Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States. 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.
Jin was looking for work when she found an advertisement at the local Chinese grocery store for a job at a massage parlour. However, upon arrival Jin’s ID was taken and she was forced to work long hours with minimal or no pay and subjected to sexual abuse. Though she wanted to leave, her employer told her she would have to find someone to take her place and no one else would want to hire her after what she had done. Jin was finally able to escape when the police raided the parlour.
I typically don't get off work at the massage parlor until 11pm. Many times I am just starving. I didn't know what to eat and sometimes the other worker leaves me some food like grapes or an egg. I didn't have money to buy any food so I collected bottles of recyclables to sell. I can make $10 per bag but my boss didn't want me to put the big trash bags near the parlor, so he yelled at me.
I found this parlor through the job board at the local Chinese grocery store. It said they would train me so I applied. But when I showed up, they just took my ID and told me to go work.
Sometimes, the customers tried to assault me sexually. The first customer I ever worked with – I served him for an hour. I just did massage. Usually the customer is just face-down. But suddenly after an hour, I told the customer – 1 hour finished, only 15 minutes more – and he turned around and asked me to give him a “happy ending”. I told him “no, only massage”. The customer got upset and said no more, and I didn’t get any tip for that work. That was the first time.
There once was a customer waiting over 40 minutes. I got into that massage room and worked there for 10 minutes. The customer turned face up again. I said “no, face down, don’t look at me”. The customer said “no” and then asked me to do some really inappropriate things. The customer started to touch me, I didn’t know what to do, so I continued to serve him. I only did 20 minutes and didn’t get paid.
I wanted to quit, but the boss doesn’t allow me. The boss said, “you need to find a new person to come and then you can leave”. Boss didn’t ever want to pay me. I served one customer for 3 hours but only got a $5 tip. I can’t get my ID back, and he told me I won’t be able to find other work because of what I did and because I have no papers. I felt ashamed. That was all I thought I can do.
But then one day, the police came and arrested everyone. I was brought to a court and to Restore. Before Restore I didn’t know about my rights or how I could find safe work. Finding work is still hard but I am glad I met people who I can trust and ask for help.
As told to Restore