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.
Talia* was trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation at the age of twelve in Texas. She was abused in a truck driver prostitution ring by her adopted parents who mentally and physically abused her at home.
It was only me and my adopted father — no kids around my age. I got to experience like being around older men, truckdrivers, things like that. And a lot of abuse went on in there like codependency, a lot of sexual abuse, mental abuse like I couldn’t get out of that situation. I had to do it to live, to survive in a way because there was no outlet for it. There was no outlet for me to go anywhere else. That was my prison. I got an up-close look at the prostitution ring in the trucking world. The truck was used for prostitution with girls as young as 12. The victims were taken there on a regular basis, rotated, and then they’re there for the truck drivers that want them. But truck stops aren’t the only place you’ll find human trafficking victims. They’re easy to spot. Sometimes it’s as easy as seeing 1 or 2 adults with 3 or 4 children. They look very submissive. They look very out of place. Maybe they’re not dressed properly.
My adopted mother physically and mentally abused me. There’s a piece of thick wood and she beat the back of our legs with it, so we’d fall. I was pulled out of school because I threatened to tell authorities about the abuse. Then, when I was 14, my adopted father, a truckdriver took me out on the road. I felt very isolated. When I was in foster care, the 30-minute check-up every few months just wasn’t enough. And then, when I was adopted, no-one checked up on me at all. [My adopted father] was my provider. So I had to give him what he wanted. Like he was providing for me, so I had to provide for him.
Narrative source Youth Underground, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing human trafficking through youth education, awareness-raising and advocacy.
Original narrative can be found here: