There are an estimated 403,000 people living in modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). Sex trafficking exists throughout the country. 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. Robin Flemming was 20 years old when she met a man who seemed like everything she was looking for. He was loving, caring and promised her the world. It wasn’t until she moved to Texas to live with him that he began using her for profit. Flemming’s trafficker, whom she now refers to as “the monster,” brought her to a club one day and told her she was going to audition to be a dancer. During her first night of dancing, she earned $3,000. Throughout their marriage, they moved across the country and lived in more than six states. Flemming said her trafficker abused her verbally and mentally, raped her numerous times and occasionally kicked out of her home, leaving her with no place to go. After secretly stashing money at work, Flemming raised about $10,000, which she used to escape from her trafficker. She went to work one day and decided that she would not come back. It wasn't until two and a half years later that her trafficker finally started leaving her alone. Flemming was able to divorce her trafficker in 2007, a year after she saw him for the last time. She then had to work to get her life back to normal. Flemming stayed in exotic dancing for six more years. After counseling, continuous nightmares and a year of being sober, her life has returned to normal. She now lives in Columbia with her husband and daughter and runs a day-care. She is currently trying to repair her relationship with her other daughter, who also lives in Columbia and is married.
There are an estimated 17,000 people living in conditions of slavery in Canada (GSI 2018). Both Canadian and foreign citizens are exploited in forced labour and sex trafficking. Forced labour affects migrant workers under ‘low-skilled’ temporary visa streams including the low-wage and primary agricultural streams. These workers are often in restaurants, hotels, agriculture, food preparation, construction or domestic work. Sexual exploitation of Canadian citizens is the most common form of slavery detected by authorities in the country, with 93% of sex trafficking victims being Canadian. Timea responded to a newspaper advertisement seeking "young woman in Canada, English not necessary. Will make $1,000/month." Timea was forced into erotic dancing and sex slavery for nearly three months. Canadian authorities were unsuccessful in prosecuting Timea's traffickers. Meanwhile, Timea was granted Canadian citizenship. In 2009, Timea started Walk With Me in Canada, providing shelter and services to survivors of human trafficking, educating and training law enforcement, and raising public awareness.
“Katya” submitted this narrative as part of her application for a T-visa, which the US government has created to aid victims of trafficking. Some parts of the narrative have been redacted by her attorney and her name has been changed. In 2016, the Walk Free Foundation, Gallup, and Polaris undertook survey research to better understand the general awareness of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC)’s hotline number among the American public, through the Gallup U.S. nightly public opinion survey. Ultimately, the results suggest that a relatively small proportion of the American public are informed about it, with only 6.7% indicating they know the NHTRC specifically and 12% aware that there is a hotline focused on human trafficking. This indicates that the 5,544 cases reported in 2015 is likely a small proportion of the actual prevalence of human trafficking in the United States. Another narrative by Katya is available in the archive.