Escaped Human Trafficking While Pregnant – Now Leading a Multimillion Dollar Tech Company

I share a lot on social media about my anxiety and living with PTSD. While at the Equality Party at Dreamforce 2019, on the Ohana floor of Salesforce tower, I was asked if I would be comfortable sharing why I had PTSD. I did share, and I would like to share publicly because I believe it might help someone to have faith, their life can also change for the better. 

I was raised by my single mom, who’s abusive past being repeatedly severely hurt left her in a state where she was not mentally capable of understanding how her actions as a mother were abusive. She did her best, I truly believe that. As a kid I was punished by being yelled at until I would start crying, and if I didn’t cry it meant I wasn’t sorry enough so I would get hit until I looked ‘truly sorry’ for whatever I had done. My mother would swear at me in Spanish with the craziest look of hate on her face as she hit me, more often than not for reasons I didn’t even understand. When I told her kids bullied me, she told me it was my fault because I was a selfish child who didn’t deserve to have any friends. I thought I was worthless and should just die from a very early age, which is why I tried to poison myself to death when I was 5. 

Later, in 5th grade my friend suggested I run away, but my mother had told me that little girls who run away get kidnapped and raped by strangers or cut into little pieces and put in dumpsters. My friend suggested I might want to consider suicide. 

To no surprise, when I was 13 I really did try to kill myself by cutting my wrists with a kitchen knife. My life may have been saved due to dull knives. 

At age 14, I started self injuring to cope with the emotional abuse. I was put into mental hospitals on 51/50 holds several times before they threatened to send me to long term residential care. Perhaps, in hindsight I should have just gone to long term, but I was really academically motivated and I didn’t want anything to stand between me and my GPA. I think despite the loneliness, bullying, and abusive home life the one thing I had that nobody could take away from me was how smart I was. Being smart has been my defining trait my entire life. 

When I was 18 and I got conned into an extremely abusive relationship. I didn’t want to believe I had been so stupid that I allowed myself to get into that kind of situation. I will never forget the day I called my friend on the phone and said, “I think I’m going to die here. He won’t let me leave.” When I first heard about human trafficking I didn’t make the connection. I continued thinking that I had just made bad life choices and I deserved the hard life I had. 

Today I don’t see things in that light.

I was 18 and I thought I could help this guy who was down on his luck, I thought I could cheer him up. He slowly unraveled a story so pathetic I couldn’t help but to feel so sorry for him. The sexual abuse he endured as a kid, the cheating ex wife who left him with a baby that wasn’t even his, and so on. He started cutting himself, telling me it was my fault and I needed to stay with him until he was better. He said he would kill himself if I didn’t sign papers in a courthouse to get married. So I did just that, married him and became the wife of a Marine, and shortly after, all my personal belongings were moved to Colorado where he lived. 

Later he squeezed my family for money, and when that was all dried up, he turned to using me in other ways, as entertainment or whoring me to his friend in exchange for favors. He talked about me like I wasn’t even in the room, I was just property.

Finally I told him I might be able to get more money from my family if I came home for a while to talk to them. He agreed to let me drive back to California as long as I slept at his mother’s house every night. The first day I didn’t stay at his mother’s house he used what was left of my credit card to fly himself to California to hunt me down. After he raped me, he drove me back to Colorado in my own car. On the 10 hour drive back I explained to him I was going to continue trying kill myself until I succeeded. 

Then he let me go. I don’t know why, but he let me drive off with whatever I could fit in my car. Back in California, I got a job cleaning houses, re-enrolled in school and got medical care. Just before my 19th birthday I found out I was pregnant with his child. My choice was this: I could legally have an abortion, but I could not legally put her up for adoption without “my husband’s” permission. When I called to see if he would allow for an adoption, after claiming I was a whore and it wasn’t his child he said, “I want you to suffer, with a baby keeping you awake all night, and never finish school.” 

As a single mom and student at 19 I struggled to finish my midterms after delivering her, I was breastfeeding while doing my Calculus 3 homework. I survived another abusive relationship, this time I ended up in the emergency room and the doctor said if he had cut me any deeper it would have hit my artery and I would have died. I transferred to university and I couldn’t stay awake at night to finish my homework. I started using cocaine at 21 years old to stay awake so I could finish everything I had to do in a day. When I started throwing up blood I knew I needed to get clean. I got clean for good at 22 years old in 2009. I did finish my bachelors degree in math 2 years later. 

After graduation, I struggled to find a good job. I was on welfare and pregnant again. I went to Craigslist to find a job stuffing envelopes at home or anything I could do at home while pregnant. I found a job I could work from home writing code for something called Salesforce. The following Christmas we were too poor to afford presents, or Christmas decorations. I made a vow to do whatever it takes to be able to provide for my kids. In 2013 I got hired at two Salesforce consulting companies, and from there I grew my career in Salesforce.

In 2016 I came out of the closet when I started dating Miranda Ragland, and in 2017 I started my company, ITequality. It’s been almost 3 years we have grown to more than 12 people.

This Christmas I can afford presents for my kids. 

I believe in you with reckless abandon. I believe in my employees, I believe in the at risk youth like myself. I believe we can change the world with compassion.  The profits from ITequality will go to fund a nonprofit tutoring cafe where queer kids, at risk kids, young adults looking for mentorship, can go to be safe, have a meal, and get the guidance they are looking for. I will not stop until there is a solution for kids like me. 

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