The following article originally appeared on September 4, 2014 on the Argentine news website Infobae.com in Spanish entitled Marcela Loaiza, víctima de trata: "Soy una inspiración de vida y eso me enorgullece"
Translation credit - Bartosz Pełka.
For 18 months she was in the hands of the Japanese Yakuza Mafia. They raped, beat and sold her into prostitution, threatening to kill her daughter. Now, exclusively for Infobae, she tells about her experiences. The story of how Marcela Loaiza, a young Colombian woman from a poor family ended up in Hell, can be a reality for any girl who lacks work experience, but is anxious for opportunities.
Sick child, no partner, lack of opportunities and a man who sensed her despair like a shark senses blood and approached her with promises of fame and fortune, were enough to make Marcela to fall into the trap. Once there, Marcela experienced events that she describes in her book ‘Atrapada por la Mafia Yakuza’ (‘Trapped by the Yakuza Mafia’), in which she vividly recalls her life as a sex slave.
Infobae interviewed Marcela at the Second International Forum on Women's Rights that took place in Mar del Plata.
- Of all the experiences that you had to go through, which was the most difficult?
- I was imprisoned and enslaved in a foreign country and I did not understand the language. I was raped and beaten up to the point where I ended up completely disfigured and broken. I was forced to sleep with 20 men a day, 7 days a week. When I was menstruating, they gave me tampons and forced me to have sex all the same. Only at night would they let me remove the tampons and clean. I was separated from my mother and daughter. However, the most difficult thing for me was watching another person murdered in front of me and not being able to do anything.
It happened one night when we went to the streets - guardians, as always, were controlling and intimidating us with metal buckets and chains in their hands. Suddenly, we heard a deafening noise of ninja bikes and everyone started running. These were Chinese gangsters disputing over territory with the Yakuza. Together with another girl we ran and hid in a dumpster, covered ourselves with garbage, closed the lid, but we could see a beam of light. We knew that the Chinese killed the prostitutes working for the Yakuza to weaken them, because we were their main source of income. Suddenly, we saw another woman, also Colombian, running until her ankle was caught in chains that the Chinese were throwing as though catching cattle. When they approached her, she begged them not to kill her crying that she has two sons whom she misses and wants to hug once more before she dies, and that she would do anything in return. The mob did not listen, instead they began beating her with chains, her blood flowing. I think about her every day, and it is for her and many other women like her that I campaign for an end to human trafficking in women and girls and the exploitation of prostitution.
- What do you think of commercial sex?
- No woman likes being prostituted, although some say they do. I also said it, even when I managed to escape from Japan. When I came back to Colombia, I went into prostitution. It took me years to understand that I was a victim of the situation, that there were other things for me. I thought I was doomed to do that, and that was the God’s plan for me. Even today when I talk to prostituted women, I discover that many are convinced this is what they want to do and fail to see themselves as victims of the exploitation.
There is a belief that prostitution is a job like any other, but in no other job 50% of one’s profits are taken along with the ability to manage one’s money and working conditions. The truth is that no woman and no man would like to be humiliated, abused, degraded, and used as an object. In my poor English, I used to beg the men who purchased me: "Me, don’t like it, please," but they just answered "Oh, yes, Colombian, yes like it". I still do not understand how some men, despite seeing me exhausted, sick and sobbing non-stop, would not care. It was hard for me to trust men again after the things I had experienced. We need a cultural change and we need males to understand the damage they cause when they pay for sex.
- How did you escape?
They found me in the dumpster I was hiding in, and brought me back. Even while in the hospital, I was guarded all the time and I could not communicate in Japanese. However, after months of trying to convince a permanent customer of my condition, I got him to help me. He left me a wig, a jacket and a train ticket in the bathroom of a local fast food store. I used the disguise to run away and get to the Embassy of Colombia. Once I arrived there, I banged on the doors and shouted in Spanish "I'm a bitch, I'm a bitch." Even then I didn’t realize that I was a victim of exploitation; I felt guilt, responsibility and shame for having fallen into that.
When I came back to my country, my mother didn’t speak to me because what I had gone through was dishonorable. I found no justice, protection or necessary assistance, which was promised to me at the embassy and decided to remain in prostitution. Until one day, when I was approached by a nun while I was crying in a church. She made me understand what happened to me and helped me get out. But in the court my case "disappeared", it’s not there, there is no more record number.
- Can you be at peace without having received justice?
- I try to look at the present and the future, not the past. I was advised to sue the state, but I don’t want that. I want to be with Colombia and not against Colombia. I want a coalition, which would be there for the girls who are exploited today. My time of abuse is over, what matters is what is happening today and what we can do to prevent it from happening tomorrow.
- It is noteworthy that despite having told your story hundreds of times to family, friends, prosecutors, judges, in your book, to NGOs and other victims, you still cry so much while doing it and you appear so affected and moved.
- Yes, it costs me a lot. There is very deep trauma and pain. At first I could not speak, even with my psychologist. I was blocked and could not say a word about what I had experienced. She suggested writing the facts in privacy and then reading them during the sessions. One day, after three years of therapy, she said: "Marcela, here I saved all the things that you had written. You should consider publishing it." It was, coincidentally, after the publication of my first book that I started talking in public about what had happened. For me it was liberation. My husband and daughter encouraged me to do it understooding that my goal was to help other women who had gone or are going through the same thing. If I managed to get out, they also can do it. Today I receive dozens of complaints and letters, even in other languages, including German. I try to help by the means of my foundation. I know that I am an inspirational example, and that makes me proud. I want to inspire and help other people, in the way how, for example, Susana Trimarco inspired me in my struggle.
- What was the thing that kept you from telling what you had experienced. What was the most difficult barrier for you to overcome?
- Having to say with how many men I had slept makes me feel judged. People ask prostituted women questions and then they say that the women want to victimize themselves. They came to the point of questioning the authenticity of my story. The first contact with the press and journalists was a horrible experience for me. I had to endure humiliating and sensationalist questions. They were interested in "this": with how many men I had to have sex, which was insulting for me. Then I told them so that people can understand the level of exploitation and humiliation. Every time I would finish a presentation of my book and a subsequent press conference, I would cry behind the banner. I had no more will to continue, and then I learned to tolerate such primitive questions and came up with kind and educating responses. The headlines were "Repented whore presents her book" or "She failed as a whore and now she tries to write a book." After I said that I went back to prostitution in Colombia, one man commented with "Wow, look. She ended up liking it." Sometimes, things got incredibly offensive and very hard to endure, but I knew I had to keep going because there is much to be done. We must educate and spread awareness among our girls, so that they don’t end up being trafficked.