A family of sex traffickers in Mexico, who served jail time on charges of sexually exploiting children and human trafficking, found God during their time in prison and are now born-again Christians working to better the lives of the women they once abused.
According to Reuters, prostitution is the most common form of human trafficking in Mexico. The Walk Free Foundation reports that nearly 380,000 people (primarily women and girls) are trapped in this so-called “modern slavery,” and in Mexico, sex trafficking is often a family-run business in which victims are well acquainted with their captors.
Along with their mother, Esperanza, brothers Mario and Enrique Garifas trafficked women as young as 16-years-old for some eight years before being apprehended by authorities. The men, who are now in their thirties, considered their victims “merchandise” not human beings and blame the cycle of abuse they were raised in for their barbaric ways.
“Obviously I’m not justifying myself but I grew up thinking violence was normal,” Mario told Charisma News. “That’s how I was raised.”
“We didn’t see them as human beings but as our workers,” Enrique added. “I saw them as merchandise that gave me money, that sustained my family.”
After watching their mother, who had been abused by family members since childhood, endure a string of abusive relationships with men and work as a prostitute herself, the brothers said they were never taught to respect women. They worked for pimps before going into business for themselves.
“I was never taught to value women,” Mario explained. “I saw my mother being hit by my stepfathers. She’d go back to them again and again. So women became worthless.”
Within a year of going out on their own, the brothers were earning upward of $1,000 day from 10 women who were servicing about 20 clients. They would lure victims with promises of a better future and “romantic gestures.” They would target young women with low self esteem and those from troubled homes.
“Honestly it was so easy,” Enrique said of the recruiting process. “For me the best way was to make her believe that I was in love with her. We’d pass a nice house and I’d say: ‘That will be ours soon where we’ll get married and have children.’”
“There’s nothing easier than tricking a woman who doesn’t love herself, whose self-esteem is rock bottom,” Mario added. “First I’d raise her self-esteem, and then once they were with me, I’d lower it to the ground.”
All the while, Esperanza was complicit in her sons’ scheme, cooking dinner for the women and chastising them for not working harder.
“I didn’t say anything about my sons’ work with the girls because for me it was normal,” she told Reuters. “I didn’t think it was bad because I’d lived it.”
While the family had come to think of themselves as invincible, tricking women into believing they could never escape their captivity, a 16-year-old girl did manage to free herself in 2003 and went straight to the police.
Once behind bars, the brothers got a taste of their own medicine, suffering through beatings and mind games at the hands of their fellow inmates.
“What I’d tell the girls – that you’re worth nothing, you’re no-one, the same was said to me in jail,” Mario said.
But the family was also introduced to the Bible by a prison pastor, and they began to develop their faith. Esperanza credits Christianity for transforming her way of thinking and forcing her to recognize the error of her ways. She admits that it “shames” her to think that she aided her sons’ criminal behavior for so long.
The men have also sought redemption. They reached out to some of their victims after leaving prison to ask for forgiveness. Additionally, they hope that in sharing their story they will help change the way men think about prostitution.
“Without clients, there’s no trafficking,” Mario concluded. “Girls aren’t standing on street corners because they want to. Men don’t know what and who’s really behind a girl.”