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.

Terrifying Moment Caught On Camera When A White Woman Pulls A Gun On A Black Woman In A Parking Lot

Things That Matter

Terrifying Moment Caught On Camera When A White Woman Pulls A Gun On A Black Woman In A Parking Lot

Takelia Shanee / Facebook

A disturbing video is going viral on social media. A Black Michigan mom stared down the barrel of a gun pointed by an angry white woman in a parking lot. The video is the latest example of Black Americans being violently targeted by white people.

Takelia Hill shared a video on Facebook of a terrifying encounter in a parking lot.

Posted by Takelia Shanee on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The video starts with the image of a white woman holding a gun with fear and anger as she yells at Hill. The woman claims that Hill tried to jump behind her minivan and she was leaving the parking lot. Hill can be heard arguing with the woman refuting her claims that Hill was somehow the aggressor of the out of control and dangerous situation.

A Twitter version of the video, shared by someone identifying as a relative, has been viewed more than 11 million times on Thursday.

Hill’s daughter was recording the confrontation after the woman bumped into her.

According to The Detroit News, the argument began because the white woman bumped into Hill’s daughter and didn’t apologize. The argument escalated quickly when the Hill was almost hit with the minivan as the white couple started to drive. Hill hit the car and the white woman jumped out of the car and drew her gun.

The woman was arrested but released, according to a woman identifying as a close family member.

The police have not confirmed the information tweeted by the family member. The video is sparking outrage in the area of Auburn Hills, Michigan.

“I am deeply disturbed by an incident last night where a woman pointed a cocked gun at another woman during an argument,” Oakland County Executive David Coulter said in a statement, according to The Detroit News. “This behavior is unacceptable. I wholly expect the prosecutor to bring charges that reflect the severity of the incident.”

People in social media are angry after seeing the video and are offering advice on how the family should move forward.

One state senator is calling for action on gun reform in Michigan after the video. Fortunately, Hill and her daughter survived the encounter but the trauma of living through that is taxing.

“Michigan needs commonsense gun reform, and we need it now. People should feel safe going about their day and not have to worry about having a gun pulled on them during a conflict,” state Sen. Rosemary Baye told The Detroit News. “This incident clearly shows we have much work to do because this is not how we should be treating each other.”

READ: People Are Using Social Media to Highlight Racism On The Islands

J Balvin Wants To Help Soothe Your Mental Health With Free, Bilingual Meditations

Entertainment

J Balvin Wants To Help Soothe Your Mental Health With Free, Bilingual Meditations

Chopra Center / YouTube

This may just be the biggest understatement ever, but 2020 has been one hell of a year – and it’s just now barely half way over. Apart from some of the incredible music artists have dropped this year, it’s been one crisis after another.

With everything going on and the increased isolation and loneliness, you’re likely feeling a combination of apprehensive, frazzled, angry, and confused.

Thankfully, there are plenty of very simple ways out there to find some balance and calm those nerves. The beloved J Balvin, along with famed alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra, has launched a new program that’s aimed at just that: helping us find balance and wisdom in these uncertain times.

J Balvin joins forces with Deepak Chopra to launch a free, bilingual 21-day meditation program.

Meditating can be an intimidating practice to start on your own, especially if its acceptance in your community isn’t widespread. Which let’s face it – it’s not exactly common in the Latino community.

Enter J Balvin and Deepak Chopra who have launched a 21-day meditation series.

J Balvin says that meditation saved his life and the hope is that the daily practice will change the lives of all who participate, too. 

“The world is offering us a reset and J Balvin is the perfect partner to help us reach a critical mass of expanded global awareness,” said Deepak Chopra of the partnership in a company press release. “Together we will set the stage for a more peaceful, inclusive, just, sustainable, healthy and joyful world for all. I am indebted to Jose and our Spanish speaking community for this collaboration.”

In an essay for People, J Balvin opened up about his struggled with mental health and how meditation has helped him.

Credit: JBalvin/ Instagram

J Balvin penned an essay for People, in which he opens up about his own struggles with mental health. He shares how he’s experienced both anxiety and depression, and that meditation has been one of the tools he’s used to help manage his mental health. If you’re looking for ways to help improve your mental health and build out a self-care routine, we recommend meditating.

On mental health, Balvin adds: “What makes mental health universal is that it does not discriminate. Mental health doesn’t care about your age, your race, your background; none of those things. It doesn’t care what you look like, or who you’re dating, or how much money you have in the bank. Of course it’s different for each of us. But it affects all of us.”

And speaking more about mental health awareness in the Latino community, Balvin says: “…because I am Latino — I know there can be a certain stigma in my community when it comes to mental well-being. Many Latino men will not want to talk about depression, because they fear it is not a manly thing, or that they will then be known as loco. But I don’t hesitate to say that I have been depressed.”

These are strong words and are so important for many of us to hear, to know that we’re not alone.

Deepak Chopra is a famed author and alternative medicine advocate.

Chopra is a popular author and alternative medicine guru in the English-world. He’s written several books about consciousness and meditation and he had a partnership with Oprah for her 21-Day Meditation series.

Deepak Chopra says that he’s excited to reach a new audience and to be able to work alongside J Balvin, a man who has been very open with his own struggles.

The 21-Day program is free and available in both English and Spanish.

Credit: deepakchopra/ Instagram

The program, Renew Yourself: Body, Mind & Spirit is a 360 look at rejuvenation and will be available through Chopra’s website. With a strong track record of success, the 21-Day Meditation program encourages participants to move beyond old, limiting beliefs and patterns for 20 minutes each day, opening with guided wisdom and storytelling from Balvin, followed by a meditation session with Chopra. Renew Yourself: Body, Mind & Spirit is free for longer than 21 days, typically 5-6 weeks, and at the end, listeners can purchase the meditation to have on-going access to both Chopra and J Balvin.

In addition to the daily meditations, you’ll also recieve a daily message and journaling prompts to complete each day. “Together we will set the stage for a more peaceful, inclusive, just, sustainable, healthy, and joyful world for all,” Chopra said in the press release.