16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Slave Across the Street: The harrowing true story of how a 15-year-old girl became a sex slave (Paperback)
Like other reviewers of this book, I found it very hard to believe it. The author starts off with a picture of an almost impossibly buccolic childhood, telling us how she rolled in the hay with beagle puppies and grew up with a strong sense of right and wrong, how she sat next to Senators and held conversations with Cardinals, and was always taught to speak up for other people. How come, then, she meekly accepted that she had to become a sex slave to 'earn' back the pictures? She goes on about having a posse of Uncles who always looked after her - why couldn't she turn to them? And is it really believable that a girl of fifteen would get into a strange man's car and accept a ride home, then walk up to his bedroom with him and sit on his bed - and STILL be naive enough to think nothing is going to happen? How did the photos get taken without her noticing, and why does Daniel work in the school store if he lives in a fabulously wealthy home? If she can never earn the photos back, why does she keep answering the telephone to these men? Why do her parents, when she is brought home by a cop and covered in bloodstains, not try to find out what happened but her Mum immediately says her daughter has been out "whorin' around". That comment makes me think her parents must have known why she was answering those late night calls - could she really have sneaked out every night and come back covered in bruises without them noticing a thing? Why does her mother immediately think she's been up to no good with men?
The author states that nobody asks her what was wrong, in two years of her becoming more withdrawn and her grades falling. Are we really expected to believe that no-one - not her parents or a teacher - once asked her what was wrong? American high schools are involved in all parts of a student's life - there must have been someone, whether a teacher or one of her Uncles she could have confided in. She states she was afraid of tarnishing her family's reputation and risking her Dad's job - would he really be sacked because someone had found out his daughter had had sex? It would have blown over very quickly. Yet her parents supposedly know nothing for two years - they see her brought home by the police, covered in bloodstains, yet they don't ask her what happened or if she needs medical attention! She constantly states that she's pretty with 'creamy white skin', and seems to think that just because she was always "flanked by two Chaldeans" that should have raised alarms for her teachers. Why? Is it illegal to be friends with Arab boys - she was already helping two other Chaldean boys with their school-work, so why should two more raise any alarms in the teachers' mind? Yet we constantly hear how pretty she was, just a good ol' girl from the American suburbs, who was on call to a group of Arab men for two years, but her parents never once asked her where she'd been at night. She left the back door open every night so she could get back in - as she states she lived in a big house, how come they were not robbed?
Later in the book, the author tells us that her brother Patrick knew all about her secret life as a sex slave. Why did he not try to help her, as the book states they were very close? Why did he let it carry on? The Arabs - who have names like Jonathan, Daniel, Nick (very Arabic) - are said to have led her past piles of money and guns, and the author states they are a Chaldean mafia. If that was the case and given what she had seen and heard, would they really just get bored with her and let her go? Do the mafia just let a sex slave get in the car one day and drive out of town? The author states that she was aware another girl was now going through the same as what she had, but she makes little effort to stop this from happening, even though she believes in what is right and wrong, and in speaking up for those less fortunate than yourself. She mentions later on that the girl has gone missing, but she does not go to the police to help find her.
The part where God speaks to the author was just incredulous. She speaks to God and he talks back to her, telling her to go on the road and share her story with the world. This from a woman who was terrified of her family finding out anything?
If you ask me, this author has realised there is money to be made in the abuse story books. Why was Nick at school if he was running a highly successful business? How come Jonathan, the mafia leader, allowed her to choose whether she became his personal concubine? Why did the Chaldeans not come and find her after she moved, to ensure her silence? how come she was able to go straight back to being a normal teenager after she moved and the abuse ended?
Let's look at the bare facts here - almost all human trafficking stories tell of a vulnerable woman being kidnapped and forced to live as some kind of slave. During her supposed trafficking, Flores was allowed to return home every night, where she could have told her parents or the cops for all the supposd 'Chaldean mafia' knew, she obviously didn't mind missing their calls on nights when she went to the party with Jim, or when she worked in a fast food joint. Victims of huiman trafficking are not left to live like that. They are kidnapped, brutalized, and sadly some are killed when their ordeal is over. They are not going to high school every day and parties at night.
More bare facts. Human traffickers do not take girls from affluent backgrounds whose absence would be missed (did Flores' parents never come into her bedroom even once and notice she was missing?) - girls who could at any time tell their parents or the cops or a teacher? They do not let sex slaves go to high school, or parties, or on holiday. Human traffickers take the most vulnerable members of society - prostitutes, illegal immigrants, girls with learning disabilities - who it is easy to entrap and who aren't immediately missed. Who, if they don't come home on time, no-one immediately thinks the worst has happened to them. Using Flores and letting her continue her normal life at the same time would just be too risky - and why bother setting up the elaborate 'trap' of the pictures/blackmail when they could have picked up a prostitute without any of that hassle? If you read Josefina Rivera's book you will see why such men pick vulnerable girls as their prey, not high-school students from wealthy backgrounds. As the Chaldeans supposedly knew where Flores' father worked, and thought it an influential enough position for her to worry about his boss seeing the pictures, would they really think it risky enough to use his daughter as a sex slave??
Josefina Rivera was held captive as a sex slave for four months. She was not allowed home every night, allowed to go to parties or allowed to work in a fast food joint or go on holiday, all things Flores was allowed to do during her time as a suuposed sex slave. After she escaped, Rivera endured twenty years of flash-backs, terrifying nightmares, anxiety and depression, and nothing could assuage her pain and mental anguish except drugs. She did not immediately go back to living a normal life, as Flores claims she did - Rivera could find no peace anywhere and could not bear to be touched by another man. Flores suffered none of this - her book describes, instead, how once the abuse stopped, she became a 'normal teengaer' again and even started flirting with boys. Rivera nearly was almost suicidal with the memories of what she'd been through, and even 20 years later she feels she can never be 'normal' again.
