14 Mar The Call
Our Crisis Team Manages Emergency Calls All the Time
When our crisis response team receives a call to our hotline, they know they will be responding to a person in a desperate situation. They’re prepared to make an unsafe person feel safe, an emotional person feel comforted, and of course, to reassure the children involved. They have enough experience in our area and through this work to expect certain scenarios, generally involving homelessness or abuse. But what happened on one particular call shocked our crisis responder, Marla, and will stay with her forever.
The call came through on a Sunday morning. The woman on the other line reported she found an unknown woman in her office that morning. The woman was sobbing uncontrollably, had a baby in her lap, and couldn’t speak any English. Marla rushed to the office building to help.
She arrived and spoke to the woman in Spanish. “How can I help?” She asked. And the woman shook her head and said: “no, you cannot help.” Marla pressed her, but she would only shake her head and say through tears “you cannot help me.” Marla escorted her and her baby to a safe site, tried to offer her as much comfort and reassurance as she could, and continued to ask how she could help. Finally, the story came out. And what she said shocked Marla.
What She Said Shocked Our Responder
The woman said she was in fear for her baby’s life, and afraid of her older son, age 14. She couldn’t go back home, she said and didn’t know what to do. No one could help her, she said. She believed if she went to the authorities, she would be deported. Her son, she said, had been contacted through a chat function on his XBox, by someone claiming to be involved with Mexican organized crime. This person coaxed the son to start texting with him and promised the 14-year-old riches beyond his imagination, a house of his own, a car, and tens of thousands of dollars. All he had to do was sacrifice his baby sister to the perpetrator. It appeared to be a human trafficking ring, but it was not the trafficking we normally see and respond to through our organization. Trafficking is always horrific, and we work daily to fight it. But this person was proposing to use the baby for its organs- to kill her and sell the organs on the black market, which would fetch huge sums of money.
HER SON, SHE SAID, HAD BEEN CONTACTED THROUGH A CHAT FUNCTION ON HIS XBOX, BY A SOMEONE CLAIMING TO BE WITH MEXICAN ORGANIZED CRIME. THIS PERSON COAXED THE SON TO START TEXTING WITH THE PERPETRATOR, AND PROMISED THE 14 YEAR OLD RICHES BEYOND HIS IMAGINATION, A HOUSE OF HIS OWN, A CAR, AND TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.
The son was groomed through these conversations to believe his sister was just a baby who didn’t matter-she was barely a person yet. The son was tempted by all the glamour and wealth the perpetrator promised, as his family were poor, undocumented immigrants living a life of strain and poverty. But when a twinge of reality and remorse finally brought him to his senses, it was too late. Unfortunately, he had provided the perpetrator with photos of the baby, of their house, of their family. This was all used as blackmail should the son back out of his contract – the perpetrator knew where he lived and what his mother and father looked like, and stated that they would all be killed for his disobedience. The son went to his parents for help, and his mother understood that there was no choice. Either she let her son kidnap and turn over her baby to the perpetrator who would kill her, or their entire family would be killed. And no legal authority in the US would intervene on her behalf; she would be sent back to Mexico, to live under duress and grinding poverty, even more susceptible to a force like perpetrators with Mexican organized crime.
Marla sprang into action, coordinating every resource she could think of. She started with law enforcement, but they told her this was not their jurisdiction. She contacted the Metro area human trafficking committee and was told there was nothing they could do-no crime had been committed yet. Law Enforcement gave the same answer. It was up to Marla, and our own resources. She created a safety plan for the family, and provided education to the father, who had responded to all of this by refusing to believe any of it. The family was kept safe at one of our sites. The situation seemed to de-escalate but then the son got another text message threatening his life. The mother was suicidal, and we called law enforcement. After the mother was hospitalized they began to address the needs of this family. We provided aftercare and are now confident that the family is safe.
We Never Gave Up
We are so grateful to that woman who made the first phone call, contacting us to make us aware of the need. Had we not been made aware, who knows the tragedy that might have occurred. The woman was not altogether wrong to feel nobody could help her, as no outside agencies could. But we could, and we did. Marla never gave up. She perfectly exemplifies our organization and our mission. We will never give up on a family or a child in need.