This article contains adult content and depiction of sexual violence. This interview was not secured through Craigslist. At Joanna’s request, some details have been omitted or changed.
Joanna, now in her 30s
I was born in a small town in a small country in Europe. My parents are farmers with no education, and my siblings and I were also raised to work the land. We lived a very self sufficient and isolated life; we didn’t have television, and I seldom came into contact with people whom I hadn’t known my whole life. Because I didn’t go to school, I could not read or write.
The summer I turned 18, I met someone who claimed to be from a nearby big city. My brother introduced him to me; they had worked together briefly. Almost immediately, he told me that he wanted to marry me, and that he would come to ask my parents’ permission. In the meantime, we saw each other secretly.
He made a lot of promises—he told me that he had a job lined up overseas and that he would take good care of me and my family, and eventually take me to live with him there. He told me that he’d help me go to school so that I could learn to read and write, and get a job as well. He promised that I would get to know a different life—that we would travel and go to good restaurants. I believed him. He spoke so differently from everyone around me, and it felt like he already knew so much about the world. I fell in love with him. When he forced himself on me, I didn’t know anything—so I let him do what he wanted. I didn’t even know I was pregnant until I told one of my friends what had happened.
I kept my pregnancy a secret from my family and he and I continued to see each other. A couple of months into our relationship, he told me that he had to leave the country so that he could go and get my documents ready and the three of us (with baby) could live together abroad. He disappeared for months and at that point, rumors had started spreading. People warned my parents about him; my friend told my mom that I was pregnant with his baby. People were saying that he would take me abroad and sell me. They had heard stories of this happening to other young women. I didn’t believe that he was capable of doing something like that—I don’t blame myself for how naive I was; I had no way of knowing.
When he came back, I felt vindicated. My parents put up a fight and reported him to the police but I wasn’t listening. I went with him and we were easily allowed out of the country. Abroad, we stayed with some of his relatives. He told me it was temporary, until we could get our own place. He was seldom around, and I started catching glimpses of things that unsettled me.
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