Updated: Aug 2
While Elizabeth Quiroz’s story starts out with trauma and abuse, she was able to forge her own path to freedom. As an overcomer of human trafficking, Elizabeth has become an inspiration to everyone around her.
Like many victims of human trafficking, Elizabeth grew up with a difficult home life. When she looks back at the trauma of her past, she remembers being a part of a family where some were gang members, some were drug addicts and others were child molesters. With no one else to turn to, her family became the model for all of her relationships.
Those she loved would beat her and humiliate her, and then tell her that they cared for her.
“I thought [being beaten] was love, I thought that was normal,”
As she grew older, Elizabeth came to expect these patterns of abuse as expressions of love. Sadly, this isn’t uncommon. Many children who are abused grow up to make the association between love and pain.
Quiroz initially lived with her grandmother at the age of four, lived with her mother afterwards where her abuse continued, was placed into foster care at fourteen and ended up living with her father who struggled with alcoholism.
It’s her experiences within the foster system that Quiroz said led her to become a victim of modern-day slavery. She already had a long history of abuse, making her naïve and easy to manipulate. Being in foster care and the trauma she endured from her childhood made her the perfect target.
Just like so many victims and survivors of human trafficking before and after her, Elizabeth had a limited knowledge of trafficking. She didn’t know what it was, what the signs were and how to protect herself and others.
She had three different traffickers throughout her life. She was first trafficked at just 15 years old. Her trafficker told her he was 19, but he was really 27. He was someone she met outside of her father's work, and a father-figure to so many others. Elizabeth believed he was someone she could trust.
“He made me believe he could give me a better life.”
Not only would he constantly compliment her, but he would also offer himself as an emotional support system and supply her with drugs. Now, she knows that these are all tactics that many traffickers use.
“They give you all this stuff and they brainwash you, they make you feel like they’re your only love and connection.”
Her trafficker would force her to go into hotel rooms high on drugs, fully aware that she couldn’t give informed consent.
“I couldn’t comprehend what was going on, I couldn’t consent,” she said.
Eventually, Elizabeth became pregnant with her son, only to be arrested three months after he was born-- she lost custody. It was at this moment in her life that Elizabeth realized she did not want to continue down the path she was on. She wanted to make a positive change for her son, and become the role model she never had. Now, she works tirelessly to regain custody of her son.
Since escaping her trafficker, Elizabeth has truly found freedom.
As an overcomer, she now advocates for victims and survivors of human trafficking, while working to rehabilitate those who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction.
This Spring, she’ll become a college graduate, but she’s not stopping there. She’s looking to get her Master’s in Public Affairs from UC Berkeley.
“I know this program will open so many doors for me and give me a platform to build and maintain strong relationships with legislators while being the voice for the voiceless...God brought me out of a dark place not to just move on, but to go back and help those that are still stuck in dark places.”
Yours in the fight,