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Human trafficking victim speaks in hopes of warning others

Rosa Castillo’s parents wanted her to move to the United States to live the American dream. For $6,000, a stranger picked Castillo up at her Nicaragua home, but only to live a nightmare for 14 years.

“I was being abused, raped, burned, beat in any kind of way. And I lived in a cage,” Castillo said.

From Central America to Mexico, Castillo was used for work and sex from the young age of 12. Castillo eventually made it to the United States, where she worked on a Texas farm growing crops for five years. She was also involved in a darker business when the sun came down.

“They raped me in a group of 30 men," she said. "I would lose conscious back and forth. It’s like, I was alive, but I was dead."

Caged and taunted like a trapped animal, the abuse was endless. She even had a baby girl while in captivity.

“I only ate twice a week,” Castillo said. “I had to see so many men a day. I felt dirty.”

She made her way to a highway, where a truck driver picked her up. When Castillo woke up, she was in a hospital.

“I’m grateful, because that day, I [saw] freedom,” Castillo said.

Castillo was placed in protective custody and has undergone therapy. She and her daughter have been living in Palm Beach County for the past several years.

Human trafficking is something that’s happening right before our eyes, and you might not even realize that it is a growing epidemic.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Palm Beach are teaming up in the fight. Both will share a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help bring awareness.

When it comes to how Palm Beach County should spend the grant, Castillo would like to see more education and awareness.

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