she recounted her ordeal to Guardian Media yesterday, Jimson broke down in tears, saying after her encounter with hundreds of men who physically, verbally and mentally abused her for sex, she wanted to take her life.
Her story comes a day after Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher ordered a probe into the allegations swirling in public over a UNC parliamentarian’s alleged involved in human trafficking, which was raised in a US State Department Trafficking in Persons report in 2020.
Jimson said she grew up in Tucupita, where she struggled to make ends meet with her mother.
Speaking with a strong Venezuelan accent, Jimson said she was lured to T&T in September of 2018 by a Chinese man who operated a business in Arima.
The businessman also owned an establishment in Venezuela and invited Jimson and another young girl to work as bartenders in an Arima bar.
“I wanted to come out of the hardships, so I grasped at the opportunity. At that time, people were leaving Venezuela in droves to come here to make a better life and I was one of them. I was in search of progression.”
Jimson entered T&T illegally with only the clothes on her back and her national ID.
When the women arrived here, however, they were separated.
She agreed to work for the businessman for one month to pay for her boat ride to T&T. In her second week of working in the Arima establishment, however, she said the businessman and his brother forced her to have sex in a locked room where they then left her for several days.
“I never agreed to this,” she admitted, trying hard to contain her emotion.
“I could not go to the police. I was illegal here. They would have arrested me. It was like a nightmare. I was tricked….fooled into believing that I was going to work as a bartender.”
The businessman then brought a male client to her.
When she resisted, Jimson said the man got annoyed, destroyed her cell phone and attacked her.
“I was also punched in the face repeatedly. And he became very abusive and started shouting at me for sex because he had already paid his money.”
She was then held down against her will and repeatedly raped by the man.
She subsequently managed to escape the businessman’s clutches after he had sex with her and fell asleep on the bed.
Jimson was later rescued by her aunt, who was living temporarily in Trinidad.
She said she then immediately tried to restart her life here.
“I know I had to get up and get. I couldn’t stay there forever. I came here to work to make a better life for me… for my mom. So, I contacted one of her Venezuelan friends, who invited me to live in a house in Chaguanas that had 12 other Venezuelan women. And so, I agreed.”
The women were ages 15 to 35.
That turned out to be her biggest regret.
“That Venezuelan friend was living with her boyfriend, who was a trafficker. I had no idea. So, when I reach them, the (women) told me they do prostitution. I didn’t know what to do.”
Jimson said she put up a fight, but the trafficker, who kept his identity a secret, became aggressive and upset.
“He kept threatening me with a knife to force me to do it (prostitution.) He was doing that with all the girls.”
Jimson said she later found out that she had, in fact, been sold to the trafficker for $10,000 by the Arima businessman who had Venezuelan women working for him in Trinidad.
Her Venezuelan friend, unknown to her, was working for the same Arima businessman she had just run away from, so she fell into the same trap of human trafficking.
“This guy (trafficker) buys them from the bar. So, when he buys them (women), he would turn you into prostitutes. For one girl it was about $10,000. That is how much they paid for me.”
This money was paid to the Arima businessman, Jimson said.
“The girls were told to get out of the house, they have to pay for everything. They have to finish with the payments, so they can be free in Trinidad. The payments was they have to do prostitution to pay for everything. You were forced to have sex.”
Jimson said their payments were selling their bodies to dozens of men who they could not have conversations with.
“He would just bring the men for us and he would collect all the money. I was so traumatised.”
The trafficker, Jimson said, would also ravage the girls’ bodies.
Abuse at hands of ‘clients’
In the two months Jimson served as a sex worker, she said the women had to sleep with multiple men every night.
“The women don’t get to sleep because every moment some man would come to the house to have sex,” she said.
On a slow day, Jimson said she had to attend to the needs of no less than ten men. Each client would pay an hourly rate of $600. A girl in high demand would cost a client upward of $1,000.
“Sometimes they pay as much as $1,500 an hour, especially if they want a particular girl. I was one of the girls who was getting plenty men and that is why he was forcing me to have sex so often.”
The payments never go into the sex worker’s hands.
The women, she said, have to offer everything to the clients. Some women had to be drugged to numb their bodies. Jimson said some clients requested orgies, twosomes and threesomes.
“A few women also came to have sex with our girls. We have to deal with everything and everyone. And I mean everything. They don’t care how the women feel.”
Many times, she said the women contracted STDs and got pregnant because the men seldom used protection.
Luckily, one of the women was with a policeman.
“It seemed he had a relationship with one of the girls and had alerted the police to the prostitution ring. The police came and everyone was arrested,” Jimson said.
“The trafficker was arrested and imprisoned for two years.”
Jimson was put into the St Jude’s Home for Girls in Belmont, as she was underage. The women were placed at the Immigration Detention Centre.
“I stayed there (St Jude’s) for seven months.”
That is when human rights activist Sofia Figueroa Leon stepped in to help Jimson.
“Sophia helped me in every possible way,” Jimson said.
Jimson was also provided counselling by the International Organisation for Migration, a related organisation linked to the United Nations.
“I also got a work permit.”
Jimson said she also heard that Venezuelan nationals living in Trinidad would invite “our girls to work in a restaurant in San Fernando and when they come here they would sell them.”
In this ring, Jimson said a policeman was the mastermind behind this illegal operation.
In April of 2020, Jimson gave birth to a baby boy who died 28 days later from heart failure.
The father of the child was her first love—a Venezuelan.
Unable to cope with the loss of the baby who brought happiness to her life and made her forget the bad memories she faced, Jimson said her relationship became strained.
“We are no longer together,” she said, referring to the baby’s father.
“Dealing with death took a toll on me. It shattered me to pieces. I am scarred for life. Coming to Trinidad has been one disaster after another.
“I tell the woman back home who wants to come to Trinidad that it’s a hell hole. Don’t be fooled. This country is rampant with prostitution and women are being trafficked. It’s only now it’s coming out in the open because of the bacchanal going on with the politicians.”
In retrospect, Jimson described her ordeal as “a bad horrific experience.”
Now working as a caregiver, Jimson said she wants to go back home where she can be reunited with her mother who worries about her safety every day.