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Flutura

Born in Albania, Flutura was trafficked into Italy, where trafficking victims also arrive from Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, China, and South America. One NGO estimates that 48 percent of the prostitutes in Italy are from Eastern Europe. Many women are trafficked into richer Western European countries from the poorer Eastern countries, including Albania. The fall of communism in 1991 led to a rise in organized crime in Albania: in 2001 it was estimated 100,000 Albanian women and girls had been trafficked to Western European and other Balkan countries in the preceding ten years. More than 65 percent of Albanian sex-trafficking victims are minors at the time they are trafficked, and at least 50 percent of victims leave home under the false impression that they will be married or engaged to an Albanian or foreigner and live abroad. Another ten percent are kidnapped or forced into prostitution. The women and girls receive little or no pay for their work, and are commonly tortured if they do not comply.

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Ganggang

Ganggang was enslaved in the Philippines at the age of 18 and then trafficked to Japan, where she was imprisoned and expected to entertain and have sex with bar customers. In the Philippines, women and children are subjected to sexual exploitation in brothels, bars, and massage parlours, online, as well as in the production of pornography. The Philippines is an international hub for prostitution and commercial sex tourism – a highly profitable businesses for organised criminal syndicates. The demand for sex with children among both local and foreign men has continued to fuel child sex tourism.

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Helia (Narrative 1)

Helia Lajeunesse is part of a women’s group, Limye Lavi, which works to end the institution of restavec in Haiti. Restavèk is a traditional system in which Haitian children from homes suffering economic and social difficulties are sent by parents to live with other families and work for them as domestic servants. There is a perception that the child will be enrolled in school by the host household and treated like one of the family, but often the reality is completely different. For many children, the day is filled with work. Lajeunesse’s own children were put into restavec fosterage when they were young, but with the help of Limye Lavi, her children are now free as well.

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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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Jing

Jing was enslaved in the Philippines, sent to the nation’s capital, Manilla, to become a domestic servant and receive education, which she was not given. Later she was sexually abused and prostituted from when she was 12 years old. It was only after getting seriously ill that she was able to return home. In the Philippines, women and children are subjected to sexual exploitation in brothels, bars, and massage parlours, online, as well as in the production of pornography. The Philippines is an international hub for prostitution and commercial sex tourism – a highly profitable businesses for organised criminal syndicates. The demand for sex with children among both local and foreign men has continued to fuel child sex tourism.

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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 A.

Born in Albania, "Maria" was trafficked into Italy, France, and the Netherlands. Closing the door on slavery seems almost impossible: “The shame for our parents and us is too large…what man will marry me?...It is difficult to smile.” Instead she reopens the door to her slave past and tries to help other trafficking victims—telling them that “they must make a new life” and inviting them to share their stories.

Many women are trafficked into richer Western European countries from the poorer Eastern countries, including Albania. The fall of communism in 1991 led to a rise in organized crime in Albania: in 2001 it was estimated 100,000 Albanian women and girls had been trafficked to Western European and other Balkan countries in the preceding ten years. More than 65 percent of Albanian sex-trafficking victims are minors at the time they are trafficked, and at least 50 percent of victims leave home under the false impression that they will be married or engaged to an Albanian or foreigner and live abroad. Another ten percent are kidnapped or forced into prostitution. The women and girls receive little or no pay for their work, and are commonly tortured if they do not comply.

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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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Milena

Milena was born in Moldova and trafficked into sex slavery in Russia, where men and women are also trafficked in from Central Asia and North Korea for forced labor and sexual exploitation. Moldova is a country origin for the trafficking of women and children into European sex slavery. Its economic conditions fuel this trafficking. In 2000, the country’s GDP was 40 percent of its level in 1990. Unemployment remains high, especially among women. People are forced to look outside of the country for work and pimps take advantage: some victims are kidnapped but more often they answer job advertisements promising work and then are forced into sex slavery. Most Moldovan trafficking victims are taken to the Balkan countries, though other destinations include Asia, Turkey, Western Europe and the Middle East.

