A young woman has recalled the terrifying moment she thought she was about to be sex trafficked, while travelling in Europe.
Heather Bailer took to Facebook at the end of last month to share the harrowing events that took place in one of Barcelona’s unmarked “taxis” – in a bid to warn other young people of the hidden dangers involved in travelling alone.
Facebook Heather Bailer wants to warn other young women about the risks when travelling alone
“Now that I’m back from Europe I feel compelled to share a story about something very scary that could have happened to me, in hopes that my fellow ladies who like to travel can keep some of these things in mind while travelling abroad,” wrote Heather.
“Firstly, in any situation with the risk of sex-trafficking from airports, we hear about it in a way that is distant to us, but trust me when I tell you this situation could happen to anyone.
“It’s an unfortunate reality that women need to keep their guards up while travelling or taking taxis/Uber alone ever, but it’s critical that we be on high-alert when we are alone or in small groups of exclusively females.”
Heather continued to describe what happened after she arrived at Barcelona airport earlier this year. She explained that after studying abroad last summer, she’s pretty familiar with the town and did not have any apprehensions about catching a taxi alone.
“When I was in Barcelona last summer, I took a ton of taxis (they didn’t have Uber then and I didn’t think to check if they had it at this point) and some of them are typical yellow and black taxis and the other half are normal unmarked cars,” explained Heather.
“I feel as if our generation is a bit desensitized to getting in unmarked cars because of Uber, though this wasn’t an Uber.
“There were a group of guys asking people if they needed taxi standing by the escalator, speaking perfect English, and I said yes I needed a taxi and went to where there were a line of cars, unmarked cars with drivers in them but seeming perfectly legit as taxis, right when you got downstairs.
“People were getting in these cars around me and the guy I met initially, led me to a car with a driver who was a 65 year old looking guy, looked really nice, and he put my bags in the back and I got in.”
Heather goes on to recall the moment she first felt something wasn’t right, after the driver immediately locked the door and was joined by the man who had initially led her to the vehicle.
“RIGHT as I got in, the first guy got into the passenger seat of the car, the older man locked the doors to where the lock disappeared completely and wasn’t able for me to unlock, and they sped away. Obviously this was immediately scary to me because why do two men need to drive one person in a taxi?
“A long time ago I got in the habit of putting destinations in googlemaps when I’m in a taxi or Uber so I know if they are trying to screw me over by taking the longest route possible. I instinctively did this and immediately realized they were taking me the opposite way of the hotel.
“Let me tell you, I’ve never had this truly tested, but your flight or fight response is a very real thing. I immediately started freaking out, but needed to remain calm because my phone still didn’t have all of the LTE functions because I had just landed and didn’t have international service yet because there’s a lag so could call but not text people so I couldn’t really call and say what was happening as I was in the car.”
In what must have been one of the most terrifying moments of Heather’s life, she explains how she began speaking to the two men in Spanish – not realising at the time that her second language could have saved her life.
“Both of the guys snapped their heads around and were really taken aback that I could speak Spanish. They were definitely wondering how much of their conversation I had understood (which was none by the way because they were whispering and mumbling) but I acted like I understood and started talking about how I studied abroad in Barcelona, knew people here, knew Spanish, knew the area, etc. I also started talking about how my friend who I was meeting and her dad, along with my dad, had my location on my phone and were expecting me very soon.”
Heather explains that although she had had strong suspicions up until this point, it soon became clear that her situation could have been an attempted kidnap.
“The first guy then turned around and started talking about how beautiful I was, asking how old I was, asking if I had a boyfriend, and asking how long people would be expecting me gone in Europe. It became very clear to me before this point, but EXTREMELY clear to me at this point that these guys could potentially be trying to kidnap me into something, presumably sex-trafficking since Barcelona is one of the capitals of sex-trafficking in Europe.”
It was only after the two men became flustered that Heather recalls them mumbling “necesitamos cambiar los planes” which translates to “we need to change the plans”.
“I said I know what you all are trying to do and people will come looking for me and the men look at each other, the older man driving accelerated across 6 lanes all the way from the left to the right, and turned the corner, and just said, ‘get out here’ in Spanish,” said Heather.
“I grabbed my bags and quickly got out of the car and they drove away, obviously not asking for money or anything since clearly this wasn’t a taxi.”
Heather’s post has since been shared over 25,000 times, and has received almost 10,000 comments.
“I share this story because this truly could happen to anyone, this wasn’t my first time abroad or in Barcelona and it still was a confusing and bad situation that I got myself into. If I didn’t speak Spanish I truly don’t know what would have happened and I’m grateful I was able to think clearly in the situation despite my lack of sleep up to that point.
“Be safe ladies when you travel, as much as we want to see the good in everyone, some people have bad intentions that we need to be aware of.”