Human trafficking occurs in every state in America, an economy thriving in invisibility.
Exploitation is often buried in basements and dark hallways of everyday businesses, experienced on windowless factory floors and suffered by hundreds of thousands of people trapped in low-paying, degrading, or backbreaking jobs. Trafficking crime takes place on social media, in massage parlors, on rural farms, in homes, on street corners— right in your own community.
According to the Global Slavery Index, more than 400,000 people are currently trapped in slavery in the United States. To understand the realities of trafficking, we must start with listening to survivors and bearing witness to their experiences.
1. Elizabeth: Trafficked by her own parents
Elizabeth Frazier was first trafficked by her parents when she was just four years old, and the exploitation continued until she was 23. Everyone around her believed her life was normal, and so did she—until she was able to learn the reality of her situation and escape. Now she shares her story as a way to inspire and empower others through Hero Bands.
2. Jayson: Trafficked from the Philippines to a U.S. elder care facility
Jayson traveled to Florida on a visa for athletes with the promise that it would lead to a legal work visa and a good job in construction. When he got there, his lack of English and basic understanding of his rights made him entirely dependent on his “recruiter,” who took advantage of him. He was forced to work around the clock at an elderly care facility until a neighbor noticed and intervened.
3. Barbara: Trafficked in DC, sold in NYC
Barbara Amaya was abducted at the age of 12 on the streets of Washington, DC by a couple who sold her into human trafficking. She was sold to a man who took her to New York and trafficked her for many years.
Watch Barbara’s story on YouTube.
4. Shamere: Trafficked for sex to pay her bills
Shamere McKenzie was on a student-athlete scholarship at St. Johns University in Manhattan, NY. After she got injured and couldn’t compete, she met a man who offered to help her pay the mounting bills. Through physical violence and threats to her family, he forced her into working for him in the illegal sex industry.
5. Raymundo: Labor trafficked on a California farm
Raymundo took out a loan to pay for a visa to travel from Mexico to work on a farm in California. His trafficker assured him that his salary would be enough to pay off the loan, but when he arrived, he worked much less than the promised 40 hours a week. He found himself trapped, sharing a single room with 34 other trafficking victims.
6. Liz: Trafficked and forced into child pornography
Liz Williamson’s mom trafficked her at just six years old. For the next twelve years, Liz was sold to men and recorded for child pornography. She escaped as a young adult thanks to the kindness of an attentive bus driver.
7. Natalia: Trafficked as a domestic servant
Natalia was 13 years old when she was sent with family friends from Ghana to the U.S. for an education and to learn English. Soon after she arrived, the physical and sexual abuse began. She was forced to do domestic work for 18 hours a day without being paid. Natalia was not allowed to go to school, use the phone, or even go outside.
8. Flor: Trafficked in an LA garment factory
After losing her baby due to not having money for medical care, Flor Molina was desperate to provide for her remaining children. She accepted what she thought was a job in the garment industry in Los Angeles. When she arrived, she found out that the promised job and housing were a lie.
9. Cheri: Trafficked as a young mother
Cheri Crider was trafficked years before the government enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. She had a child as a result of a sexual assault, and in order to protect her baby, she worked in the sex industry for a man she called her “business manager.” After many years, she eventually escaped. Now, she courageously shares her story as anti-trafficking advocacy.
Read Cheri’s story on Polaris.
10. Angela: Trafficked with a false job offer
Angela left the Philippines with the promise of a good job and a legal work visa. She arrived in California with no visa, no ID, and a “debt” from her trafficker that would take her 10 years to pay off. She worked eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, in a retirement home where she slept on the floor and ate table scraps.
11. Annika: Trafficked at a bus stop
Annika Huff was trafficked at a bus stop. An offer of a ride from the bus station turned into a life of physical violence and forced prostitution. This video tells her story, shared as part of her role as trainer and survivor advocate with Truckers Against Trafficking.
12. Shari: Trafficked from a Wendy’s
13. Shannon: Trafficked in a white middle-class neighborhood
Author Shannon Dingle was a white upper-middle-class girl who was trafficked as a preteen. Her trafficking didn’t happen on the streets, but by her own father to his friends. Years later, Shannon is still dealing with the physical and emotional trauma as she shares her story, piece by piece.
Read her story on Shannon’s blog.
14. Sara: Trafficked by her boyfriend
Sara was going to college and had a part-time job at the mall. When she met and started dating a charismatic man at a club, she believed he truly cared for her. He convinced her to audition for a modeling job, but that “job” ended up being the first night she was assaulted, changing her life forever.
15. Natalicia: Trafficked as a “nanny” from Brazil
As a teenager, Natalicia traveled from Brazil to Boston with a family whom she was nannying for. The family made many promises about what her life would be like in the U.S. When she got there, the reality was much different than the promises. Natalicia had to sleep on the porch and was forced to do endless hours of domestic work while being paid very little.
Your role in the fight against human trafficking
These survivor stories help paint a picture of the many forms and places human trafficking can take place here in the United States. To learn more about survivors and their journeys, read more stories on our blog.
10 Things You Can Do To Fight Human Trafficking
While trafficking can feel like an overwhelming problem to address in any community, we’ve developed resources that will help you understand the issue while offering practical steps to make your community safer.