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2018 (Narrative date)

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.

Ali was trafficked at the age of 22, in Philadelphia, USA. Heroin addiction led to Ali living on the streets, to prostitution and ultimately, to being trafficked. She was on the streets for five years. This is her story in her own words.

In the beginning it’s easy for them to manipulate you when you have nothing, and they're literally providing you with everything. They have that control over you. It kind of became me giving into them because I felt obligated to do certain things with them in order for them to keep providing for me.

If they would be physically abusive towards you then they would remind you that they're your primary source of income and your primary place to have a roof over your head, to feed you. So even though that part of you was there, you were willing to sacrifice because without that person, I thought I had nothing.

It’s like a war zone, that’s the only way to describe it. I normalized it so much, but most of what goes on there is drugs, prostitution, and violence. It’s crazy when I think about it now because it’s no way for a person to live…

I had alienated myself from [my parents] for so long, lied to them, stole from them, had them searching for me for months, putting out missing persons reports for me. There had been warrants out for my arrest because I had failed to appear in court for months, I was running from the police…

I remember I was walking down a one-way street and I see a truck and for a split second I thought about running. [An officer] got out of the car and handcuffed me and literally called my mom on the phone to say we found your daughter…

I had that moment of clarity where I realized that I was going to be in trouble and most likely go to jail—but I also had that sense of relief that was a little scary because I knew that it was over… I don't think I would have made it off of the streets alive had I continued to stay out there…

Whether it’s addiction or prostitution or human trafficking it doesn’t discriminate against any socio-economic status or any background. Even me in the beginning, I thought I come from a good family, an educated family, a good area, this could never happen to me. I was one of those naive ignorant people that didn’t think it could happen to me as though I was above other people. But it can happen to anybody. You don’t have to come from a bad home or live in the inner city where that stuff might be misconceived as being more prevalent, it happens everywhere. It can happen to anybody.”


Narrative source Youth Underground, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing human trafficking through youth education, awareness-raising and advocacy.

The original narrative can be found here