Stroudsburg High School welcomes back survivor of sex trafficking

Ms. Sioni Rodriguez shares her incredible story with a new group of students

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Taha Vahanvaty

Seen above is the sex trafficking survivor that visited, Ms. Sioni Rodriguez.

By Taha Vahanvaty, Stroudsburg High School

Two years ago Ms. Sioni Rodriguez stepped into Stroudsburg High School’s auditorium to share her story as a survivor of sex trafficking. This February she stepped in once again to continue her story on her pain, her struggle, and her recovery.

“It was powerful,” said junior Thomas Mathiesen. “It’s something that every student definitely needs to hear.”

Rodriguez was first sold into sex trafficking by her mother when she was 9 years old. She was able to quickly escape and make her way back home. But when she walked back into her house and said, “Mama I’m home,” her mother only responded with anger that she had left the traffickers.

“I didn’t understand why my mother didn’t want me,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was again sold to traffickers by her mother a second time at the age of 13. She was not as lucky this time. For three years she was held captive against her will, until one day the brothel she was held in burned down. She took that opportunity to escape and made her way back home, once again entering her home by saying, “Mama I’m home.” However, her mother gave Rodriguez the same response as she had seven years earlier. “Why are you home?”

“Once again, I didn’t know why my mother didn’t want me,” Rodriguez said.

Shortly after, Rodriguez was sold for the third time by her mother at the age of 16. For the next four years, she was forced into the personal possession of a man against her will. When she reached the age of 21 she was flown to America with him, and while there he left her. She was free, but she was also completely alone.

“God is what got me through that time,” said Rodriguez. Although she was completely alone in a new country, Rodriguez was able to continue her life by scraping together a living through odd jobs and housekeeping.

“I’m never going back home,” Rodriguez said. “To me, America is my home.”

Dealing with all the stress and trauma from being a victim of sex trafficking has made Rodriguez develop trust issues.

“It took me two years to trust my current husband. It comes with the territory,” Rodriguez said. “When you go through what I go through it’s really hard to trust people.”

Rodriguez wishes that everyone would take notice of how severe sex trafficking is.

“Sex trafficking affects everyone regardless of race, creed, their nationality, their social status,” Rodriguez said. “It affects everyone.”

Rodriguez strongly believes that if people have concerns about something inappropriate or illegal happening around them, they should say something.

“You can never be too sure,” she said.

This story was originally published on Mountaineer on February 26, 2020.