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She is not quite sure of her age, but authorities estimate it between 24 and 28. She has some memories of her childhood in native Guinea, but not many; she was shipped off to the United States when she was a small child.

What DD does remember are the long hours of work she was forced to perform for a family in the wealthy Dallas suburb of South lake, Texas. Her days consisted of cooking, cleaning, and caring for five children, at least one of whom is older than she.She slaved away 12-16 hours a day, seven days a week, without pay. She wore dirty clothing and always seemed overly thin. DD did not attend school;she did not receive medical care.She was not allowed to play with neighborhood kids and never participated in normal childhood activities.

DD was a victim of human trafficking.

As a small child, DD’s father gave her to Denise Cros-Toure’s father in exchange for goods. In turn, Cros-Toure’s father gave DD to his daughter and her husband, Mohamed Toure. The Guinean couple moved to the United States in the mid-1990s. According to court documents, DD flew by herself from Guinea to the United Statesin January 2000where she met Toure for the first time. He brought her to his family home, where, for the next 16 years, she served the Toure family.

While the affluent Toures–who are members of a powerful and politically connected family in Guinea –prospered in Texas, behind the scenes, they were mentally and physically abusing DD.

DD endured the torture until August 2016 when, with the help of concerned neighbors, she escaped. The neighbors were unsure howto support DD, and reached out to YMCA International Services. From there, the YMCA alerted authorities and the case was referred to the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Houston Field Office.

DSS Special Agent Kate Langston, lead investigator for the case, said that it was clear from the beginning that DD was a victim of forced labor. However, human trafficking cases often are difficult to prove in court and this one had many additional challenges.As an example, Langston noted that most of the Toures’ neighbors acknowledged there was something off, but they did not know what.

“Everyone saw something, they just didn’t know what they were seeing,” said Langston. “Since DD wasn’t shackled and chained up inside the house, they thought she was okay.”

During the course of the investigation, Langston uncovered details of the abuse. According to court documents, Cros-Toure “choked the victim on multiple occasions, pulled her hair, and whipped her with an electrical cord after realizing that the belt she had been using was no longer causing her sufficient pain. The couple mentally abused DD by calling her a “dog,” “slave,” “worthless,” and an “idiot.” They kicked her out of their house several times, forcing her to sleep on a bench in a nearby park. When this happened in the winter, DD kept warm using a public restroom hand dryer.

It was after one of these instances that DD finally found the courage to leave. When DD returned to the Toure household from the park, she secretly recorded Cros-Toure verbally abusing her, telling DD she hoped DD got raped in the park, and that she was worthless and ungrateful. DD wanted to return to Guinea, but Cros-Toure said they would never spend any money on her.

Although extremely depressed, DD found hope in a message and phone number left for her years ago by a concerned neighbor. DD reached out to the neighbor who, with the help of a few friends, coordinated a plan to get DD out of the Toure house.

“At this point, none of her rescuers knew what to do with DD,” said Langston. “She has no legal documents, she never went to school, and she has no contacts in the United States.”

At trial, the defendants argued that DD was happy, did all the chores and took care of the children because she enjoyed it. They said that she would have been worse off in Guinea, where she would have been married off early and would have lived in poverty.The defense argued that the situation could not have been bad because no one ever called the police or showed concern.

U.S. attorneys, however, brought forward multiple witnesses to counter the fabricated stories. DSS Special Agent Stephen Zagami, the former regional security officer at the U.S. Embassy in Conakry, Guinea, tracked down DD’s mother, who corroborated her story. DSS was able to fly DD’s mother to Texas to testify at trial.

The evidence was overwhelming and on Apr. 22, 2019, Toure and Cros-Toure were each sentenced to seven years in prison for forced labor and related offenses. The couple was also ordered to pay more than $288,000 in restitution to DD.

As for DD, she is receiving counseling and working towards her GED.

 

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future