Mely’s Story: One Survivor’s Story
Healing the Harm from Human Trafficking
As an 8-year-old, Mely was abused by her stepfather in the Philippines. He threatened her at knife point after she watched him rape her sister. When she confronted her mother and neighbours about it, she was placed into a Jesuit-run orphanage for seven years.
As a teen, she accepted an offer of laundry work and a free education from an “elegant woman visitor” who arranged transportation to Cebu, a city distant from her hometown.
Within hours of arriving in Cebu, she was forced to dress up and prostituted. “I cried, when she explained our real work,” says Mely through tears. “I asked her to take me back, I had no idea how this had happened.” She was forced to use drugs to stay awake all night and “improve the glum demeanour” she was told discouraged customers.
Mely begged for release but was told she had to pay for the transportation and other expenses incurred by her traffickers. She resigned herself to a life of prostitution.
“I felt hopeless and worthless. I felt already ruined,” Mely says.
One day she woke up still high on drugs in her room and made herself a promise; she would have a future. She had met a compassionate man, who helped her escape. He had introduced her to the Good Shepherd Welcome House in Cebu and she knew she was finally ready to trust in others. With their help and five years of effort, she overcame her drug habit, finished high school, and trained to be a nurse’s aide. “I had to learn how to forgive myself and the people who caused me pain,” she says.
Mely is now an activist and survivor of sex trafficking in Cebu. She graduated from her bachelor in Science in Social Work and now serves as the Project Coordinator of Good Shepherd Welcome House for trafficked women. She has also spoken to the UN of her experiences alongside Sr Angela Reed RSM.
“I want to give them hope. I want to be an inspiration and give voice to all the abused women out there. I want to show them that if I could change my life, they can too,” she says.
“Four nights a week, I visit different areas to walk with girls, greet them, build relationships and tell them about our programs and services.
“I want to raise awareness and tell the world that my story isn’t just a story, it’s a reality.”