What Human Traffickers Use Against You

31st Jan 2023

I know what it feels like to be at your lowest. Because I’ve been there.

Human traffickers know it too. They know it can be hard to talk to others about your insecurities, challenges, and struggles. Even if you have the most loving family in the world.

That's how they take control: they target you when you’re vulnerable and pick at your weak spots. They isolate you from your loved ones and make you feel like you don't have any other choice.

I’ve seen this all too often in my work. And I get it.

While I haven’t experienced the horror of human trafficking, I have experienced the circumstances that make someone vulnerable.

My dad gave up his dream of becoming a doctor in Mexico because he could make more money for his family—including my mom and four siblings—in the US as a dishwasher. We lived in a low-income neighborhood, we didn’t have a car, and I tried my best to hide a secret struggle with mental health.

Even surrounded by a loving family, endless support and motivation sometimes just isn't enough. They couldn’t make me address my mental health challenges—I had to choose to open up and receive help when I was ready.

But my parents’ patience taught me to show patience when working with survivors of human trafficking. The people I see each day have had everything taken away from them. They feel they’ve lost their sense of dignity, and with it, their self-worth.

As many compliments as I give, or times I try to encourage a young girl, I cannot make her see herself the way I see her. I can’t make her see her own beauty and value.

Nothing will change until she makes that decision herself.

Over the years, I’ve finally learned the lesson my dad knew all along when he refused to give me the answers to my homework: like the old saying, if he washed the ingredients, chopped and cooked the vegetables, and served the meal, he would only feed me for a day.

I help the survivors I work with by presenting them with ingredients and letting them take over the recipe. That’s how you help build independent people who can value and recognize their own self-worth.

Because seeing the beauty and value within yourself builds confidence to be open and vulnerable with your loved ones, strengthening your relationships and resilience, so you can resist those who want you tight in their grasp.

In my own time, I learned to do it. And I work every day to help others do the same.


Cristina Aniceto

Human Trafficking Case Manager, Building Bridges to Hope

Back to Blog