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Latino Daily News

Thursday October 20, 2011

Owner of Juarez Women’s Shelter Being Investigated for Abuse, Human Trafficking

Owner of Juarez Women’s Shelter Being Investigated for Abuse, Human Trafficking

Photo: Soledad Griensen Porras Being Investigated for Abuse, Human Trafficking

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

A battered women’s shelter in Mexico is at the center of a human trafficking, abuse, and forced prostitution investigation, where a woman thought to be “a charitable soul” has been accused of abusing the women of the shelter.

Soledad Griensen Porras, 55, is being accused of forcing a number of women into prostitution and holding them against their will at the Mujeres Unidas contra la Violencia (Women United Against Violence). Some even claim Griensen punished them by putting chile on their private parts.

Many in the community are shocked to hear these allegations, as Griensen is known to donate food and blankets to those in need, and is said to regularly fight for women’s rights.

However, according to police, while everything looked copacetic, the women say men routinely came to the shelter soliciting sex, for which Griensen requested payment. Others claim they were forced to pay her in order to leave the shelter.

When officers searched the shelter, they say they found pornographic material, though it is unclear what exactly was found.

ImageA neighbor who asked to remain anonymous told the El Paso Times she knew the community saw Griensen as the woman who gave the less fortunate groceries, blankets and toys, but she saw how Griensen was when in or around the shelter, which not only helps battered women, but is said to help those with substance abuse issues.

“I’m not going to tell you she was a nice person,” she told the Times. “Outside, she helped a lot, but she didn’t treat well the people inside.”

The unnamed neighbor said she once heard from one of the girls in the shelter that the place was “hell” and once had her hair shaved off for misbehaving.

But while this neighbor is not entirely surprised by the accusations against Griensen, others are having trouble believing them.

Irma Casas, director of the women’s rights organization Casa Amiga, said she was in the shelter about four months ago and did not see anything out that would lead her to believe anything sinister was going on.

Casas said the shelter was well kept and clean. Adding that a woman she had recently conversed with from the shelter did not report anything like what is being claimed.

However, Casas did suggest police look at all the shelters in the area to ensure nothing like this was happening elsewhere.

“This is a symptom of the little or null political and social intervention in this topic,” she said. “We should evaluate if in the case of Mrs. Griensen there had been an inspection of the spaces and who was in charge of them.”

So far, four of the five women who spoke to police have filed complaints against Griensen with state authorities.

Authorities say Griensen is currently being held and is facing human trafficking charges, and may face additional charges for threats, injuries, and deprivation of liberty.