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Holly (Narrative 2)

Holly Austin Gibbs (formerly Smith) is a survivor of child sex trafficking and an advocate for survivors of all forms of human trafficking. In 2011, Holly submitted joint testimony to Congress with labour trafficking survivor, Ima Matul, in support of reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Holly also testified before the U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations on the connection between sporting events and sex trafficking. In 2015, Holly testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of two bills: Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act and Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act. Another narrative by Holly can be found in the archive.

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Ima (Narrative 2)

At age 16, Ima Matul was forced into an arranged marriage in Indonesia with a man 12 years her senior. After running away, was offered an opportunity to work in the United States as a nanny. But instead she was held in domestic forced labour for three years in Los Angeles. She told her story to another survivor, Flor, in 2009. Both women were part of the Survivor Advisory Caucus attached to the Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking in Los Angeles (CAST LA). Another narrative by Ima can be found within the archive.

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Ima (Narrative 1)

At age 16, Ima Matul was forced into an arranged marriage in Indonesia with a man 12 years her senior. After running away, was offered an opportunity to work in the United States as a nanny. But instead she was held in domestic forced labour for three years in Los Angeles. She told her story to another survivor, Flor, in 2009. Both women were part of the Survivor Advisory Caucus attached to the Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking in Los Angeles (CAST LA). Another narrative by Ima can be found within the archive.

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Inez

The US Department of Justice estimates that of the 14,500 and 17,500 foreign-born individuals trafficked into the US annually, some 80 percent are female, and 70 percent of these women end up as sex slaves. Feeder countries include Albania, the Philippines, Thailand, Mexico (many from the central region of Tlaxcala, a haven for modern-day slave traders), Nigeria, and Ukraine. Often the women are forced to work to pay off the debts imposed by their smugglers—debts ranging from $40,000 to $60,000 per person. They might perform 4000 acts of sexual intercourse each year to meet their quota, at $10 to $25 per act. In 1997, at the age of 18, Inez was trafficked from Mexico into sex slavery in the US. She was transported into Texas, then to a trailer in Florida. Up to four young women worked in the same trailer, each of them having sex with up to 35 men a day, for 12 hours a day. They were constantly guarded, and beaten and raped by their bosses. After she had been enslaved for several months, FBI agents, along with agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and local law offices, raided the brothel. Some of her captors were tried, others escaped and returned to Mexico. Inez now observes that she cannot “seem to get past the ordeal” of slavery. The turning-point from slavery to freedom has not occurred: Inez’s narrative is filled with phrases like “I will never forget,” “I try to act like a normal girl, but it is not always easy,” “I lack confidence and never feel secure.”

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Jill

Born and raised in the US, Jill was trafficked into sex slavery from her home state of Ohio in 1981 at the age of 14. She made one attempt to escape, which led to punishment so severe that she never tried again. Contacting her family was out of the question, in part because she had left behind a dangerous home environment to become one of between 1.3 and 2.8 million runaway and homeless youth in America. These individuals are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation by traffickers: the Department of Justice estimates that 293,000 youth are at risk. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) estimates that “1 in 5 of the 11,800 runways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2015 were likely sex trafficking victims.” Jill notes that after her liberation from slavery, she “still didn’t exist as anything more than a slave, except I was an escaped slave.” Jill still felt “less than human” after her three-year captivity ended, and struggled to recognize herself as a human individual. But narrating her story, she explains, is “an integral part of my recovery.”

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Joyce

Joyce is an African American woman who was born in Ocala, Florida. She subsisted on migrant work from the age of nine, and from 1985 was enslaved by the Bonds family, who operated a ring of labor camps from Florida to the Carolinas. After seven years in bondage she escaped with her husband Huey. Sometimes the experiences of 21st-century slaves encompass not only the narrator’s turn from slavery to freedom, but also a reversal for their enslavers. In 1993, members of the Bonds family were charged with conspiracy to hold workers in a state of peonage, distribution of crack cocaine, and two violations of the federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. The Bonds were released from prison in 2000, and Joyce recently received word of their fate: while she had experienced stasis and entrapment (“there’s nowhere to run”), the Bonds now spend their days trapped by the side of a highway, picking up cans for a living. In her narrative, Joyce further inverts slavery’s power dynamic by using the vague and threatening third-person pronoun “they” to counter her own dehumanization (“treated like a dog”).

