Immigrants to the United States often dream of embracing the American Dream; Famatta Massalay's immigration experience was a full on nightmare, however.
With a civil war brewing in her home country of Liberia, Massalay's parents sent her to New York City when she was eight-years-old. Her parents had been promised Massalay would be able to continue her education there; instead, she was immediately enslaved.
For six years, Massalay cooked and cleaned for strangers around New York. She told the New York Post she suffered being beaten, years of using a bathtub as a bed and being raped during her time as a slave. Her name was taken from her, and she was given the new name Musu Doherty.
During this time, she only had one interaction with her family — a tearful phone call with her father, who promised to do what he could to get her back home. However, that day never came.
“I remember spending hours and days crying, just praying, ‘God, come get me. When are you going to come get me?’" Massalay said.
After spending years bouncing from house to house, Massalay says she was raped by her neighbor. She gave birth on her 14th birthday, and credits her daughter, Christina, with helping her escape. Not wanting her child to face the same difficulties she had, the teenage immigrant ran away from her owners and entered the foster system.
“I always tell Christina, ‘You saved my life because, by you being born, that forced me to stand up for you," Massalay said. "'I didn’t even know how to stand up for myself, but I knew that I wasn’t going to allow the life that I had to be your life.'”
Now 48-years-old, Massalay is a substance abuse counselor and history/English teacher at the Academy for College Preparation and Career Exploration in Brooklyn.
In 2013, Massalay went back home to Liberia for the first time to visit her parents' graves. While there, she found some sort of peace. She started a nonprofit, The Jacob and Selena Project, in their memory to educate Liberian parents about trafficking.
According to the Global Slavery Index, at least 40 million people are currently enslaved around the world.
Massalay says she's speaking out in order to bring awareness to the issue.
“There were a lot of losses," she said. "My parents lost me. I lost them. I lost my innocence, my family was ripped apart."
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