How I endured nine months of sexual, physical abuse as a sex slave, woman narrates ordeal

176 views | Francis Azuka | April 1, 2021

A United States-based woman who overcame horrific childhood sexual abuse and being sold as a sex slave in Japan is set to become a record-breaking endurance athlete.

According to Metro, the 53-year-old Norma Bastidas says she was sold into the illegal sex industry as a teenager by human traffickers – after being promised her dream job as a model – and was made to work as an underground escort against her will.

Norma, who is from Mexico but now lives in Los Angeles, California, has recalled how she endured nine months of sexual and physical abuse as a sex slave in Tokyo – only to use her experience as inspiration to complete the world’s longest triathlon 30 years later.

According to the report, in 2014, she entered the record books after completing a 3,762 miles swim, run and cycle from Cancun, Mexico, to Washington DC, USA, a popular route used by human traffickers.

It was reported that she lured to Japan after a person claiming to be an agent approached her in her hometown of Culiacán, in Mexico, and told her they could help her make $1,000 a month as a model.

But her hopes of a ‘glamorous’ fresh start soon vanished when she touched down in Japan, in 1987. In her words, within days, Norma said she had her passport confiscated and was told that in order to earn her freedom, she had to pay off her ‘large debt’ by providing services to men.

Harping on the ordeal in an interview with Metro.co.uk, Norma said: ‘It was a friend that told me about this great opportunity to be a model and hostess in Tokyo.

‘It sounded great and I thought it was a glamorous opportunity to make good money. We didn’t have much and I thought I’d be able to use the money to help me study.

‘We had our photos taken for this agency and it all seemed fine, my family was excited for me. But we were exploited, we were conned into thinking it was a real opportunity. They completely took advantage of us. We were treated well when we arrived, nice hotels and car, but it didn’t last. They took our passports and told us they legally owned us.

‘I was told I had a debt to pay pay, they said I was an exotic dancer, an escort, and told me I was unable to leave. I was beaten and abused, it was an absolutely horrible time for me. I have a lot of gaps in my memory, it’s severe trauma.

‘I was forced to do things that were so dignifying that I don’t like to talk about them now, all I can say is it was terrible, terrible abuse.’

It was gathered that the deal never materialized, and even after she was set free by her captors, Norma said she was unable to leave Japan as she had no passport and no language skills.

Reports said it took her several years to find her escape route, which came when she met a Canadian-born man she fell in love with. Norma met her now ex-husband, who was a Canadian offshore consultant at the time, one evening in Japan in 1992, and the couple soon started dating. The pair got married within a year of meeting and quickly decided to move to Canada to start a new life together. The move marked an entirely new life for Norma to the one she grew up with.

The record breaking woman claimed that like her teenage years, her childhood was also plighted by sexual abuse, first by her grandfather, who she says raped her at the age of eleven, and later by cartel gangs who would snatch her off the streets and sexually assault her.

She noted that her upbringing in Mexico was ‘horrific’ in parts mainly due to where they lived, Culiacán, a strong-hold for the notorious Sinaloa Cartel.

‘Things were very difficult for us, my childhood was very hard’, said Norma, who has been living in Canada with her eldest son, Karl, throughout the pandemic.

She added: ‘My father died when I was 11 and I was raped by my grandfather, someone who was supposed to care for me. It was hard for me to understand what was happening at the time. The cartels were everywhere in our town, I was regularly picked up by trucks and just abused, all the time. That was the reality for people like me in my town. There would be several men at a time, they kissed me and groped me and told me how pretty I was, it was sexual harassment.’

Norma, who is the youngest of five children, also described how she was ‘kidnapped and raped’ in Mexico City, at the age of 17, while she was in the capital to study.

Delineating on her ordeals, she said her experiences growing up and in Japan left her with severe PTSD, a form of trauma she spent years trying to find a tonic for.

Norma said she discovered her way of coping when she was at her lowest, in 2006, at a time when she had lost her job, was a single mother to two children and was still reeling from her experiences with sexual abuse.

She went on a run to clear her head and has never stopped. In the 15 years that have followed has not only conquered some of the world’s toughest running races, she also entered the record books 2014 after completing the world’s longest ever triathlon to raise awareness of human trafficking issues. The mammoth challenge saw Norma swim, run and cycle a combined 3,762 miles from Cancun, Mexico, to Washington DC, USA, a popular route used by human traffickers. She completed the stunning challenge in just 65 days – smashing the previous world record.

Also, she became the first woman ever to complete seven ultra-marathons, in seven months, in all seven continents during 2008. She says her love of running gave her the chance to take control of her life and the opportunity to prove to herself exactly just what she is capable of.

‘I didn’t discover running until the age of 40, but when I did it gave me something to focus on. I completely fell in love with running. By the time I took on the world record I decided I wanted to do something to raise awareness of human trafficking and to change perceptions of people like me. It felt very empowering. Running helps me deal with the grief and suffering I endured. It’s not a cure, I will always suffer from my past but I run to keep my mind healthy. It’s my safe place,’ she said.

 

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