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Katya (Narrative 2)

“Katya” submitted this narrative as part of her application for a T-visa, which the US government has created to aid victims of trafficking. Some parts of the narrative have been redacted by her attorney and her name has been changed. In 2016, the Walk Free Foundation, Gallup, and Polaris undertook survey research to better understand the general awareness of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC)’s hotline number among the American public, through the Gallup U.S. nightly public opinion survey. Ultimately, the results suggest that a relatively small proportion of the American public are informed about it, with only 6.7% indicating they know the NHTRC specifically and 12% aware that there is a hotline focused on human trafficking. This indicates that the 5,544 cases reported in 2015 is likely a small proportion of the actual prevalence of human trafficking in the United States. Another narrative by Katya is available in the archive.

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Maria C.

In 1997, at the age of 18, Maria was trafficked from Mexico into sex slavery in the US. She was transported into Texas, then to a trailer in Florida. Up to four young women worked in the same trailer, each of them having sex with up to 35 men a day, for 12 hours a day. They were constantly guarded, and beaten and raped by their bosses. After Maria had been enslaved for several months, FBI agents, along with agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and local law offices, raided the brothel. Some of her captors were tried, others escaped and returned to Mexico. Maria now observes that she is “in fear for my life more than ever.”

The US Department of Justice estimates that of the 14,500 and 17,500 foreign-born individuals trafficked into the US annually, some 80 percent are female, and 70 percent of these women end up as sex slaves. Feeder countries include Albania, the Philippines, Thailand, Mexico (many from the central region of Tlaxcala, a haven for modern-day slave traders), Nigeria, and Ukraine. Often the women are forced to work to pay off the debts imposed by their smugglers—debts ranging from $40,000 to $60,000 per person. They might perform 4000 acts of sexual intercourse each year to meet their quota, at $10 to $25 per act.

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Rosa

In 1997, at the age of 14, Rosa was trafficked from Mexico into sex slavery in the US. She was transported into Texas, then to a trailer in Florida. Up to four young women worked in the same trailer, each of them having sex with up to 35 men a day, for 12 hours a day. They were constantly guarded, and beaten and raped by their bosses. After Rosa had been enslaved for several months, FBI agents, along with agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and local law offices, raided the brothel. Some of her captors were tried, others escaped and returned to Mexico. The US Department of Justice estimates that of the 14,500 and 17,500 foreign-born individuals trafficked into the US annually, some 80 percent are female, and 70 percent of these women end up as sex slaves. Feeder countries include Albania, the Philippines, Thailand, Mexico (many from the central region of Tlaxcala, a haven for modern-day slave traders), Nigeria, and Ukraine. Often the women are forced to work to pay off the debts imposed by their smugglers—debts ranging from $40,000 to $60,000 per person. They might perform 4000 acts of sexual intercourse each year to meet their quota, at $10 to $25 per act.

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Roxana

Roxana is originally from Mexico, but was forced into slavery in the US performing sex work from the age of 14. In the US, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), as amended, prohibits all forms of human trafficking, but there are still an estimated 57,700 people living in slavery within its borders. According to the Global Slavery Index, “The U.S. attracts undocumented workers, migrants, and refugees, who can be at particular risk of vulnerability to human trafficking upon their arrival and during their stay in the U.S. Research undertaken on vulnerable migrant labourer populations in San Diego, California, and in North Carolina suggests that these populations often include undocumented seasonal labourers who experience significant language barriers, cultural non-assimilation, and fear of deportation.” Here Roxana discusses how medical services she accessed while in slavery failed to seize opportunities to understand her situation and act appropriately to remove her from those who enslaved her. The US Department of Justice estimates that of the 14,500 and 17,500 foreign-born individuals trafficked into the US annually, some 80 percent are female, and 70 percent of these women end up as sex slaves. Feeder countries include Albania, the Philippines, Thailand, Mexico (many from the central region of Tlaxcala, a haven for modern-day slave traders), Nigeria, and Ukraine. Often the women are forced to work to pay off the debts imposed by their smugglers—debts ranging from $40,000 to $60,000 per person. They might perform 4000 acts of sexual intercourse each year to meet their quota, at $10 to $25 per act.

