New American Story Project

story

They Followed Me Home

Valeria, 16
El Salvador
NOTE: All the children’s names have been changed to protect their identities. NASP stories about children are not matched with their portraits.

I was on my way to school and some guys began to follow me. I was 15 at the time. When I got home later that day they told me that the head of their gang liked me. From then on they followed me… I was afraid.

One day they came and told me that if I didn’t get together with the guy who liked me they would do something to me or my brother. So my brother told me we needed to leave our town. We went to San Salvador. At that point, I wanted to leave the country. I knew they’d be able to find me and hurt me. I just wanted to be with my mom since I hadn’t seen her for eleven years. My dad abandoned me when I was a year old. It was hard to be without anyone who wanted me.

I don’t know how gang members can do something like this. We should all treat each other the same; we live in the same country. They shouldn’t treat people they don’t know badly.

Here in the U.S., they should give us a chance because they don’t know what can happen to us there. Some girls are raped or they don’t make it to the North and get the chance to know what it’s like to feel protected. Where they don’t worry that one day when they go out that they are going to be killed or kidnapped, that some harm will come to them. For women it’s difficult, they sell women and force them into prostitution and kill and rape. You hear so many cases in the news where they torture and kill them. Men are afraid too. But these people treat women worse so it’s worse for women.

Credit: Ed Ntiri

It is hard for anyone to live in El Salvador. Where my sister lives they’ve started killing a lot of people, people who have lived in that neighborhood for years who aren’t involved with anyone or in anything. They come and kill people… everyone is afraid. People are afraid to even go buy groceries, but they need food; they worry if they leave the house something will happen.

I don’t know why they kill. No one understands why. All of the neighborhoods are divided into two or more classes of gangs. Sometimes they’ll encounter each other in the street and begin to fight and they don’t care who they kill. I don’t know why the president or someone, the police, can’t help us. Instead of helping, they hurt us. The police help the gangs or they’re afraid to confront them. So it’s so much harder because we don’t have anyone to go to for help. If you go to the police you fear that they will inform the gangs and then they’ll murder you.

NOTE: All the children’s names have been changed to protect their identities. NASP stories about children are not matched with their portraits.

NOTE: All the children’s names have been changed to protect their identities. NASP stories about children are not matched with their portraits.

Credits

Micheline Aharonian Marcom, Interviewer

http://www.michelinemarcom.com/

Ed Ntiri, Photographer

http://www.ntirie.com/

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