There are an estimated 403,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). The US attracts migrants and refugees who are particularly at risk of vulnerability to human trafficking. Trafficking victims often responding to fraudulent offers of employment in the US migrate willingly and are subsequently subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude in industries such as forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.
Fainness started working for a diplomat in Malawi. Fainness states that while in Malawi everything was fine and there were ‘no red flags’. However, once she was taken to the US everything changed. Fainness was forced to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week and was paid less than 50 cents an hour. She was forced to sleep on the basement floor and wasn’t allowed to use the family’s soap or shampoo because she was told she would ‘contaminate’ them. Fainness was subjected to constant surveillance by her employer, who would tell her as a diplomat, she was immune from the law. After three years, Fainness was finally able to escape when her employer came home drunk and left the garage door open. Fainness’ friend took her to a lawyer and she was able to sue her employer, being awarded over $1 million in damages.
My life was miserable.
It was a beautiful family. First class. There were no red flags.
[But once they arrived in the US, everything changed]
She listened on the phone whenever I talked to my family and would disconnect it when she left the house.
And the whole time she told me I’m a diplomat, I have immunity. She told me ‘I can drive anywhere. I can park anywhere. I can’t get a ticket’. I didn’t know what a ticket was. She said ‘I cannot get in trouble because I have immunity’.
[One night fainness' boss came home drunk and forgot to close the garage door]
It was winter. I went out into the snow in slippers.
I made it. I’m standing up using my voice that, yes, there’s justice. I beat immunity.
Narrative provided by Public Radio International