Susana Trimarco was honored on Sunday night for the rescue of hundreds of female sex slaves over the last decade by Argentine President Cristine Fernandez with a human rights award. The ceremony was held in front of thousands of people in the Plaza de Mayo.
Trimarco’s daughter, Maria de los Angeles “Marita” Veron, went missing in 2002 when she never came back from a doctor’s appointment. After getting little help from the police, Trimarco began her own personal investigation to find her 23-year-old daughter after a tip from a taxi driver that he delivered Veron to a brothel where she was beaten and forced into prostitution.
What started as a one woman campaign became a movement that made Trimarco a hero to hundreds of women and girls that she helped rescue from sex trafficking. Her movement prompted the State Department to provide seed money for a foundation in Veron’s name. The foundation has rescued over 900 women and girls to date.
“I live for this,” the 58-year-old Trimarco told The Associated Press of her ongoing quest. “I have no other life, and the truth is, it is a very sad, very grim life that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”
Veron left behind a three year old daughter, Micaela, who is now 13 years old and has been by her grandmother’s side through it all by contributing to publicity campaigns against human trafficking and keeping her mother’s legacy alive. With her husband and Micaela in tow, Trimarco disguised herself as a recruiter of prostitutes and searched countless brothels searching for clues.
“For the first time, I really understood what was happening to my daughter,” she said. “I was with my husband and with Micaela, asleep in the backseat of the car because she was still very small and I had no one to leave her with.”
Aside from the human rights award from President Fernandez, Trimarco was also awarded with the “Women of Courage” award by the U.S. State Department and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize on November 28.
Publicity over Trimarco’s efforts to find her daughter prompted Argentine Officials to make a high-profile example of her daughter’s case by putting 13 people on trial for the alleged kidnapping of Veron and holding her as a sex slave in a family-run operation of illegal brothels. A verdict is expected on Tuesday after a year long trial.