‘In broken English he said, ‘I have a daughter. I don’t want to hurt you, but I need to please myself. Don’t scream because the police won’t help you. If you are good, I won’t hurt you.’: Woman recounts horrible ordeal in Mexico

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“In 2017 I found myself homeless and stranded in Mexico. From age 16 to my 18th birthday I was sent away to treatment center who specialized only in teens that were adopted and dealt with mental illness and trauma. The day I turned 18, I left.

I grew up very privileged in a good home with a good family, but I had a lot of problems with obeying the rules of the house. My family was Mormon and at the time I just didn’t agree with a lot of the rules and standards of the church and had a lot of built up anger I would take out on my family.

Mother smiles outside as she holds her adopted daughter beside her husband
Courtesy Joanna Pomeroy

I was bullied from elementary school through high school which contributed to my constant suicidal thoughts. I would always run away as a teen and always argued with my parents, and because of this I was not allowed to return home even after I completed the program. Nobody knew what I was going through except my loving boyfriend and my family.

Young woman who was adopted at birth is outside on boyfriend's back
Courtesy Joanna Pomeroy

I had no idea how to drive, or apply for a job or get insurance. The majority of my life I had everything handed to me and during the age where I was supposed be learning how to prepare for the adult world I was secluded in a classroom of other people who were just as messed up as I was. There were days when I didn’t eat and weeks when I would clean someone’s house and live off of a few dollars. My boyfriend was in a program at the time getting his life together and he and his friends would feed me and help me during his visiting hours. I knew it broke him to see me like that. I made sure I always looked presentable, I did my hair, made sure I wore clean, nice clothes and had makeup on so no one would see what I was going through. I remember finding someone that offered for me to live in their basement, but when I refused to sleep with him, he dropped me off in the middle of nowhere with my stuff and said he couldn’t believe how ungrateful I was… it was one of the most embarrassing things that has ever happened to me.

Because I was bouncing from couch to couch, I reached out to my birth family asking if I could go work for them. I knew my grandmother owned a key store in Tijuana and I hoped to stay temporarily until my boyfriend finished his program. I bought a ticket for the Greyhound and spent 13 hours transferring from bus to bus to get to the border.

As much as I was grateful for a place to stay, I didn’t speak Spanish, I didn’t know anything about Mexico or Rosarito and I didn’t know the process to get a work visa for Mexico. My uncle told me he had a friend who owned a strip club who would hire me under the table and my heart sunk. I decided to go out by myself to look for another job. I didn’t know how to bartend, drive or speak Spanish so I struck out on every job I asked about. I couldn’t stand the thought of stripping, so I kept looking.

I had a guy approach me. He heard I was asking around for a job and said if I knocked on some people’s doors for him while he delivered packages to the back, I would get paid more than any of these jobs. It sounded sketchy but at least I wasn’t stripping. I didn’t ask any questions and got in the car.

I got to the first house. He told me to leave my phone and wallet in the car with his driver and to run back to the car when I was done. So, I did. However, when I got back to the car it was gone. My money, my phone, my ID my passport. Not only that, but I was about 30 minutes away from Rosarito and had absolutely no clue where I was. I managed to find a girl who spoke little English and explained my situation. She said if I kept crying no one would talk to me. She helped me translate between a taxi driver who helped me halfway get back to my other grandma’s and another bus who let me on the rest of the way.

My grandma and birth brother were angry at me. I tried my best to explain I had to go back. On their way they had stopped at a little trailer and I knew that was a place they hung out. I hoped to go back and at the least retrieve my passport, otherwise I didn’t know how I was ever going to go back home. I ended up sneaking out of the house at night and try to make my way from memory back to that trailer. I ended up walk through a torn up looking community of small shed-like houses. A man outside walked up to me and asked what I was doing.

I was somewhat shocked he spoke perfect English. I explained what had happened and if he knew anything about these guys and where that area was. Surprisingly he said he knew who they were and that they were gang members, but that this area didn’t like them. And that they would help me in the morning but would give me a safe place to sleep. He took me to a little shed and told me he would send someone to watch me but that he couldn’t stay himself because the police were walking around. I laid down and a man came in dressed in camo and black boots and looked like he was in his late 40s. I heard him lock the door. He asked me what my name was and how old I was in Spanish, which I understood, and I told him I just wanted to go to sleep. I turned onto my stomach and then I felt him put something to my back, a gun. In broken English he said, ‘I have a daughter. I don’t want to hurt you, but I need to please myself. Don’t scream because the police won’t help you and if you are good… I won’t hurt you.’ Then preceded the worst pain in my life that still has traumatized me until this day.

In the morning he unlocked my door and let me leave. I spent a long time walking around trying to find the place and trying to mentally block out everything else that had just taken place. About 4 hours later I ended up finding it. There was only one person there. We used google translate on his computer back and forth. I asked him if he could get my phone and passport back. I was stupid because he told me to wait there and call them to get it back and I believe him. He ended up calling them and they did come back. They beat me up, left me on the bed and made sure someone was watching me at all times.

At one point one of them went to the bathroom and left out his satchel on the chair next to the computer. I knew he had a small pistol in there and tried to reach for it until I heard him scream at me and open the door. I never tried anything after that. After two days the guy that owned the trailer felt bad for me. I was so sick – I hadn’t eaten or drank anything, they had been smoking what I assumed was meth and I had gotten so sick I was throwing up on myself and couldn’t move or make it to the bathroom two feet away.

He asked me what I liked to eat. Not taking it seriously I said shrimp and bacon. He said, ‘Ok.’ For the first time he left me alone. However, it didn’t matter because I couldn’t move anyways. He came back 10 minutes later with a paper bag with some shrimp and a hubu lubu candy bar and some water. Even though I threw it up I was just grateful that God was looking out for me. Later that evening he told me he found my passport and put it on the table next to the computer. He had let me use it two times with his supervision to watch YouTube. But when he wasn’t paying attention I would log into Facebook. No one knew where I was, so I found a way to contact my boyfriend and my mom. He told me he was going to be gone for about two hours and he would be back with more food. I just wanted to die. Here was my chance to escape and I was too sick to move.

I prayed harder than I ever have in my whole entire life to have the strength to get up. After about 30 minutes I managed to drag myself out of the bed. Because I had been beaten up badly and was so sick, they hadn’t felt the need to put restraints on me. The trailer had a latch on the inside so I unlatched it and hobbled as fast as I could to the main road. I started to feel dizzy, but I saw a taxi coming down the street and tried my best to flag it down before I passed out. The driver and a woman who had seen this go down from across the street helped me up and managed to help me get to my grandma’s house. My grandma took me to the hospital and let me sleep. In the morning she sent me on a taxi to the border where I then paid for a ticket back to Sacramento.

This was one of the hardest, most traumatizing events of my life and it took months to be able to talk about it and to let people touch me. It took even longer to forgive myself and to forgive the men that took advantage of me. As much pain, suffering, PTSD and anxiety this incident has brought me, it has shaped me into the person I am today, and I have realized how lucky I am to be alive.”

Woman who was raped sits in car taking selfie
Courtesy Joanna Pomeroy

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Joanna Pomeroy, 19, of Sacramento, California.

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