Things That Matter

Letty Serrano Was Abducted And Trafficked For Sex At 13; Two Years Later She Committed Suicide

Leticia Serrano, known to her friends and family as Letty, celebrated her 15th birthday with a quinceañera party complete with a ruby-red princess gown, bouquets of roses and a dessert bar earlier, in May this year. Six months later, the teen took her own life, just two years after being drugged, abducted and abused by a sex-trafficker in Houston. 

Unfortunately, this story is not all that uncommon for victims of sex-trafficking. 

Letty’s suicide came two years after she was abducted by a sex trafficker.

credit Facebook Cynthia Rivera

Letty Serrano was a high-achieving 13 yeard old student at Marshall Middle School in 2017 when she was drugged and taken by a sex trafficker not far from her school in Houston, Texas. According to her family, Leticia’s dad and godmother Cynthia Rivera spent days searching for the teenager before they found her inside an abandoned home near Moody Park. They took her to safety and reported the captor to the police. 

Letty’s family said that the girl they brought back home was not the same girl who had left. 

“We got her back damaged,” said Rivera, Letty’s godmother. After her rescue, Letty ran away from home on two occasions, to be with her abductor. Letty took her life early Saturday morning after locking herself in the bathroom. Her father recalls doing everything he could to reach her but when he finally did, it was too late. Serrano believes Letty couldn’t get over being away from the man who trafficked her two years prior. “She wanted to be with him,” he said holding back tears in a video interview. “But, she also didn’t want to hurt her family.” 

The man was said to prey on teen’s weaknesses, taking advantage of the fact that Letty was a loner at school and that her brother had recently died. To make matters worse, the abductor and presumed sex trafficker was freed from jail 3 days after being arrested and never faced charges. “It’s a very common story, unfortunately,” said Micah Gamboa, executive director of Elijah Rising. “We see in Houston, a lot of times these pimps and these traffickers get off with just a misdemeanor or maybe deferred adjudication.” 

Sex traffic is spreading across the nation.

credit Instagram @elijahrising

The Christian-based nonprofit organization Elijah Rising, whose mission is to end sex trafficking through prayer and intervention, claims there are more than 300,000 trafficking victims in Texas. “Entire cities are becoming red-light districts. It’s no longer just a centralized or isolated issue,” she explained. “It’s actually spreading across the nation.”  According to Elijah Rising, suicide is, sadly, a common conclusion for many victims, in part, because their abusers aren’t usually caught.

Activists are trying to squash the myth that all women who work as prostitutes do so because they want to.

credit Twitter @DanielleDolor

“Prostitution isn’t people deferring entrance to Yale while they prostitute to raise money for tuition—that’s not the reality of what it looks like,” said Nicole Bell, who worked as a prostitute after being trafficked as a teen. “We’re looking at people in poverty, people of color, people coming out of the foster care system.” Human trafficking is estimated to bring in global profits of about $150 billion a year—$99 billion from sexual exploitation, according to the International Labor Organization. Nearly 9,000 cases in the U.S. were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline in 2017—a 13% increase from the prior year, according to the Polaris Project. But this data is incomplete, as cases are severely underreported.

Houston Police Deparment is looking into reopening the case of the man who abducted, drugged, and abused Letty.

Credit Facebook Cynthia Rivera

Commander Jim Dale of Houston Police Department spoke to Fox 26 about Letty’s tragic story. “I have requested an interview with my investigators so we can reopen the case,” he says this story also speaks to the need to do more in training in schools just like it’s done in the hospitality industry and transportation hubs. “She was a victim and somehow her cries fell through the cracks and I think that’s why it’s so imperative that we get the schools involved.”

Letty’s family is calling on schools to do more around suicide prevention and wants the city council to do something about the brothel where they found their little girl.

credit Facebook Cynthia Rivera

Letty’s godmother Cynthia Rivera is also calling on schools for more preventative measures. She says the family met with school officials on Tuesday afternoon. Rivera is also urging her city council district to do more about the abandoned houses, presumed brothels, where she says Letty was trafficked and, ultimately, found. “Mattresses, little girls bras, chemicals they use to drugs to mix with,” Rivera said referring to the items found in the house. “I want the community to come together,” she added. “Houston [needs] to come together and ask for these houses to be removed, torn down.”

If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you are a victim of human trafficking or suspect someone who now is a victim, contact the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

Latinas On Instagram Are Getting Real About How The Cost Of Mental Health Impacts Them

Fierce

Latinas On Instagram Are Getting Real About How The Cost Of Mental Health Impacts Them

Scott Olson / Getty

Sadly, while therapy should be accessible to everyone not everyone has access to it. In fact, oftentimes regular therapy can come at quite the price. And while recent medical studies have shown that current societal pressures have caused Latinas in particular to experience high levels of stress, it doesn’t look like that is changing. With insurance companies often refusing to consider mental health benefits as part of their plans many of us are left to deal with our mental burdens all on our own.

To help, we recently asked Latinas for advice on how to get therapy and the responses were pretty helpful.

Here are the top takeaways.

Some institutions charge less for students.

“Always google training centers and universities for affordable therapy. Often students need to complete x amount of hours with patients and they charge a fraction of the cost. In San Francisco “The Liberation Institute” is a great resource.” –citybythebea

English/Spanish bilingual options are pretty available.

“Hi! I am an NY licensed (Queens based) English/Spanish bilingual clinical psychologist. I offer sliding scale therapy on Zoom based on whatever the patient is able to pay. My mission in this field is to make therapy possible for as much of our gente as possible and remove the notion that therapy is only for affluent White people. I am happy to chat with anyone that’s interested in learning more about therapy, mental health, or even working together.” –afuentes5

Many therapists don’t take insurance.

“It’s frustrating that most therapists don’t take insurance.” – jackelyn.v

It might take some time to find the right therapist but hang in there!

“What’s horrible is that even when you can afford it, it can often be quite difficult finding the proper therapist. It took me years to realize mine was not helping me and that I had to search for a better one.”- __soul

Sometimes video chats can be cheaper!

“Theres an app that charges $35 a wk for video chat with a therapist. If im not mistaken, its as many video chats as u want.” –xtabayfour

Some therapists provide a sliding scale.

“Also, therapists charge $80-$200 for several reasons. Cost of living, licensing, business expenses, their own insurance. Many times, clients may miss sessions for different reasons, therefore this can impact the flow of money. People spend that amount to get their hair done, nails, buy shoes, with no question. All this to say, you can get the help for your price point. Don’t give up trying! Call 211 for assistance too.” – missblovely

You might be able to get therapy through your insurance after a certain amount of time.

“If you have health insurance (another privilege, I know), you can get therapy through your insurance. I didn’t know this until 2 years ago when I read needed therapy but didn’t have the resources. You’ll do an intake to determine what you need (Eg. Counseling for anxiety and depression) and then have access to a whole network of providers for a fraction of the cost. Sometimes only $25/session! Mental health is healthcare!” – _devinjones

Don’t give up on therapy!

“It really depends on the type of insurance you carry. More and more employers are adding behavioral benefits. So do some research and ask HR about your benefits, since many of times they aren’t properly explained. Also, look into community health centers. Some therapist now offer sliding scales too, so don’t give up. Olisha Hodges, serves Alameda County. She is awesome! Also, google, Psychology Today, you can do a search and look through a list of specialist in your area.” – julisssac

BUT know that giving up certain luxuries for the sake of your mental health might be worth it.

“You are correct it should not be luxury items! As a therapist, I offer sliding scale rates. However even with a full case load of clients, as a therapist I cannot afford to live to pay double rent (my apt and office rent) my licensing, insurance, food, bills, plus the 10+ hours I spend a week doing my clients notes (they are not paid hours.) as someone mentioned in the comments $40 was still too expensive for sessions. I respect that, I was a Medicaid client when I used to get therapy as a student. Insurance companies do not respect our work and pay us very little that can barely afford my private practice. So the system is horrible and needs to change. I also know people who resent paying certain prices to therapists but then spend much more on yoga sessions, nails, hair, drinks, etc. so a lot of people don’t see therapy as a priority. I am happy that many people posted all these fabulous affordable recourses.” – lemonbalm333

In-network therapists will charge your copay.

“In-network therapists charge your copay which varies from $20-50 on average. There are also normally sliding fee scales which are based on your income so the amount you pay could be (depending on the therapist) zero. Also, with some employers, there are EAP (employee assistance programs) which offer short term therapy for free 5-10 sessions depending on the contractual agreement between the employer and EAP. You can choose to keep seeing that same therapist as well for a cost. Services such as @openpathpsychotherapy have therapists that charge a lower fee than what they normally would. All this to say, the options are out there. It may be a little scary on what to do or choose, but help is out there with low fees.” –missblovely

When it comes to financial compensation your therapist might be flexible.

“I remember after my last baby I needed therapy desperately and the receptionist said it would be $140 each visit and I sobbed and was ready to walk out because we couldn’t afford that, we’d just bought a new house, new car & added a 3rd child to our family. I tried to see if I could just go once a month but my therapist said she’d like to see me every week. The receptionist came back and said it’s only $40 which was still more than I’d like to spend but it was much more manageable than $140.”- jesslynne618

There’s help for every budget.

