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.

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