Content warning: This post deals with issues around sexual harassment and abuse and may be triggering for some readers.
Alicia was just 14 years old when she packed her bags and moved from the Andean mountains in Ecuador to work as a nanny, cook and maid for a family in Colombia.
Like many young girls in Ecuador, Alicia started working young. She wasn’t to know that her workplace, which should have been a safe haven, would become a hostage-like experience.
When she arrived on her first day, there was no bed for Alicia, not even a bedroom. She slept on the floor.
Often, she worked from 6am to midnight. Her employers would deny paying her as a cruel form of control. If she was not paid, they said, she could not leave.
Withholding Alicia’s pay also served to coerce her into having sex with the men in the family.
Why must we stop sexual harassment in workplaces everywhere? This video will inspire you. Post continues after clip.
“The brother wanted me to be his lover, his girlfriend, but I told him ‘No’,” she says. “I didn’t think about those things. I was just a child. They told me I needed to have sex with the man in order to get paid.”
When she denied them sex, the abuse only got worse. The family would spread lies about her, telling people she had fallen pregnant to a boy in the local community and subsequently had an abortion. Those around her were told she could not be trusted.
“I just wanted to come back to Ecuador,” she says.
The now 17-year-old Alicia hatched a plan to escape. Her first plan involved grabbing the keys to the family car and driving as fast as she could.
When she crashed and ended up in hospital, this foiled her plan and she had to return to the family. But the second time around, her escape plan worked.