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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.

Eleanor* was trapped in domestic servitude in New York. She was forced to work long hours with no breaks or days off. Her passport was withheld, and her food regulated.

The contract said I would work eight hour days, five days per week, and make $1,800 per month, caring for a teenager with special needs and doing some cooking and cleaning around the house. I was soon working 14-to-18-hour days, seven days per week. I cleaned and vacuumed their apartment, washed and ironed their clothes, cooked breakfast and dinner, and cared for their daughter. I had to do the laundry in the bathtub, because they said the washing machine would ruin their clothes. The family would portion out how much food I should cook. I was only allowed to eat the leftovers. My employers were holding my passport. I cleaned everything in the house by 1 p.m., then walked out and left my key in the door. I immediately called my friend on the cellphone and yelled, “I’m free!”

*name given


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

Original narrative can be found here: