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.

If You’re Struggling With Mental Health Problems, J Balvin Wants You To Know You’re Not Alone

Entertainment

If You’re Struggling With Mental Health Problems, J Balvin Wants You To Know You’re Not Alone

jbalvin / Instagram

J Balvin is known for the brightness of his style and mentality. His ‘Arcoiris’ tour, which holds a partnership with arts collective “Friends With You,” stayed true to its name, bringing light, color, and positivity to every city it stopped in. The tour of the US started in September and ended just a few weeks ago in LA’s Staples Center. The Colombian reggaeton icon kept up his signature high energy and used the tour as a platform to shine a light on a very taboo subject in the Latino community; mental health.

J Balvin used his tour as a platform to talk about mental health issues.

Credit: jbalvin / Instagram

The Colombian singer’s “Arcoiris Tour” officially launched Sept. 11 in Atlanta and then headed off to Miami, Toronto, Boston, New York, and Tulsa. The itinerary also included visits to Phoenix, El Paso, San Jose, and Las Vegas before wrapping up in Los Angeles on Oct. 26 and in all of those stops Balvin took a moment to talk about immigration, mental health issues, love, and compassion. 

Arcoiris was a bright and energetic show that shone a light on issues close to the singer’s heart.

Credit: jbalvin / Instagram

The Arcoiris Tour, or “rainbow” tour in English, stayed true to its name as every night, a venue was covered with neon lights, dancers dressed in elaborate costumes that ranged from walking clouds to mushrooms. All the while, the performers were accompanied by a huge cloud-shaped screen and two smaller screens that displayed colorful graphics throughout the night.   

J Balvin performed his big hits and paid tribute to other icons of the genre.

Credit: jbalvin / Instagram

Balvin performed some of his biggest hit songs like “Bonita” and “Ginza,” as well as iconic songs by fellow reggaeton singers, such as Wisin y Yandel’s “Rakata” and Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina.” He would later move on to perform “La Canción,” which is part of Balvin’s collaborative album with Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, titled “Oasis.” 

The singer then came to a halt to share his important message.   

During ‘La Cancion’ Balvin took a moment during the interlude to first speak on the importance of addressing one’s own mental health, encouraging people to not be ashamed of seeking professional help, and letting the audience know they are not alone.   

“Las enfermedades de salud mental son una realidad. Yo he sufrido de depresión y he sufrido de ansiedad, así que tengo que aceptarlo. Y eso me hace más humano, me hace entender que la vida tiene pruebas,” Balvin said. “Pero si alguien está pasando una situación difícil, no están solos, siempre llega la luz. Tarde o temprano llega la luz.”  

“Mental health illnesses are a reality. I have suffered from depression and anxiety, so I have to accept it. And this makes me more human. It makes me understand that life has challenges,” Balvin said in Spanish. “But if someone is going through a difficult time, they are not alone, light always comes. Sooner or later, the light comes.”  

The singer also addressed immigration issues, by sharing his own story. 

J Balvin explained that eight years ago he came illegally into the U.S. where he painted houses and fixed roofs for a living. “Vine con ese sueño de echar para adelante y seguí soñando. Después de pintar casas, pasé a pintar mis sueños.”  

“I came with a dream to move forward,” Balvin said in Spanish. “I followed that dream and after painting houses, I started painting my dreams.”   

The fact of the matter is that Latino culture tends to disregard mental health.

Credit: jbalvin / Instagram

Balvin highlighted this by reminding the audience that as much as we can trust God to pull us through difficult situations, we must be more willing to seek out professional help when we need it.

In fact, only 20 percent of Latinos with symptoms of a psychological disorder talk to a doctor about their concerns, and only 10 percent contact a mental health specialist, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. J Balvin took the opportunity to raise awareness about how both depression and anxiety affect Latinos and emphasized on the need to address it. 

In social media, Balvin highlights the fact that even artists who seemingly are on top of the world, struggle with mental health issues. 

Balvin has been very transparent with fans about his mental health struggles in recent months. While the hugely successful reggaetonero is having a major moment in his career, he hasn’t remained immune to depression or anxiety. This is why Balvin has used his platform as an urbano superstar to normalize experiences of mental illness for his fans. 

In recent social media posts, the reggaetonero has shared his own experiences as an example of how help and recovery are possible. 

In a video posted on Instagram, J Balvin revealed that he is feeling better now, only after receiving professional help.“I want to thank you all for the good vibes. After two months, I’ve left this chapter of anxiety and depression. Thanks to God, thanks to the professionals, to the medication, and thanks to you for the support. Definitely, sometimes we don’t prioritize these things, but we can always learn to,” he said in the video.

He’s also taken to Twitter to share his evolution with mental illness.

Credit: @JBALVIN / Twitter

In a recent tweet, the singer expressed that these two months have been “hell,” but he is now feeling on top of the world. “Seek professional help,” he wrote, “Anxiety and depression are real.” If you struggle with depression and/or anxiety, seek help by reaching out to a trusted friend, relative, teacher, or counselor. You can also reach out for help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contacting the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

READ: Everyone Is Talking About Who J Balvin Partied With Before His LA Concert And We Get Why

Mexican Authorities Think The Mormon Family Was Murdered Because A Drug Lord Thought They Were A Rival Gang

Things That Matter

Mexican Authorities Think The Mormon Family Was Murdered Because A Drug Lord Thought They Were A Rival Gang

Kenny LeBaron / Facebook

This week, nine members of a prominent Mormon family were killed by heavily armed men while on their way to a wedding in Chihuahua, Mexico. Six of the victims were children. The children that survived hid beneath branches by the road until help arrived. The LeBarón family are dual Mexican and American citizens who have lived in the northern state of Sonora for decades. Three mothers and their children were driving from their fundamentalist Mormon community in the mountains in a convoy of three SUVs when they were attacked, for reasons still unknown. Mexico’s top security official, Alfonso Durazo, suspects the cartel involved may have thought the SUV convoy appeared as a threat from a rival gang.

Mexican police have arrested a suspected drug lord believed to be responsible for the massacre. The case is still under investigation.

Rhonita Maria LeBarón, 30, and her four children were all murdered.

Credit: Tiffany Langford / Facebook

Rhonita was driving to Phoenix that day to pick her husband up from a work trip, but her car blew a tire. Rhonita went back home to get another car and set out again, this time with two families ahead of her, heading to a wedding. Family member Kendra Miller posted to Facebook the horrifying outcome: “Nita and the four of her seven children she had taken on the trip were burned to mostly ashes and only a few charred bones left to identify that all five had been inside. It appeared that one tried to escape as the front passenger door was open and the remains were partially in and out of the vehicle.”

Rhonita LeBarón, her six-month old twins, Titus and Tiana, Krystal, 10, and Howard, 12, were all killed.

Christina Langford, 31, died saving her seven-month-old baby, Faith.

Credit: Kenny LeBaron / Facebook

Ten miles ahead of Rhonita’s family, Christina and baby Faith were in one car, with a family of ten in another car. According to family member Kendra Miller, “Christina jumped out waving her arms to let the attackers know that it was women and children in the vehicles. She gave her life to try and save the rest.” Before she died, Langford quickly threw baby Faith to the floor of the SUV, saving her life. Later, Miller says armed family members arrived at the scene to find “Christina’s baby Faith with the vehicle around her riddled with bullet holes. Somehow she had remained untouched, and alive. She was in her car seat, which looked to have been hurriedly placed on the floor of the vehicle by her mother for protection.”

Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and two of her children perished in the other vehicle.

Credit: Tiffany Langford / Facebook

Dawna Langford, 43, and her two children, Trevor Harvey, 11, and Rogan Jay, 3, were killed. Seven of her children survived, but several suffered gunshot wounds.

After witnessing his mother and brothers being shot dead, Dawna’s son Devin hid his 6 other siblings in the bushes and covered them with branches to keep them safe while he went for help,” Kendra Miller shared in a Facebook post. “When he took too long to return, his 9-year-old sister left the remaining five to try again.”

Six hours after the ambush, young Devin had hiked 14 miles to alert the rest of the family to the dire news. Devin’s uncles called for help, and armed themselves, arriving an hour later to the site of the massacre. They found the children, who were still hiding, and baby Faith alive. 

Five of Dawna’s children were injured and are being treated at a U.S. hospital.

Credit: Kenny LeBaron / Facebook

Miller shared that they were treated at a local hospital until the Mexican military transported them by helicopter to another hospital. From there, their father, David accompanied them as they were transported to a U.S. hospital. McKenzie, 9, was found by soldiers after she went looking for help, and got lost hiking for 4 hours. Kyle, 14, was shot in the foot. Cody, 8, was shot in the jaw, and leg. Xander, who is just 4 years old, was shot in the back. Brixon, who is just 8 months old, was grazed across the chest and wrist. 

Trump wants to wage a “war,” but Mexico’s President doesn’t feel that’s the answer.

Credit: @realDonaldTrump / Twitter

“If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters,” Trump tweeted. “The United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively. The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!”

In a follow-up tweet, Trump suggested waging “war,” saying, “This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!” During a daily press briefing, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador rebuffed Trump’s suggestion, saying, “It’s not in agreement with our convictions. The worst thing is war.”

READ: They Discovered Mass Graves And Now These Grieving Mothers Are Being Threatened By Drug Cartels