Traditionally sex trafficking tends to happen on the front lines of the red light district in Tijuana, but in the past decade, the use of the internet has made children in Mexico more susceptible to exploitation.
“I had met someone through facebook and that person treated me very well and spoke to me very nicely, and it got to the point where I fell in love with him,” Alice said, a survivor of sex trafficking.
“Yeah its definitely more frequent now that they use internet, they use the popular social media, to engage vulnerable people, in that way they don’t identify where that predator is,” Alma Tucker said, the founder of La Casa Del Jardin.
Alma Tucker works with local officials on both sides of the border to rescue children who have become victims of sexual abuse, pornography, sex trafficking, and human trafficking.
“He started to do more things with more people and he finally got it about two times, threesums and that’s how he started to get me into all of that and after he made it clear that he wanted money, he prostituted me he's the one that got the people and they would go to my house,” Alice said.
La Casa Del Jardin or The Garden House was the first home shelter in Tijuana to provide services for survivors like Alice.
“We model it as truly a home and family for these kids, i like to say that i’m proud to be like their older bro and my parents are like their parents a lot of them unfortunately were in cases where their parents were the ones that sold them into slavery,” Larry Tucker said, the co-founder of La Casa Del Jardin.
“The abuse started when I was 4 years old, my dad was an alcoholic, so then he started to in a way abuse me. I figured this was something right especially because it was coming from someone that I loved so much, who was my father, I didn't think he was causing me harm, I thought it was my fault that I had started this,” Lucy said, a survivor of human trafficking and sexual abuse.
Child sex tourism remains a problem and continues to effect survivors like Lucy, who found it hard to escape.
Where some of the children of La Casa Del Jardin come from.
Sex trafficking is San Diego’s second largest underground economy, the San Ysidro port of entry is one way that exploiters traffic victims across borders.
“Don't wait until you feel like you're drowning or you want to die,” Lucy said.
It is that drowning feeling that the garden house is trying to provide a family for.
“It’s truly a place for these kid to identify as a home for them to identify a family for them which is really important and to be surrounded by people who love them, who care about them and every single day we are working to empowering them and giving them as many opportunities as we possibly can,” said Larry Tucker.
It is days like this that build trust for the survivors.
"“Basically today I brought a group of friends down, like I do on a lot of Saturdays and just to spend time with them” Larry said. “The fact that these people have taken the time out of their day to come spend it with them and play with them and be here with them is always what means the most to them.”
Volunteers like Marshal Gillen give a sense of hope to the children at The Garden House, but it is also days like these that impact everyone.
“I came here that day with one of the worst business days of my life and only a few hours later I was pushing a kid down a swing and as these little boys were just squealing with joy. I just took a minute and I thought back to 10 year old me and I was like, I would have given anything for a male figure to just show up and just push me on a swing and it was in that moment, the sun was on my face, the wind was just blowing across, and I just thought wow, how dare me how dare I worry about a seize and desist order when I have the ability to come down here to trade time and energy like I had always wanted and needed as a kid,” Marshal Gillen said, a volunteer.
"“Sometimes they question, how do they care for me when when my own family didn't care for me,” Alma Tucker said.
“I came to realize that I was a victim that what happened to me was not appropriate to my age and that its not okay for it to happen to anyone here,” Alice said.
“Now it's not difficult to live, I live comfortably and I know there's people that love me and I have a family. Before I thought I only had one person, but God has given me a wonderful family,” Lucy said.
“That’s what we do with every child that comes through this house we treat them like our own child, like a flower. That’s why the name La Casa Del Jardin," Alma Tucker said.