“Many can start with EAP offered by their employer; some offer more than the standard 3 sessions. EAP can also assist with referring you to a more long-term provider based on your needs & $$. They can also research therapists on psychology today as some mention their prices & offer a sliding fee scale. @openpathpsychotherapy is another program that requires client membership to access therapists that charge $30-60/session. There are various options. Speaking as a therapist, one may charge based on their yrs or level of experience, specific trainings, etc. Just as physicians, we are licensed to diagnose & treat. As with such, there are measures that must be taken to ensure the best level of treatment (to each his own price range). Clients aren’t limited to paying large amounts, especially in this era of online therapy. There’s help for every budget. Dialing 2-1-1 is also helpful to explore what’s offered in your area.” – _sunshineof_kc

Kim Kardashian Is Asking For ‘Compassion and Empathy’ Amidst Kanye West’s Mental Health Issues

Entertainment

Kim Kardashian Is Asking For ‘Compassion and Empathy’ Amidst Kanye West’s Mental Health Issues

Lars Niki / Getty

In recent weeks, Kanye West has exhibited behavior that is shocking to many.

On Sunday, the rapper made various disturbing and false claims during a rally that he held for his 2020 presidential campaign. At one point he accused American abolitionist Harriet Tubman of “never actually” freeing slaves. He also astonished many when he at one point began to weep openly about his personal life and tearfully made points that seemed to be against abortion.

In response to his behavior, his wife (Kim Kardashian West) posted a statement to her Instagram page asking for “compassion and empathy.”

In a post to her Instagram page, the reality television star requested “empathy” and privacy as she attempts to secure help for her husband’s bipolar disorder.

KimKardashian/ Instagram

“As many of you know, Kanye has bipolar disorder,” she wrote in a statement posted to her Instagram story. “Anyone who has this or has a loved one in their life who does, knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand. I’ve never spoken publicly about how this has affected us at home because I am very protective of our children and Kanye’s right to privacy when it comes to his health.”

Kardashian West said she felt compelled to speak out on behalf of her husband because of “stigma and misconceptions” related to mental health in general.

The SKIMS founder has remained silent about her husband’s behavior in recent months, particularly more recently when he announced his bid for the 2020 presidential election. Since his announcement, the “Yeezus” rapper has gained criticism for his part in potentially influencing an election in which seemingly everything is on the line.

Addressing the situation, Kardashian West explained that misconceptions about her husband are worsened in ways because of his high profile and wealth.

“We as a society talk about giving grace to the issue of mental health as a whole, however, we should also give it to the individuals who are living with it in times when they need it the most. I kindly ask that the media and public give us the compassion and empathy that is needed so that we can get through this,” she said before thanking her fans for their support.

Since his presidential rally over the weekend, the rapper has displayed symptoms associated with a bipolar person in the throes of a manic episode.

On Monday, West unleashed a series of tweets that lambasted those close to him and accused his wife of attempting to “lock him up.” In one tweet he called his mother-in-law, Kris Jenner, “Kris Jong- Un.”

In the past, West has been open about his struggles with bipolar disorder. He has also been vocal about his contempt for medication.

In 2016, West was hospitalized for exhaustion and reportedly placed on a psychiatric hold. At the time, West was on his “Saint Pablo” tour and made comments about being a Trump supporter.

At one point he aired grievances about his relationship with singer Beyoncé claiming that he “was hurt because I heard that you said you wouldn’t perform unless you won Video of the Year over me and over ‘Hotline Bling,’” he said. “Now don’t go dissing Beyoncé, she’s great. Taylor Swift is great. We are all great people. We are all equal. But sometimes we be playing the politics too much and forget who we are just to win. F–k winning, f–k looking cool. F–k looking cool. F–k being cool. F–k all that, bruh,” he said at the time according to Variety.

Here is Kardashian-West’s full statement below.

“As many of you know, Kanye has bi-polar disorder. Anyone who has this or has a loved one in their life who does, knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand. I’ve never spoken publicly about how this has affected us at home because I am very protective of our children and Kanye’s right to privacy when it comes to his health. But today, I feel like I should comment on it because of the stigma and misconceptions about mental health.

“Those that understand mental illness or even compulsive behavior know that the family is powerless unless the member is a minor. People who are unaware or far removed from this experience can be judgmental and not understand that the individual themselves have to engage in the process of getting help no matter how hard family and friends try.

“I understand Kanye is subject to criticism because he is a public figure and his actions at time can cause strong opinions and emotions. He is a brilliant but complicated person who on top of being an artist and a black man, who experienced the painful loss of his mother, and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bi-polar disorder. Those who are close with Kanye know his heart and understand his words sometimes do not align with his intentions.

“Living with bi-polar disorder does not diminish or invalidate his dreams and his creative ideas, no matter how big or unobtainable they may feel to some. That is part of his genius and as we have all witnessed, many of his dreams have come true. We as a society talk about giving grace to the issue of mental health as a whole, however we should also give it to the individuals who are living with it in times when they need it the most. I kindly ask that the media and public give us the compassion and empathy that is needed so that we can get through this. Thank you for those who have expressed concern for Kanye’s well-being and for your understanding.”