Janelle Marina Mendez-Viera was sixteen years old when she enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. from Dutchess County in New York State. In 2006, she was emancipated and entered the delayed entry program. Janelle was recruited as a child soldier. According to the United Nations a child soldier is anyone under the age of eighteen who is recruited into the Armed Forces.
The UN advises against the recruitment of children as they are most vulnerable to state-sponsored child-sex trafficking. In simple terms, all economies have illicit markets where slavery occurs. In militaries around the world, sexual slavery exists. Modern slavery is called trafficking. White nationalist factions of the military use sex trafficking to fund their extremists causes throughout the United States.
Between ages sixteen through eighteen, Mendez, experienced a series of sexual violence known as child-sex trafficking. As she attempted to report these human rights abuses, she was met with torture, hazing, and severe retaliation in the United States Marine Corps. The USMC has a long history of white supremacists in its ranks.
This has created a toxic culture where sexual slavery thrives. The most recent historical sex trafficking congressional case was known as the Marines United (MU) Scandal. A white supremacist faction of Marines and veterans were selling photos of naked female Marines without their knowledge or consent online. In 2018, Congress enacted legislation after international public out cry.
In 2007, at age seventeen this happened to Mendez. While she was attending Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) School in Fort Leonardwood, MO. A naked photo was sold without her consent or knowledge and when she attempted to report this crime. U.S. Marine Corps. did everything in their power to obstruct justice. These injustices include: barment from legal and medical services, physical assaults, sexual assaults, starvation, sleep deprivation, unlawful incarceration, the falsification of government documents, and other forms of torture, and hazing not listed.
As a result of the torture and impossibility to pursue justice, Mendez ran away and went UA (unauthorized absence) for twenty seven days. In which the U.S. Marine Corps. froze her bank accounts forcing her in to the sex trade. Mendez turned eighteen by this time and returned to Quantico, VA. Where she was drugged and raped by a Gunnery Sergeant in her platoon. When she reported the events she was unlawfully incarcerated on what the United Nations calls “collateral charges.” This case was dismissed and the U.S. Marine Corps. intentionally misdiagnosed her in order to give her a retaliatory discharge.
Mendez would go on to fight this adverse discharge status for over a decade, from years 2008 through 2018. The U.S. Navy continuously maintained its decision. In 2021, the Manker Settlement re-opened Janelle’s administrative case for a proper discharge upgrade. She is currently awaiting a confirmation of a public hearing date.
While Mendez’s case is horrific; she is far from alone. The are 1.5 million U.S. Veterans alive today, who are diagnosed with PTSD due to Military Sexual Trauma. There are more veterans with PTSD due to sexual violence than those with PTSD due to combat.
In 2018, Mendez miscarried and founded the Military Sexual Trauma Movement. A human rights organization that fought on the frontlines for legislative reforms. Mendez went on to author and enact the Restoration of Honor Act of 2019. This became the first intersectional veterans legislation in U.S. History which went on to also define Military Sexual Trauma as a legal class related to discharges and benefits. During her time as a human rights leader she went on to author and advise on a number of Federal policies and legislative reforms.
In 2022, British Biographer Eleanor Wait penned and published Boricua Gringa: The Biography of Jánelle Marina Méndez-Viera. The historical biography details Méndez’s seventeen year fight to pursue restorative justice for being a victim of state-sponsored sex-trafficking and sexual violence. Due to the legal complexities of her situation; she has been unable to pursue adequate restorative justice for the human rights abuses she endured.
In order to protect those who come next, Jánelle Marina Méndez-Viera became a Certified Human Rights Consultant and has founded and launched Boricua Gringa Human Rights Strategic Advisory Firm. Boricua Gringa is a Taíno (A Native Caribbean Tribe) indigenous term that loosely translates to “White Native (American).” In contemporary terms it better translates to “Puerto Rican American,” a deeply personal reference to Janelle’s identity struggle growing up in the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States. Mendez grew up in a Puerto Rican family living in a predominantly white suburb in Westchester County, New York.
She grew up flying back and forth from New York to Puerto Rico throughout her life. As a NuyoRican (a name reserved for Puerto Ricans growing up in New York), she struggled to embrace her mixed race identity, especially as a white passing woman. The name Boricua Gringa represents her Caribbean Native American roots while also acknowledging the European American environment she grew up surrounded by in the Lower Hudson Valley Region. The Hudson Valley region of New York is known as the epicenter of Human Rights. A number of Notable Human Rights leaders such as Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Staton, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass and Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt all have ties to the Hudson Valley Region of New York.
Janelle Marina grew up in the U.S. Senate district governed by Former First Lady and Former U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton. She grew up surrounded by monuments and imagery of human rights icons. After working on Wall Street for over a decade while leading a human rights movement, Méndez’s passion for human rights has only grown over the years.
Janelle Marina Mendez passionately brings her knowledge and experiences to the public by providing courses and consulting on human rights. These human rights skills promote lasting peace and justice throughout the Americas. At Boricua Gringa Human Rights Strategic Advisory, we bring a wealth of knowledge and high level civic engagement courses at affordable prices.
Our mission is to make human rights advocacy skills accessible to everyone. We believe that in order to pursue peace, we must exercise the rights afforded to us under Democracy. We hope you use these skills to make a meaningful difference in the world and leave a positive legacy through your advocacy!
To learn more about Janelle’s work in human rights click here!