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Tina

Trafficked into sex slavery in 1988 at the age of 14, from her hometown of Chicago, Tina Frundt is one of many survivors who become activists after liberation. Calling herself “a voice among the many who have been unheard,” she explained in an interview that “once people are aware of this issue, they can write letters to Congress, find out what areas have a trafficking problem, and take notice when they’re coming home from a club or are out late.” As a Street Outreach Coordinator for the Trafficking Intervention Program at Polaris Project, an organization that provides services to trafficking victims, she told Congress in 2005 that “sex trafficking of U.S. citizens is a reality in every city in the United States, including right here in our nation’s Capitol. Tina added: “if we are judging the efforts of other countries to combat trafficking, we certainly must aggressively fight the trafficking of our own citizens.” Tina decided to tell her story because, as she noted in an interview, “testimony sheds light on a problem that has been going on for so long in the US. Yes, it’s going on in other countries as well, but we also need to focus on what’s been going on here in the US for years.” She knows, as she explained to Congress, that “when we see a woman on the street here in the US, we think, ‘why is she doing it? This must be her choice. She can walk away any time she wants. She can leave.’ There is less sympathy for the domestic victims.” But like foreign national victims, Tina noted, domestic victims are also moved away from their homes. “They can’t go back because they don’t know where they are or they are ashamed to tell their families of what has happened to them… How can you ask help from the police when they have done nothing but arrest you, not recognizing you are a victim of sex trafficking?”

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Wati

Wati was enslaved in forced domestic labour between 1983 and 2000, where she was beaten and abused. She tried to escape in 1990 and 1992, and escaped successfully in 2000. She told her story to another survivor, Kanthi. Both women were part of the Survivor Advisory Caucus attached to the Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking in Los Angeles (CAST LA).

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Zipora

Zipora was enslaved as a domestic servant in the United States by a diplomat and his family, who beat her and failed to meet the terms of the contract originally agreed upon. When she required medical care, they refused to provide it for 2 years. It was the actions of a stranger that helped her out of her enslavement and to get a T-visa, a special visa status for victims of trafficking. In 2007 Zipora filed a suit against her captors.

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Beth

There are an estimated 403,000 people living in modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). Sex trafficking exists throughout the country. Traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. The situations that sex trafficking victims face vary, many victims become romantically involved with someone who then forces them into prostitution. Others are lured with false promises of a job, and some are forced to sell sex by members of their own families. Victims of sex trafficking include both foreign nationals and US citizens, with women making up the majority of those trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. In 2015, the most reported venues/industries for sex trafficking included commercial-front brothels, hotel/motel-based trafficking, online advertisements with unknown locations, residential brothels, and street-based sex trafficking. Beth Jacobs ran away from home at the age of 16. Beth recalls how she was ‘befriended’ by a trafficker, drugged, raped, and taken to another state. She was forced to provide sexual services for six years, subjected to daily abuse including rape and beatings. Beth calls on the Arizona legislature to enact provisions supported by the state’s Human Trafficking Task Force to end the criminalization of human trafficking victims.  

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Dai

In the United States, slavery occurs in both legal and illicit industries, including in commercial sex, hospitality, traveling sales crews, agriculture, seafood, manufacturing, janitorial services, construction, restaurants, health care, care for persons with disabilities, salon services, fairs and carnivals, peddling and begging, drug smuggling and distribution, and child care and domestic work. Individuals who entered the United States with and without legal status have been identified as trafficking victims. Victims originate from almost every region of the world; the top three countries of origin of federally identified victims in FY 2016 were the United States, Mexico, and the Philippines. Those at particular risk of being enslaved include: children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, runaway and homeless youth, unaccompanied children, migrant laborers, persons with limited English proficiency; persons with low literacy; persons with disabilities; and LGBTI individuals. NGOs noted an increase in cases of street gangs engaging in human trafficking.

“Dai’s” story demonstrates the process by which those who have been exploited can be coerced or forced to become exploiters themselves. “Dai” escaped her situation initially by being “bought” by a wealthy customer. She eventually left him after becoming disgusted with her role as a female pimp.

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Daniela

There are an estimated 403,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). The US attracts migrants and refugees who are particularly at risk of vulnerability to human trafficking. Trafficking victims often responding to fraudulent offers of employment in the US migrate willingly and are subsequently subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude in industries such as forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.“Daniela” (not her real name) was trafficked to the US from Mexico. She was sold by her sister and “bought” by a US man who took her and her baby to Alaska. She told her story in 2012 while living at Las Memorias, the only residential free of charge programme for those living with HIV/AIDS in the city of Tijuana.

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Elizabeth

There are an estimated 403,000 people living in modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). Sex trafficking exists throughout the country. Traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. The situations that sex trafficking victims face vary, many victims become romantically involved with someone who then forces them into prostitution. Others are lured with false promises of a job, and some are forced to sell sex by members of their own families. Victims of sex trafficking include both foreign nationals and US citizens, with women making up the majority of those trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. In 2015, the most reported venues/industries for sex trafficking included commercial-front brothels, hotel/motel-based trafficking, online advertisements with unknown locations, residential brothels, and street-based sex trafficking.Elizabeth Crooks is now the Executive Director of Embassy of Hope in San Antonio, Texas, where she works to help other survivors of sexual exploitation. Elizabeth’s story demonstrates the importance of a support network like the community of girls who helped her with “emotional and spiritual,” as well as practical, support so that she could leave the situation of abuse and exploitation in which she was trapped. Elizabeth still considers community vital to the healing process, but discusses the difficulty of trusting that community: “I still only trust people to a certain degree.” Young people who run away from home are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation by traffickers: the Department of Justice estimates that 293,000 youth are at risk. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) estimates that “1 in 5 of the 11,800 runways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2015 were likely sex trafficking victims.”

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Kanthi

There are an estimated 403,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). The US attracts migrants and refugees who are particularly at risk of vulnerability to human trafficking. Trafficking victims often responding to fraudulent offers of employment in the US migrate willingly and are subsequently subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude in industries such as forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.Kanthi spent more than two years in domestic servitude in US after being trafficked from her home in Sri Lanka under false pretenses. This narrative is taken from an interview by Julie Fernandes as part of a webcast by Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST). Kanthi discusses what the most important services are for those coming out of slavery, and the barriers that people must overcome in order to remove themselves from situations of slavery.

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Kikka

In 2015, the most reported venues or industries for sex trafficking in the United States included commercial-front brothels, hotel/motels, online advertisements with unknown locations, residential brothels, and street-based sexual exploitation. Kikka was lured to the United States and forced into sex work by a man she had thought was her long-term boyfriend. Her story highlights reasons that those trapped in sex slavery can feel unable to report their treatment to the police. She also describes how support from charities and NGOs can make recovery and building a new life easier.

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Margeaux

Particularly vulnerable populations in the United States include: children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems; runaway and homeless youth; unaccompanied children. In 2015, the most reported venues/industries for sex trafficking included commercial-front brothels, hotel/motel-based trafficking, online advertisements with unknown locations, residential brothels, and street-based sex trafficking. Marheaux was exploited sexually as a child in the United States, but is now an activist and advocate for other survivors of slavery. She argues for better support for those leaving situations of enslavement.