It should have been a dream engagement trip; a romantic getaway for a young couple looking for the ideal setting to hold their big day.
However, for Jennifer and Frank Massabki, the open road would lead them straight into a waking nightmare.
Jennifer and Frank headed to Mexico back in mid May 2017, having rented a car from a US firm in Mexico City. They’d only been travelling for approximately one hour when they were rear-ended by another vehicle.
Frank exited the car to speak with the driver. It was at this point two armed men descended on the newly engaged couple, taking them hostage.
According to MarketWatch, Jennifer and Frank were instructed to take off all their jewellery. Frank was then blindfolded as the pair were driven against their will to another location.
The Massabkis are both fluent in Spanish and so Jennifer was able to understand exactly what was meant when one of the kidnappers told her:
This is going to get a lot worse for you.
The couple were ordered to start thinking about people to call back home for ransom money. They were held for hours, during which, they were subjected to several violent altercations and a failed rape attempt.
Fortunately, they were able to escape from their captors.
Frank ran to fetch police and returned for Jennifer, who’d been hiding in a tree. They attribute their escape partly to their fluency in Spanish, allowing them to listen into their kidnappers’ conversations.
After getting back to the US, the Massabkis received medical treatment. For Jennifer, this included emergency nose surgery after her nose had been broken during an altercation with one of the attackers.
Going forward, the couple want to ensure those planning trips to Mexico are fully aware of the risks involved.
Despite multiple safety warnings throughout 2017 and 2018, Mexican cities such as Cancun remain popular holiday spots for tourists from around the world.
According to a March 2018 report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), hundreds of people are targeted by kidnappers in Mexico every year:
Mexico is experiencing a combination of conditions that collectively degrade the security environment in certain areas,
The government has had successes in capturing some of its most wanted criminals; consequently, organized criminal groups are becoming much less organized and disciplined.
Various groups have splintered into smaller gangs, which have branched out into different illegal business activities, and the associated violence is spreading across Mexico.
According to MarketWatch, Frank Massabki said:
We just want other people to know these dangers exist.
We were lucky to escape, and if our story can prevent one other person from going through what we went through, and what we almost had to go through, it would be worth it.
Hopefully Jennifer and Frank’s story will encourage others to take precautions while travelling.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence contact the Rape Crisis England and Wales helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2:30 and 7-9:30). They also offer a victim support line on 0808 168 9111.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.