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. When Tonya was 13, she met Eddie at the apartment she was living in with her mother in the Dallas, Texas, area. His estranged wife was the property manager. Tonya was classmates with Eddie’s stepdaughter, so the two would often see each other at the apartment and in the local grocery store. It was there that the two first exchanged numbers. Things began to change one night when Tonya ran into Eddie at a bar. The two reconnected, the flirting picked up where it left off and Tonya went home with Eddie that night. Tonya was a runaway at the time, so she eventually moved in with Eddie and the two began a relationship. It was a “normal” arrangement at first. Tonya would cook, clean and look after Eddie’s kids from time to time. However, it was when the two were at a party filled with alcohol and drugs that the relationship took a turn. After nearly 30 more minutes of constant pressure, Tonya agreed to have sex with the man. What she thought would be a one-time thing became an everyday routine for the next few weeks. Night after night and bar after bar, Tonya would go out with Eddie while he advertised her to potential “suitors.” Tonya thought she loved him. She felt she could deal with the physical toll the trafficking took on her body. It turned out that the hardest part to deal with was the emotional and psychological effects.
There are an estimated 24,000 people living in modern slavery in Kyrgyzstan (GSI 2018). The country remains a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Women in the country are often subject to kidnapping and forced marriage, known as Ala kachuu. The act was outlawed in the country in 2013 when authorities recognised it could lead to marital rape, domestic violence and psychological trauma. However, in some communities the practice remains common. Aisuluu experienced Ala kachuu (bride kidnapping) when she was seventeen years old. She was held in a house by her kidnappers for two months before she was forcibly married and experience violence for a further two years. Aisuluu tells of the difficulties of surviving bride kidnapping and being treated as a second-class citizen.