A federal court jury on Wednesday convicted five people in connection with a plot to lure impoverished young women from Guatemala to the United States with the promise of legitimate jobs, only to then force them into prostitution to repay their supposed debts for being smuggled into the country. [...]
The victims said they were almost always watched by the defendants and were beaten and threatened with violence, even witchcraft, to keep them from trying to escape.
A girl identified as Esperanza, who was allegedly 17 when she arrived in the U.S. in 2005, said she was told her legs would be cut off and her entire family killed if she tried to escape. Another girl, identified as Rosaura, sobbed throughout her testimony and told jurors that defendant Gladys Vasquez Valenzuela threatened to throw acid on her face if she ever tried to leave.
The prosecution argued that 5 out of the 10 victims were underage at the time they were trafficked but even though those victims looked to be their alleged ages, the jury decided their age wasn't provable because they didn't have documentation of their age.
Four of the defendants in this case are women and all of the defendants were related by blood or marriage and they preyed upon others from their home village. Compared to most sex trafficking operations this one seems very small and unorganized. An organization where only a small percentage of the traffickers were charged or jailed would be more likely to be able to successfully use fear to prevent victims from testifying.
Not surprisingly the defense attorneys tried to portray the victims in this case as seasoned liars who weren't prostituted and who instead freely choose sex work. The argument was that the victims were only claiming to be traumatized because doing so had practical benefits.
These defense attorneys hoped to use the behavior and lack of ethics of those who willingly prostitute others to discredit those who have been prostituted.
Thankfully the jury didn't buy this stock excuse used to deny the reality of those have been prostituted.