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.Kartika* was twenty-four when she was flown from Indonesia to the United States by a recruitment agent. Upon arriving in New York, she was trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. He passport and documents were taken, and she was told she had to pay off her travel costs
To me, America was a place of promise and opportunity. The recruitment agency in Indonesia had dressed me up in a revealing tank top. The fact that this hotel was in Chicago, and I had arrived at JFK airport in New York nearly 800 miles away, shows how naïve I was. Johnny took all my documents, including my passport, and led me to his car with two other women. Johnny told [us] to get out and get into a different car with a different driver [who] had a gun. Because of the gun, there was no escape. A few hours after my arrival in the U.S., I was taken away by car, not to Chicago, but to a place where my traffickers forced me to perform sex acts. They told me I owed them $30,000 and I would pay off the debt $100 at a time by serving men. I was rarely 2 days in the same place, and I never knew where I was going. These brothels were like normal houses on the outside and discos on the inside, with flashing lights and loud music. Cocaine, crystal meth and weed were laid out on the tables. The traffickers made me take drugs at gunpoint, and maybe it helped make it all bearable.
The plan was that my mother and sister would look after my little girl while I worked abroad for six months, earning $5,000 a month. Then I would come home to raise my daughter. Later that day I was taken to a place where my traffickers forced me to perform sex acts. One thing that especially confused and terrified me that night was that one of the men had a police badge. To this day I don’t know if he was a real policeman.
Over the following months, I was taken to different brothels. I was rarely 2 days in the same place, and I never knew where I was going. […]
24 hours/day, we girls would sit around, completely naked, waiting for customers to come in. I was numb, unable to cry. I just went through the motions, doing what I was told and trying hard to survive. I saw the traffickers hurt other women too if they made trouble of refused sex.
Narrative source Youth Underground, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing human trafficking through youth education, awareness-raising and advocacy.
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