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Miranda

The fall of communism in 1991 led to a rise in organized crime in Albania: in 2001 it was estimated 100,000 Albanian women and girls had been trafficked to Western European and other Balkan countries in the preceding ten years. More than 65 percent of Albanian sex-trafficking victims are minors at the time they are trafficked, and at least 50 percent of victims leave home under the false impression that they will be married or engaged to an Albanian or foreigner and live abroad. Another ten percent are kidnapped or forced into prostitution. The women and girls receive little or no pay for their work, and are commonly tortured if they do not comply.Born in Albania, Miranda was trafficked into Belgium, where by some estimates Albanian girls aged 14 and 15 make up nearly half of the foreign women forced into prostitution. Many women are trafficked into richer Western European countries from the poorer Eastern countries, including Albania.

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Nu

Of the estimated 600,000 to 800,000 individuals trafficked across international borders each year, some 80 percent are women and girls. Nu was one of the thousands of women trafficked annually out of Thailand for sexual exploitation. The major destinations include Japan, Malaysia, Bahrain, Australia, Singapore, and the US. Internal trafficking occurs within the country as well, usually from northern Thailand (where hill tribe women and girls are denied Thai citizenship). In Japan, where she was enslaved, women are trafficked from Thailand, the Philippines, Russia, and Eastern Europe, and on a smaller scale from Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Burma, and Indonesia. Nu was repeatedly raped by a relative and escaped to Bangkok at the age of 15 to work as a prostitute. She was tricked into leaving for Japan with the promise of waitress work. She spent ten months enslaved in a “karaoke bar” in Shinjuku, a Tokyo district, and another four years working as a prostitute after her escape. Her narrative describes the involvement of other women in the process of enslavement: a hairdresser friend and the “mama-san” (brothel manager). The percentage of female traffickers is rising. Some have been trafficked themselves and then reappear as recruiters or pimps. Others are blackmailed by criminals. Female traffickers are often the most convincing at deceiving women and girls into accepting fake job offers and so beginning the journey into slavery.

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Putri

Putri is an Indonesian woman who was enslaved in Malaysia as a domestic servant for multiple employers. Foreign workers constitute more than 20 percent of the Malaysian workforce and typically migrate voluntarily—often illegally—to Malaysia from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines, and other Southeast Asian countries, often in pursuit of better economic opportunities. However, workers can find themselves imprisoned, exploited, and in debt bondage. The law allows many of the fees of migration, which are first paid by employers, to be deducted from workers’ wages, incentivising employers to prevent workers from ending their employment before fees are recovered.

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Ragaa

Egypt is a transit country for women trafficked from sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union to Europe and Israel for sexual exploitation. Internal trafficking occurs as well: Ragaa is an Egyptian woman trafficked into sex slavery within Egypt in 1995, and children are trafficked from rural areas to work as laborers in the agriculture industry. Each year over one million children between the ages of seven and 12 work 11 hours a day for Egypt’s agricultural cooperatives on cotton pest management. They face routine beatings by their foremen, and exposure to heat and pesticides.Ragaa’s experience included the offer of a “pleasure marriage,” which is a temporary arrangement to permit sexual intercourse, and a “temporary marriage,” because brothels are forbidden by law and Islamic Sharia in Egypt. Then she explains that her escape brought no sense that the experience was over. The problem of freedom after bondage was an ongoing fear of her traffickers.

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Rita

Rita was drugged and trafficked from Nepal into India in 1998 at the age of 19. She was eventually helped by the NGO “Maiti Nepal.” Here she narrates a series of experiences that are rooted in her identity as a woman. The traffickers tricked her by explaining that they needed her to help smuggle diamonds—because “girls were not checked as thoroughly as men” by border guards. One of the first incidents in India is the replacement of her trousers for a long skirt. She notes that when women are enslaved they are “made ‘sisters.’” She goes on to observe the psychology of women who refuse to leave because they “will not be accepted by society.” She describes the horror of public questioning about her experiences in sex slavery. And she tells the stories of two other women—Vidhya and Maili. Thousands of Nepali women and children are trafficked every year across the border into Indian brothels, and Nepal has an unknown number of internal sex trafficking victims as well. In response to a dowry practice, where they must offer gifts that could be worth several years’ income, some parents sell their daughters rather than have them married. Other women are drugged and taken across the border, like Rita. Once enslaved, Nepali girls and women are more likely to be arrested than rescued by the police, and most Nepalese victims never leave India, even after liberation. Those who do are often shunned by their families and remain in Kathmandu at shelters. Another aspect of this enslavement is HIV and AIDS. Some 50 percent of those who return to Nepal are HIV-positive, and Rita makes reference to these “girls with AIDS.”

