Human trafficking survivor shares heartbreaking story, lessons learned

LAS VEGAS, NV — In 1994, Sarah Balabagan’s story made headlines all over the world, when this overseas Filipino worker stabbed her employer 34 times.

She was only 14 when she began working abroad. Her recruiter faked her age as 28 and got a job for her. As a domestic helper for a 67-year old widower with four sons at the United Arab Emirates.

Balabagan alleged that she became the subject of unsolicited sexual advances by her employer. She stabbed him to death, saying he tried to rape her — and that she was acting in self-defense.

She was initially sentenced to death. But her sentence was reduced to a year’s imprisonment and 100 strokes of the cane, along with payment of blood money — which was paid by a Filipino businessman.

Balabagan called the caning “unbearable”.

She returned to the Philippines in 1996 to a hero’s welcome.

Three decades later, Sarah Balabagan Sereno is now living a new life here in Las Vegas.

This former Muslim is now a devout Christian, a mother of five and an advocate for fellow victims and survivors of human trafficking.

She may be in a better place now, but she remembers how she found the strength to live during the darkest moments of her life.

“Not only I was fighting for my life, not only I am fighting for my honor as a woman, but I’m fighting for my family. At that moment I need to survive,” Balabagan says.

She said no matter your stature in life – for as long as you know you have the truth on your side, you should keep fighting.

“Napaka imprtante yung paninindigan mo, if you know its right fight for it. At wag kang matakot, God is with you.”

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