Hello, my name is Vivian. I am a college student currently volunteering at a women’s shelter in Mexico City called Casa De Las Mercedes.
Having read and seen so much online about the sexual and physical abuse so many young women go through, I decided to come see for myself. Reading stories and watching videos online is completely different than actually meeting these women in person. The girls and young women that I have met at Casa De Las Mercedes have been through so much. Assault, abuse, sex trafficking, domestic violence, I’ve heard them all. And it really hit me that sometimes we forget how fortunate we really are, especially in comparison to other countries around the world. There are millions of young girls who have experienced some sort of violent sexual act, but it is a conversation that many of us avoid and a lot of their stories are never heard.
But this needs to change.
Since my stay here in Mexico, I have teamed up with Current Solutions , an online platform that shares stories of sexual assault and intimate partner violence survivors, and AIESEC, the largest student-run non-profit in the world. We are determined to help spread this conversation. We want to share the stories of these brave girls and showcase their strength and courage because we believe that, through small actions, we can help change their lives.
We believe EVERY person has the right to have their voice heard – regardless of race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, or financial status. We want these girls’ voices to be heard, and we need your help.
Together we are raising money for these women at Casa De Las Mercedes to help turn their lives around. 100% of the profits raised will go to education and improving the girls living conditions -- to help them learn, get back on their feet, and to become self-sustaining. The girls and women here will finally have the opportunity to grow up free despite what they have gone through.
From my experience over the past three weeks, the girls here are crazy, and to me that is the most beautiful thing because they’re so comfortable here. They’re allowed to be free and rebel and make their own mistakes. The girls are given a family where they can fight, cry, laugh, and love together. That’s the most beautiful part about this place; it's more than just a shelter. It’s a refuge for girls and women to heal from their traumatic experiences. The girls grow up empowered. Independent women thrive while living at Casa De Las Mercedes. I have never met more kind and genuine women in my entire life.
I have learned Casa De Las Mercedes’ director’s definition of empathy: to truly place yourself in someone else's shoes and try to understand where they are coming from. I will truly never understand the experiences these women have gone through, but because of the dedicated hard work of Casa De Las Mercedes -- I know that each and every girl and woman here will achieve their dreams.
In my three weeks here thus far, I want to share that I did not find any broken women, but rather strong, kind, and extremely loving human beings. Living and working with these girls every day has been such a privilege. They have not only welcomed me into their homes, but also shared their curiosity with me. These women and girls have overcome their circumstances and have created a beautiful support system of sisterhood and love.
On behalf of Casa De Las Mercedes, Current Solutions , and AIESEC, I would like to thank you all for your help, love, and support. Our goal is to raise $10,000 in one week, and your contribution of $1 (or more) will make the difference between achieving that goal or not. We hope with your help, we can help spread their message and protect that sense of independence and freedom as they venture out into the world beyond Casa De Las Mercedes.
Please check out our website for more stories:
We have launched a Facebook page for everyone to follow Vivian’s journey:
(1/3) She arrived here on the 19th of May, and she came here having seen and been through things that no one should ever have to suffer through. She has never met her father, and her mother abandoned her when she was less than two years old. So she went to live in the home of a woman who lived nearby, who served as her ‘tia’ (aunt), until she was nine. The woman who took care of her, including nine other children, was poisoned and killed; and her youngest son sexually abused her. After her tia died, the oldest daughter took care of her for another three years until she was thirteen. But the sexual abuse continued – this time at the hands of her godfather. So she ran away and reported him to the police. They arrested him for rape of a minor, although to this day he still denies the allegations. And after analyzing the situation, the police sent her here to Casa de Las Mercedes. And she has been very happy here; she has gotten psychological help and been given the chance to tell her story, and she is about to start school again. She is thankful to have a roof over her head and to have found a new family in the other girls that live here. She tries not to look back on her past; but she misses her brother dearly and wants to be reunited with him after years apart. She has been very optimistic through all the hardship. She believes that, if she tries hard enough, she can become a psychologist someday. And though she believes she will never forget what happened to her, she thinks she can leave it behind and move on towards a brighter and better future.
(2/3) She came to La Casa de Las Mercedes about two months ago because she was mistreated by her family. Her mother and father beat her badly, and her mom kicked her out of the house. So she went to live with her father because her parents were separated; but her father still abused her, and he along with her stepmother sent her to us. She struggled with depression when she first arrived. She tried to get in touch with her mother again, but was told that she never wanted to see her ever again. She started cutting herself and hurting herself, but through therapy sessions, she has begun to recover and take steps toward a new life and a bright future. She wants to become a psychologist someday by finishing her studies at the university. She wants to be independent and eventually have her own apartment. And she thinks that it can happen with Casa de Las Mercedes. She sees these girls as her family – they’re her support system, and they comfort her when she’s feeling down. Although she’s doing better, it’s still not easy; there are still times when she is heartbroken and misses her family. Pero ella es optimista sobre su futuro. (But she is optimistic about her future.) And she looks forward to the life that she plans to create for herself.
(3/3) She has been here for two months now, after being physically abused and raped by her father growing up. He used to step on her face and beat her with the pole from their shower curtain. So she escaped one day and met a boy on the streets who was sympathetic to her situation and took her to ‘Teatrito Blanco’ – a small house in the city where homeless people could stay. It was there that she met a man who worked for ‘Independencia de las Calles,’ who ultimately sent her to La Casa de Las Mercedes. She has been extremely thankful to live in this house because it has helped her through psychological problems stemming from her traumatic childhood. She has a full-ride scholarship and has the support necessary to finish her education. And she is happy to be away from her parents. She doesn’t always get along with the other girls very well, and doesn’t feel like she’s with family quite yet at La Casa. But she remembers a phrase she has heard often: ‘You don’t get to choose your relatives, but you get to choose and make your family.’ So she has hope that, in time, she will come into her own here at La Casa. She’s studying to finish her education, and she eventually wants to be either a writer, marine biologist or psychologist someday. She has been through a lot. Siempre ha peleado por ser libre e independiente y hora que lo es, nada ni nadie la detendrá. (But she has always fought to be free, and now that she is, there’s no stopping her.)
- Marieke Bayens
- Will Hirsch
- Elena Aker