(CNN) -- Even before her 18th birthday, Maria had already been enslaved by a gang of human traffickers and held in captivity for four months in her homeland of Mexico.
While a prisoner, Maria witnessed a sickening trade in human life and recalls how young girls were drugged, forced into prostitution and then murdered.
What makes Maria's story so special is that she was one of the lucky ones who were able to escape.
Maria, whose real name we aren't using, used to live in the border town of Ciudad Juarez.
The city is home to two drug cartels that fight a bloody turf war for lucrative smuggling routes to America.
In a four-day period, 41 people were murdered, while over the past decade, 450 women were killed and 3,000 went missing.
"Today girls are still going missing but their bodies are never found," Miguel Perea, a local journalist told Britain's Channel 4.
"There's no trace of them and their mothers and families of these girls -- they haven't got a clue what's happened to them."
Maria described how at the age of 16 she was lured off the streets by a young man who promised the world, but delivered nothing but pain.
She was raped, drugged and sold for sex. "They took a gallon of gasoline and started pouring it over a girl," Maria said.
"One of the men told me if you don't do as I say I will do the same to you.
"I wanted to look away, but they didn't let me. Even though the girl was on fire they kept hitting her and they were laughing as if they were enjoying what they were doing."
Maria described a cross-border trade in young children and babies -- with orders coming in regularly from the U.S.
"They stole the children and one of the gang members took a six-year-old kid that I had to look after for three hours.
"He told me he wanted to see his mummy then I started crying and said 'I don't think you're ever going to see your mummy again.'"
The claims that Maria made were so serious that she was asked by the Department of Homeland Security to come to the U.S. to tell her story.
Mexican authorities accompanied Maria on her trip to Houston to work alongside U.S. authorities on the case.
The U.S. State Department estimates that more than 20,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year -- mainly destined for the sex trade.
Authorities have launched an immediate investigation into Maria's story.
"I want to tell the story so that in the near future, other girls don't go through the same," Maria said.
"Women are sold, they are abducted, bought and even killed by these men.
"If these men are ever found, jail won't be enough to make them pay for the way they've made us feel."