Across the world, as many as 30 million people are currently being held in bondage, moved from location to location as victims in the lucrative global human trafficking trade. Even the United States isn’t immune to human trafficking. As many as 17,500 sex slaves and indentured servants are moved into the US each year. California is home to three of the FBI’s most notorious sex trafficking areas - San Francisco, L.A., and San Diego - while Texas’s Dallas-Ft. Worth region is home to 15% of the total calls sent to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The average cost of one of these slaves is a mere $90. 80% of these victims are forced into a sexually exploitative situation. Horrifyingly, the average age of a person forced into the sex trade is 12 to 14 years old.
Human trafficking is a blight on the face of humanity. It destroys the lives of thousands of people, even as it pads the pockets of criminals with as much as $32 billion each year. When someone manages to escape the world of human trafficking, it’s a miracle, and when these survivors summon the courage to tell their stories, it’s nothing short of inspiring.
The following are human trafficking and sex slave stories from the brave people who lived through the torture and made it to the other side.
Names have been changed to protect those victims who fear reprisal.
Kendall Was Told That She Was ‘Made’ For Bondage
One survivor of human trafficking, who calls herself Kendall, told authorities that her parents only had her in order to sell her to an international sex trafficker. Her life began with sexual abuse, says the survivor, and she claims she was molested even before she could even walk.
Kendall explained that the man, who she referred to only as “the man who owned me,” said that she wasn’t allowed to use the word “trafficking.” Kendall was told that, “I was made for that [sexual slavery], and trafficking is when girls who aren’t made for that get kidnapped or sold into it.”
Mari Had 4 Children Over Her 16 Years Of Forced Prostitution
Over the course of 16 years, Mari was in a relationship with a man who fathered her four children. He was abusive in every way: verbally, physically, and sexually. At some point, the man started forcing Mari to have sex with other men in order to make some extra cash. Along the way, he recruited another girl - a woman named Janice - to join his prostitution ring.
If not for a fateful traffic stop, both women might still be in the monster’s thrall. When they were pulled over, a particularly observant officer noticed that the man had both Mari and Janice’s IDs in his wallet. This prompted the officer to ask to speak to each of them privately. At that point, Mari was able to get some help and free herself of her captor.
Phalla’s Grandmother Sold Her Into Prostitution
Until the age of 20, Phalla lived a relatively normal life in Cambodia. After her father died, with no one to support her family, she was forced to move in with her grandmother.
About two months after she’d arrived, her grandmother drove her into a nearby city, Kampong Som, and sold her to a brothel. Phalla didn't realize this until several days after she’d arrived. At the brothel, she was locked in a room and raped several times a day. This was was her reality for the next several months, being sold from one brothel to another.
Then, she met a man who helped her back to her native Cambodia. It seemed like a new lease on life, but she was soon put to work in a karaoke bar, and her employers sold her to foreign tourists for days at a time. When she tried to leave, she was beaten. It took several more months before she was able to gain her captor’s confidence, escape, and turn herself over to authorities.
Sabine Went From Genocide Survivor To Human Trafficking Victim
The only surviving member of her family in the wake of the Rwandan genocide, Sabine was more than happy to accept an offer working for a wealthy American family. Upon her arrival, the girl was imprisoned and forced to work around the clock. She slept on the kitchen floor.
It took six months before Sabine was allowed one hour off each Sunday to go to church. While there, one of her fellow parishioners caught wind of her situation and helped her escape. At first, Sabine’s ordeal had left her traumatized. She was afraid to leave her new apartment after 4 pm. She was too afraid to go anywhere in the city alone, and she was even terrified to use a gift card.
A few months later, Sabine found her courage. She’s now able to travel on her own, and she's learning English as she slowly works to rebuild her life.
Loreta Was Forced Into Sex Work As A Teenager
Loreta was born to two alcoholic parents, and they were incapable of taking care of her and her 13 brothers and sisters. At a young age, she and her siblings were shipped off to Lithuanian state homes across the country. She lost track of her family.
Soon after she arrived at the state home, Loreta was visited by a man who called himself her godfather. He began visiting her repeatedly. The other kids told her she was lucky, and she felt that way too, until her “godfather” raped her at the age of 13. At 15, she was sent to live with him against her will.
After her 16th birthday, Loreta was courted by a madam named Dana, who befriended the teen with promises of fun before ultimately luring Loreta and six of her friends into a life of forced prostitution. For two years, Loreta lived with Dana before the madam sold her to a pimp in Ravenna, Italy.
In Italy, she was forced to have sex with clients in the public restrooms within a 15 minute window. It wasn’t until she happened to have a client that spoke Lithuanian that Loreta dared beg for help. Fortunately, the john had a change of heart and took Loreta and some of her friends to the Italian police. They helped get her some documentation and return back home.
Cristopher Paid $5,000 Only To Be Sold Into Indentured Servitude
Cristopher grew up in the Philippines, dreaming of moving to the United States. When a job recruiter told him that he’d found a job for Cristopher working at a hotel in the Appalachians, Cristopher happily paid $5,000 for the opportunity to travel to the US and live his dream.
When he arrived, he was told the job didn’t exist. Instead, he was bused to a Gulf State against his will. The journey lasted three days, during which time Cristopher had no money for food or water. Once at his destination, he was forced to work 18 hour days cleaning hotels for a pittance.
He was monitored constantly and regularly threatened with deportation.
After Being Arrested For Teenage Prostitution, Erica Was Never Once Asked If She Was In Trouble
In the first three months of 2017, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 2,000 calls related to trafficking in Texas alone. Forced into the world of prostitution at age 14, Erica says that human trafficking is shockingly common near the border. "You would never know how many guys are out picking up girls. Girls you might just see walking on the sidewalks, a 14-year-old girl can be out prostituting and you would not know that.”
Though she says she had several interactions with El Paso police, no one ever asked her if she was a victim. These days, Erica is working to correct that institutional problem. If police were more sympathetic to certain “offenders,” authorities could shine a light on human trafficking in the Texas area.
Natalia Wanted An American Education, Ended Up A Slave
Born in a small village in Ghana, Natalia’s parents struggled to make the money they needed to send their daughter to school. So, when an offer came along and offered to see their daughter educated in the United States, Natalia’s family were happy to send her overseas.
Upon her arrival, Natalia was immediately imprisoned. Over the course of the next six years, she was repeatedly abused, both physically and sexually. She was forced to work 18 hour days cooking and cleaning for her “host” parents and their three children. Not only did the family not enroll Natalia in school, they refused to even allow her outside.
Fortunately, one day Natalia was able to slip out of the house and a neighbor called the authorities.