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Ros

Ros is an Indonesian woman who was a domestic slave in Indonesia. She became enslaved after being made a false offer of work by a man who then imprisoned her and physically abused her for four years. Her attempts to run away failed more than once because of the complicity of officials and others in her enslavement. Her narrative suggests that the police deliberately hampered their own investigation and refused to take Ros’ situation seriously. The government has taken some positive steps towards protecting domestic workers. Following pressure from local and international organisations, including Walk Free, the Indonesian House of Representatives recommended the Domestic Workers Protection Bill for its list of priority legislation in 2016. Ros was enslaved without leaving Indonesia, but significant numbers of Indonesians are exploited in forced labor and debt bondage abroad in Asia and the Middle East, primarily in domestic service, factories, construction, and manufacturing, on Malaysian palm oil plantations, and on fishing vessels throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

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Rosa A.

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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Ruth A.

Settled with freed slaves from the US after 1822, and founded as a republic in 1847, Liberia was named to mean “the country of the free.” But today, men, women and children are trafficked into slavery within Liberia, and children are brought into the country for domestic and sexual slavery from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire. Children are also trafficked out of Liberia to Guinea, The Gambia, and Nigeria—as well as to Cote d’Ivoire for use in combat. And during Liberia’s civil war, which ended after 14 years in 2003, both government forces and rebel factions forcibly recruited many thousands of children for use in combat and as messengers and porters. Ruth Kamara was trafficked into sex slavery in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, in the early 1990s. She was brought from Sierra Leone, where women and children are also trafficked out to Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, the Middle East, and Europe. As in Liberia, a civil war in Sierra Leone between government and rebel forces has prompted forcible recruitment for combat. In addition, that war of 1991-2002 displaced more than two million people, many of whom became at risk of exploitation by traffickers. There are no reliable statistics for either Liberia or Sierra Leone, but more broadly, across all the countries of West and Central Africa, around 300,000 children are trafficked into slavery each year. Now fashioning the abolitionist movement as a mini civil war that she is “ready to fight,” Ruth explains that her weapon in that war is her testimony as a survivor. She speaks to people in her country, defines human trafficking for them, and then will “always back it up with my story.”

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Sabina

Born in Bangladesh, Sabina was 12 years old when she was taken to a brothel in India. She was locked up and raped repeatedly until she managed to escape. Experts estimate millions of women and children are victims of sex trafficking in India. Traffickers use false promises of employment or arrange sham marriages in India or Gulf States and subject women and girls to sex trafficking. In addition to traditional red light districts, women and children increasingly endure sex trafficking in small hotels, vehicles, huts, and private residences. Traffickers increasingly use websites, mobile applications, and online money transfers to facilitate commercial sex. Children continue to be subjected to sex trafficking in religious pilgrimage centers and by foreign travelers in tourist destinations. Many women and girls, predominately from Nepal and Bangladesh, and from Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and Asia, including minority populations from Burma, are subjected to sex trafficking in India.

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Sanije

Born in Albania, Sanije was “married” to a stranger in Greece by her father, then later to another man, both of whom abused her. Many women are trafficked into richer Western European countries from the poorer Eastern countries, including Albania. The fall of communism in 1991 led to a rise in organized crime in Albania: in 2001 it was estimated 100,000 Albanian women and girls had been trafficked to Western European and other Balkan countries in the preceding ten years. More than 65 percent of Albanian sex-trafficking victims are minors at the time they are trafficked, and at least 50 percent of victims leave home under the false impression that they will be married or engaged to an Albanian or foreigner and live abroad. Another ten percent are kidnapped or forced into prostitution. The women and girls receive little or no pay for their work, and are commonly tortured if they do not comply.