In the December/January issue of Boca Raton magazine (Faces, page 106), Giselle Meza—founder of Puresa Humanitarian (puresa.org), the organization that offers care and hope to victims of sex trafficking in Nepal—shares her own horrific story. The passage, detailing the process that led to her becoming a sexual slave, was part of an extended portion of the Boca resident’s interview with editor Kevin Kaminski. With Giselle’s permission, here is an extended transcript of that part of the story.
“I had to take three buses to get to school every day [in Lake Oswego, Oregon]. There was a woman who would drive by and ask me if I needed a ride. She was a beautiful woman, probably in her mid-20s, and she drove a beautiful car. This went on over a period of several months. I had always been warned about creepy men, but no one ever said anything about the beautiful, kind woman with the great car. So, finally, one day, I accepted her invitation.
“She took me to lunch at this wonderful restaurant, and then she dropped me off. Now, we had a connection. She gave me more rides, took me to some dinners and started giving me little gifts. ... Over dinner, she started telling me how her family was all over the world. She felt alone, and she needed someone to be like family here in Oregon.
“I was feeling the exact same way. My mom was working three jobs, my sisters were gone, and here was this woman who really cared about me. She was like an older sister. In my mind, as a 14-year-old girl, she was like a princess. Somehow, she was going to help us; by being her friend, I was going to help my mom.”
“At the end of the school year, she invited me to come with her to New York. At that point, I lied to my mom. I told her I was spending the summer at a camp in Oregon. God bless, my mom. She was working all the time; she knew I had some good friends in town, so she didn’t suspect a thing.
“I went to New York, and this woman had an apartment right on the river; she had a closet filled with beautiful dresses. She took me out to dinners, she bought me clothes. There was nothing cheap about her. She was very classy. ... After about five days, she was taking me places that required an ID—which she had somehow gotten for me because she wanted me to get into all the places that she could. It happened so fast, I just didn’t think twice about it.
“Finally, she asked me to go to London with her. She said she had family there; we would just go for a few days. By this time, I felt like she loved me. I had built up the fairy tale in my mind. ... We got to London, and drove to this enormous flat. It was like walking into a palace. The rooms were like salons; there was gold, beautiful crystal and chandeliers everywhere. She had to be a princess, I thought.
“But then, things started to change. I woke up in the middle of the night really thirsty. I walked into this huge kitchen—and there were probably 20 Middle Eastern men sitting on the floor eating, in their traditional way. I quickly left and walked down this long hallway; each parlor room had Middle Eastern men. In one room, they were playing instruments and drinking. In another room, there were naked women running around for the men.
“The next morning, maids were there to clean up everything. I asked the woman, ‘What was that?’ She said it was just a family party and not to worry. It was weird, but I trusted her. By now, her tone had changed. She became very demanding and non-caring. She’d tell me what to wear and then take me to these exclusive restaurants with all Middle Eastern men. She’d have me sit at the table. I wasn’t being offered food. I’m just sitting there. This went on for three nights.
“Finally, one night, she called for me. There was a room filled with men. I understood, at that point, what was going on. I didn’t have an option; that’s what was going to happen. These were elite, ruling-class men—ages 20 through 65. The woman told me that these men were going to be with me, and that’s why I was there. There was no escaping. ... I was trapped.
“I know now, working for victims of sex trafficking, that she scoured the United States, looking for virgin girls—which is the demand from the men. She’s working for them. Once she got me there, she didn’t care anymore. She did her job and got paid. No wonder she lived like a princess. She had to be making so much money. ... I don’t know how she got paid, if it was through one person or if each person paid her separately. But men bid for you. So it could be $45,000, it could be $500,000. It depends on how she did her trafficking deal. If it was through one man, we could be talking $1 million.
“The sickness of how entitled they feel to take you is so inhumane. No matter what class they were, these men were dogs. They didn’t care about this little girl. They just cared that they got what they paid for. And I was a reusable commodity. ... I’ve Googled some of them. There are about five names that stick out in my mind because of how much they wanted me to know who they were. That’s how sick they were.
[Meza refused to single out the country during the interview because of her humanitarian work and the dangers that revealing the country or men could bring.]
“On my last night, I was with a man who clearly was one of the most important in this group; he always was surrounded by bodyguards. He told me that the following day he was going to send a driver for me, and then we were going to his country—and that, along the way, we could go shopping. Shopping? I couldn’t even walk at that point. ... I had to try and leave. I was going to die. Who was even going to know to look for me in the Middle East? Nobody knew where I was.
“So I took my backpack the following morning and made it out the front door. But the driver was there, the one who brought us that first day to the flat. He drove this old navy blue Mercedes limousine. He looked at me, and I walked up to him and said, ‘I need to go to the airport. Can you take me please?’ He nodded, and he didn’t say a word. We drove to the airport [in silence]. I don’t know why he took me. Maybe [he had seen too many] little girls go into that London flat and never came out.
“I am a 44-year-old woman who has made the impossible possible. Not only for myself as a survivor, but I have rescued (at times on my own) and put my life at risk to create freedom for these victims! Today I have led 300 women and 50 children to freedom. My story proves that we can all make the impossible possible; we can all make a difference; and we all have the power to change lives. ... I continue rescuing and have expanded Puresa into Delhi, India, now -- but I am an empowered free woman who proudly has rescued 350 LIVES!”