BY CHARLOTTE CUTHBERTSON
Original Post: May 4, 2021
Updated: May 5, 2021
Sabrina Lopez, like many young teens in Holyoke, Massachusetts, hung out at the namesake mall. It was 2003.
She always noticed a large group of kids near an arcade and, as an insecure 13-year-old, wanted to be part of it. One boy in particular caught her attention, so when two girls in his group approached her and asked if she liked him, she said yes.
“And they were like, ‘Would you like me to put you on?’” Lopez recalled to The Epoch Times.
“And I said yes, because I thought that they were playing Cupid. I didn’t know that I just signed myself up to be exploited.”
Shortly afterward, the boy, 16, became Lopez’s boyfriend, and they developed a relationship over about eight months, until “it started to take a turn for the worse,” Lopez said.
She had started to go to his house instead of her best friend’s house for the weekend, and let her mother assume she was at the latter.
“My mother never had any problems with me and so she never questioned anything,” Lopez said. “I had so much trust. I was a Catholic school girl, I was an honor student, captain on my basketball team.”
Some things didn’t quite sit right—such as the number of young girls coming in and out of his house—but she’d been raised not to judge and allowed some red flags to slide. When she asked him about it, he said, “Oh, they’re just friends.”
Some time later, when she asked again, he struck her in front of his friends, and she was told, “When the fellows are talking, you are not to speak,” Lopez said.
“I didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t like I could call my mom because she didn’t know. I wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend. She didn’t know where I was,” she said.
“I didn’t know who I was intimidated by the most—him or my mom.”
The physical abuse continued, and that’s also when the sexual encounters began. Her boyfriend became her trafficker, pimping her out for money. He recorded her, which gave him explicit videos to threaten her with.
“My recordings would be used as blackmail, if I wasn’t cooperative or submissive,” Lopez said. “His mother, his sister, the stepfather, they were all a part of it—they knew what was going on.”
For more than 18 months, Lopez’s “shift” at the house started at 5 p.m. on a Friday.
Her behavior changed, but it was easy to dismiss as teenage angst.