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           ELIZA

 

A 24-year-old Filipina, who is feared to be a victim of sex trafficking in New York City, has escaped her controlling husband, whom she accused of torturing, enslaving and forcing her to work in an underground sex club in lower Manhattan for years.

The Filipina named only as Eliza talked to CBS 2 New York in an exclusive interview on condition that her identity remains confidential.

Eliza is in hiding and scared for her life after her escape several weeks ago.

“I’m just scared going out every single day,” she said, with her silhouette image on TV screen aired on Tuesday night.

Eliza said her husband threatened to kill her if she left him.

“He said, ‘nobody knows if you gonna die,’” she recalled.

“He said, ‘nobody knows if you die because you don’t have anybody here.’”

Eliza said she and her husband met in the Philippines when she was just 19.

CBS 2 News also hid the man’s identity.

She claimed he presented himself as a nice guy and charmed her into thinking he was an American businessman who had fallen madly in love with her — a dream come true, she thought, when he proposed marriage.


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Eliza is shown with her husband in file photos. Their faces were blurred to protect their privacy.


“Yes, he’s good at pretending to be a good guy,” Eliza said.

But she said as soon as he got her out of the Philippines, the physical abuse started. And she quickly learned his business was actually sex and online pornography.

“After beating me, he said ‘that’s what’s gonna happen if you argue with me,’” Eliza confided.

“‘And you cannot do anything. I got your papers, I got your passport so you can’t go anywhere.’”

Eliza’s attorney Michael Wildes said it was all part of the man’s calculated plan to dupe Eliza, then control her.

“In anticipation of bringing her into this country on a visa to get married, he had already posted information on the website that she will be available for others,” Wildes told CBS 2 News.

Eliza said it’s pure fear that kept her living and working in the underground sex club against her will.

Family threatened

She also revealed that her husband threatened violence against her family in the Philippines if she fled.

And based on the abuse she sustained, she said she had no reason to doubt him.

Eliza said her husband went as far as putting electrodes on her private parts and tortured her until she went unconscious.

“It’s the worst thing that happened to me,” she said.
 

Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women in New York City (NOW-NYC), said Eliza’s ordeal is just one of many.

Ossorio said human sex trafficking is big business and Eliza’s story is “a classic case.”

“It’s absolutely amazing, the degree that this happens on a regular basis and how open and blatant it is in our society and that we just don’t see it,” she said.

Eliza said she eventually learned that she was just one of many of her husband’s victims.

“All of his girlfriends, the first girlfriend, the second, he did it to them,” Eliza said.

Eliza was lucky.

With a friend’s help and protection, she summoned the courage to escape, hired an attorney and obtained a restraining order.

But most others are not so fortunate, according to Ossorio.

“They have very very few options to reach out to anybody or if there’s anybody to reach out to,” Ossorio said.

Eliza’s attorney said she should be able to retain her green card through a battered spouse application under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which allows certain spouses (man or woman), children and parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to file a petition for themselves without the abuser’s knowledge

This allows a battered victim to seek both safety and independence from the abuser, who will not be notified by the US Citizen & Immigration Services (USCIS) about the application.

But Eliza wants more. She said she wants justice.

Authorities are said to be investigating the allegations against Eliza’s husband, but no warrants have been issued.

CBS 2 News sources indicated the husband may have left the country.

New York City is believed to play a significant role in international sex trafficking as both an entry point for smugglers and place where trafficking victims are put to work as prostitutes.

While comprehensive statistics on the crime are unavailable, one metric underscores the challenges faced by local law enforcement officials: the low number of arrests and prosecutions of traffickers, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

On Nov. 1, the nonprofit organization Restore NYC opened its first safehouse in Queens dedicated to women, who have escaped the global sex trade.

These women are undocumented immigrants, often lured to the U.S. with the promise of jobs and then coerced into prostitution.

While there’s no way to quantify how many women are smuggled into the city to work as prostitutes, Restore NYC’s Faith Huckel told The Journal that her group alone has worked with some 100 victims since 2009.

But the number sex traffickers arrested for the crime remains far smaller, and prosecutions are rare and slow, the report said.

The most recent Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, released by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime last year, counts just 172 people convicted for sex trafficking in the U.S. between 2005 and 2007.

Data on victims remains hard to reach because “the responsibility for identifying victims is spread among multiple agencies,” according to the report.


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ATTY. MICHAEL WILDES: Eliza’s counsel.


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SONIA OSSORIO: NOW-NYC.

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