Author & Writer: Vassilia Orfanou, PhD, Post-Doc
Human trafficking is the trade of humans for the aim of sexual slavery, forced labor, or commercial sexual exploitation for traffickers. It generates global profits of around $150 billion a year for traffickers, $99 billion of which comes from commercial sexual exploitation.
Globally, approximately 71% of enslaved people are women and girls, while men and boys account for 29%. According to the United Nations, human trafficking affects every country in the world, but it is not discussed adequately.
Tracking crime occurs on social media, on rural farms, in massage parlors, on street corners, and even in homes. As reported by the Global Slavery Index, at least 400,000 people are currently trapped in the United States.
To understand the truth about human trafficking, we must begin by listening to human trafficking survivors’ stories and bearing witness to their encounters.
I. Mo Farah, Olympic champion with ten global championship gold medals, revealed to BBC that he was trafficked to the U.K. from Africa as a child. The British long-distance runner disclosed to BBC that he was trafficked from the East African nation of Djibouti to the U.K. when he was nine years old and forced to work as a domestic servant for a family in London.
In a clip released by BBC, Mo Farah says his real name is Hussein Abdi Kahin. “Most people know me as Mo Farah, but it’s not my name, or it’s not the reality,” he adds, “I was brought into the U.K. illegally under the name of another child called Mohamed Farah.”
BBC reported that Mo Farah wanted to share his story to change perceptions about slavery and trafficking.
Check out Mo Farah’s story on CBS News
II. Liz Williamson was sold into the sex industry on her sixth birthday. Liz’s mother wanted to make money off child pornography. For the next 12 years, Liz was sold to men and recorded for child pornography. Luckily, she escaped as a young adult, thanks to the kindness of an attentive bus driver.
Later on, Liz got away from her family in college but fell back into sex trafficking. She got out of it at age 23. According to Clarion Ledger, men paid to have sex with her, and her mother told her, “Smile, look pretty, and do whatever he says if you love me,” Liz said.
Check out Liz’s story on Clarion-Ledger
III. Born and raised in a small village in Ghana, Natalie was only 13 when she was sent with family friends from Ghana to the U.S for education and to learn English. After her arrival, physical and sexual abuse started. Natalia was not permitted to use the phone, go to school, or even play outside. On the contrary, she was forced to carry out domestic work for 18 hours a day without getting paid.
One day, after Natalia was badly beaten, she saw a chance to run away from the home and a neighbor called the police. That’s how Natalie was saved from the hands of her traffickers.
Check out Natalia’s story on Polaris
IV. Shamere McKenzie was on a student-athlete scholarship at St. Johns University in Manhattan, NY, when she met her trafficker in 2005. Since she was struggling to pay her tuition after she got injured and couldn’t compete, her trafficker offered to help her pay the mounting bills. Instead, he forced her into working for him in the illegal sex industry for two years.
With regards to End Slavery Now, McKenzie narrated, “From the very first beating when I was choked to the point of unconsciousness until the day he pulled the trigger on the miraculously unloaded gun in my mouth, I knew obedience meant survival. When he placed the gun in my mouth and asked me if I wanted to die, I shrugged. I thought, ‘Finally, this pain and this life would be over and the only one hurt is the one who was responsible for me being in the situation – me!” The trigger was pulled but I was still alive. For a few moments, I thought I was experiencing death with the ability to still see life until I felt the blows to my head by the gun.”
McKenzie added, “This was when I realized there was no hope. I had to continue this life of being obedient to him so my family wouldn’t get hurt, as he reminded me each day. I was alive but not living. I was a slave.”
Check out Shamere’s story on End Slavery Now
V. Raymundo was recruited from Mexico to work on a farm in California. He had to take a loan of 10,000 pesos to pay for a visa as his trafficker assured him that his salary would be enough to pay off his loan. But when he arrived in California, everything was different. Not only did he work less than the promised 40 hours a week, but he also shared a single room with 34 other trafficking victims.
However, Raymundo was lucky to find out from an inspector about his rights and the exploitation they were being subjected to by the traffickers. Check out Raymundo’s story on Cast LA
Human trafficking happens worldwide but the detection and reporting of cases has only started to grow, despite that there has been legislation in place across most countries for the longest time. Conviction numbers have increased and the criminal justice response to such cases has increased. Still, several areas continue to have low conviction numbers, alongside detecting fewer victims.
Women, girls, boys, and even men are usually trafficked without even knowing. Trafficking cases are difficult to identify given that cartels are using technology to their advantage – using hunting and fishing methods through social media and across every stage of the process, from recruiting to exploiting victims.
Due to this it is important to boost technological means to play a role into combatting this crime – help to identify, prevent, and stop it by aiding investigations, enhancing prosecutions, providing services to victims, while most certainly raising and creating awareness that can enable the world to learn more about it and support by sharing such stories to help prevent it.