Rivera had the chance to escape and save herself, but she ignored this and instead waited until she had the chance to escape and also save the lives of the other girls being held with her in the basement. They were chained up, raped, had their eardrums danaged (by their captor so they could not hear his comings and goings), and were subjected to horrific torture and sexual abuse. They did not go home every night to a big house, or go off on holiday when it suited them - they were HELD CAPTIVE.
Rivera risked her life to save the other women - Flores barely mentions the next girl the Chaldeans supposedly started trafficking - remember the girl with the "plain face"? - and Flores does not mention any action she might take to stop the Chaldeans forcing other girls into sex slavery in the future. She claims she will not name (their surname) the Chaldeans as they have not been arrested. So what? Surely she wants the police to know that other girls could be at risk, to find them before they meet possibly an even worse fate than she did? Doesn't she want Jane to be found and given help? Surely if this supposed Chaldean mafia had really had all the drugs and money and guns she claims she saw, the police would have acted on that and have arrested the Chaldeans by now??
When Rivera and the other girls escaped from the basement they were being held in, the press arrived in swarms - hundreds of reporters, press helicopters etc crowded to get a glimpse of the victims and to ask them questions. The press found out the hotel where the victims were staying and laid siege to it to get pictures of the girls. However, none of this happened with Flores. I haven't been able to find one newspaper report on the Internet from the time Flores' book was published, to show that such a press siege befell the woman who claimed she was used as a sex slave by a Chaldean mafia. Despite the fact that America and Iraq are enemies, there wasn't even a sniff of such press interest on the publication of Flores' book. No reporters clamouring for a quote, no photographers desperate for a picture of the woman who survived the Iraqi mafia, no press helicopters whirring overhead, and no need for police protection for Flores. Rivera was taken very quickly to the Attorney General to help build the case against the guy who held her captive - and he was just one man, not a whole mafia complete with drugs and guns, as Flores claims! The Attorney General did not call in Flores to discuss how this mafia could be brought to justice. Yet Flores claims they were using underage girls as sex slaves and into all kinds of activities that the police would surely go all out to bring down???? So why wasn't Flores' story taken as seriously as Rivera's?
Josefina Rivera gives the reader all the detail they could need to satisfy them that her story is real. There's place names, house numbers, names and surnames of those involved, so if they wanted to, anyone could check these details out and find out that what she said happened did happen. Rivera doesn't seek to portray herself constantly as a 'pretty' good ol' American girl, she admits that the life she was leading led her into the hands of the man who held her as a sex slave. Not that she is at any point to blame for what happened to her - the man who kidnapped her was a sick individual who ended up getting the death penalty. Flores' book is very vague on any places, dates, people's names, and other readers have brought up the point that some of the places she describes in the book aren't actually where she said they are or are called something different. I just can't understand why Flores would want to protect this so-called mafia. Supposedly they threatened to kill her if she talked, but then she moved away with her family and nobody came after her and no further threates were issued. She's made a career out of telling this story - and a very public career - and no member of this Chaldean mafia has attempted to silence her. So why continue to protect them, to not name them? Why is she so reluuctant to help the other girls that they could be using as sex slaves? These days Flores claims publicly that by speaking out about her story, she wants to save other girls from being trafficked. But where is the evidence of this - what is she doing to bring down this supposed Chaldean mafia and save the other girls - including her old friend - from them? How could she just get into that removal van and drive to another state, knowing that someone else was undergoing what she went through? Surely it would be worth going to the cops - and suffering a brief period of humiliation - to save another girl's life????
How likely is it that a Chaldean mafia operated at that point in time? Especially one the size Flores claims - there must have been hundreds of Chaldean men in that mafia, by Flores' claims. Firstly, were there really hundreds of Chaldean men in that area of America at the time? Add to the number of men, the number of their wives and children, and you have a very sizeable group. Yet in her book, Flores claims that the Chaldeans she knew were a small, private group. So would all these Chaldean men be into raping teenage girls? Supposedly not one of them had any scruples, any conscience enough to say 'stop that, it's wrong'? They all enjoyed raping an unwilling girl? Surely such a large group of Iraqi men congregating at that time would have drawn the suspicions of the police? This was at a time when America was getting ready for war with Iraq over Kuwait, so American sensibilities towards Iraq were heightened. Yet nobody became at all suspicious of a huge group of Iraqi men meeting at each other's houses? Where were all these men when Flores went to Church and only saw a small group of Chaldeans there? Flores seems to tar every Chaldean / Arab man with the same brush - they were all rapists, all nasty people, none of them had any saving graces. I'm afraid that just doesn't wash. Maybe she came across one or two bad apples, but hundreds??? We need to get real here.
Towards the end of the book, the author claims she attempted suicide. However, when you read that bit, you notice that she didn't actually try. She claims she attempted suicide, but all she did was lie on the bathroom floor and wait for her family to arrive (having first phoned them and dramatically told them she was ending her life, so assuring they'd come to her aid). She didn't take pills or cut her wrists or self-harm in any way. She just lay on the bathroom floor and waited for her family to arrive to witness her latest drama. It's interesting that her parents don't believe her story at all. If she was serious about suicide, she would have made an attempt without contacting anyone - but no, it was just another cry for attention. This woman obviously thrives on attention.
Sorry, but this tale was too unbelievable to me, and smacks of someone wanting to make us believe something when too many questions arise.