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Human trafficking is a very real and serious issue across the globe. It has been estimated that there are around 40 million victims of human trafficking globally many trapped in forced labor and at least 75 percent are women.

In just the last 10 years over 49,000 cases of human trafficking have been reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and Polaris BeFree Textline. Many people do not realize how prominent this kind of thing is or how intensely it is growing. Human trafficking even occurs here in the US in every single state. While California, Texas, and Florida seem to be the states with the highest numbers of reported cases, tons and tons of cases go unreported each and every year.

Below I am going to go over some of the stories of those who have managed to escape and survive these heartbreaking situations. Not everyone is as lucky as those I am going over in this article. Far too many people lose their lives to this kind of thing, human trafficking can happen to anyone and we should all be aware of it.

Please keep in mind that these stories are not in any particular order, each is just as important to note as the rest, some stories will be ones you may have heard about already but not all of them will be. Human trafficking consists of several different areas forced labor and sex trafficking being the main two. Some people are captured/tricked into this kind of thing and others are born into it.

15 Human Trafficking Survivors and Their Horrifying Stories:

1. Trafficked By Classmates Step-Father

After meeting and somewhat getting to know an older man named Eddie 13-year-old Tonya did not know what she was in for. Their relationship was quite casual until she turned 15 which was when everything changed. Tonya ran away from home and eventually moved in with him. After some time had gone by he coerced her into having sex with a man so that he could get money off of it.

While she had assumed it would be just one time, he soon forced her into doing this daily and because she thought she ‘was in love’ she tried her best to deal with what she was facing. If not for ICE and HSI she would not have been able to find her way out of that situation. She said many times she would just be lying there helpless unable to sleep and unsure of how to live with herself.

(Eddie was sentenced to 12 years in prison for what he did to Tonya.)

2. Underaged Runaway Forced Into Prostitution

A brave girl named Laura took the time to share her ‘in their own words’ on the ICE website. She was merely 17 when she met her trafficker and it changed her life. While she is safe now, this is a chunk of her life she cannot ever get back.

Her story goes as follows:

“I was 17 around when I met ‘Robert.’ It started off with me and my friend meeting him for social purposes. It just went on for about nine months and we were living in different hotels the entire time and I don’t even remember how many men there were. I was a runaway and wasn’t living anywhere stable, so since I was underage most of the time, I sort of needed him in order to get hotels and move around.

I had already been a prostitute since I was 15 and I think I just didn’t even know what was right or wrong and how I should be treated. Towards the end, he held me against my will in a hostage situation and forced me to prostitute and took all the money and just beat me severely.

The last time I saw him, he was just beating me until he was absolutely tired. I was covered in bruises, my face was completely disfigured and it’s causing me issue with my back to this day because of the way he was beating me and torturing me. That was probably the worst. There was a client in the room and he was having an issue with something I couldn’t do because I was all beat up. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t want to do anything. He wanted the money back. When Robert and him were talking I ran out of the room and somehow was able to run faster than him.

I didn’t tell anyone. I kept it to myself until I got a call from the FBI that he’d been arrested for something else and asked would I talk. Having to go face everything and realize how serious everything was. For the longest time, I didn’t even think it was that serious.

At the trial, it felt empowering to look at him the entire time. I’m sure it drove him crazy. He can never touch me but he had to look at me and listen and it made me feel good.

I had to learn that if I don’t at least have some kind of love and value for myself, no one ever will. My advice to other girls would be to let people help you. It’s not your fault and that you didn’t deserve it. It’s OK to be hurt about it because a lot of people will act like it never happened because that’s what I was going to do too.”

3. Police Corruption, Starvation, and More

Dina Chan after being orphaned and getting into debt was trafficked and ended up being the ‘property’ of a pimp in northern Cambodia. She was raped, beaten, and humiliated. She runs a union to unite sex workers and helps others fight for their basic rights and freedom. At one point during her journey, she was gang-raped in a dirty cell after being locked there for who knows how long.

She was the victim of sex slavery for about six years and now only wishes to bring this kind of thing into the light so that it can be dealt with. She fights with a passion for herself and her sisters. Cambodia being a very hard place to do that in, she is truly a brave woman.

4. American Teen Tricked By Pimp

After being sexually abused by her father a girl named Tessa met Jared, a man who she thought would show her the world. While she did not know he was a pimp she continued to grow closer to him as time passed and he manipulated her into selling her body for money. When she refused or did not meet her quota she was deprived of food and other things of the sort.

While she too eventually escaped she was one of about one hundred thousand in the sex trade. Here in the US children are easily the main target in all of this. They are much easier to coerce than they should be and even when you think you’ve educated yours enough, things like this can still end up happening.

5. Peru’s Gold Trade

A young man by the name of Oscar was urged by his cousin to work in the mines in Madre de Dios but sadly, things were nowhere near what he was promised. At just 16 years old he was forced to work harder than most people do their whole lives to mine gold illegally. Early on he contracted malaria and was left to die but other slaves helped keep him alive by sharing what little they had with him for food.

He worked eight months before he was allowed to leave and was given only a mere 10 grams of gold which he sold for just 115 dollars. From there he developed yellow fever and had to borrow money from his mother for medical bills. This forcing him to return to the jungle to work more to pay off his debt. Peru sees far more trafficking cases than you’d imagine each year.

6. Cambodian Girl Sold For Her Innocence

A girl at just 12 years old named Kieu was sold for sex. Her mother deep in debt got her a certificate of virginity and bid her off to a man who raped her for two whole days in a hotel. From there the pain didn’t stop though as she was sold to brothels and forced to have sex for money time and time again. While she was able to eventually escape to a safe house most do not get so lucky. Cambodia has a very significant number of trafficking victims and the government does not seem to be doing much about it.

7. Forced Fisherman

At just six years old James Annan’s father gave him away to work in a fishing village about nine hours from his home. He worked as a child fisherman there for many years and he through those years saw many children die. Some from the work and others from abuse. He was forced to work excruciating hours catching fish on a daily basis. The workload very physical and when sick never received treatment of any kind.

He was able to escape finally and managed to enroll himself in school and while his father was not happy about it, his mother supported him fully. He now also works to help children in situations like his.

8. From Dancing to Prostitution

After being lured in by a ‘kind’ man Shamere McKenzie thought dancing was her way out of debt but quickly learned she had trusted the wrong person. She was told there would be no touching and that dancing was all she would ever have to do but when someone requested she do something more the ‘kind’ man choked her for refusing. While she tried to leave, she was beaten and had her life and the lives of her loved ones threatened.

She was eventually brutally raped and sodomized for quite some time as she was trafficked for two whole years. Terrified of this man she fulfilled all of his demands and she actually ended up driving women across state lines for him. She eventually linked up with members of a Jamaican gang and when placed before her trafficker to finally get some revenge she could not follow through and was thus raped by those gang members and dumped at her hotel.

While in the long-run she was arrested by the FBI for transporting minors across state lines for illegal purposed she only served three weeks in prison and was sent into a program for victims of sex trafficking. Her story is one we see all too often.

9. Trapped As A House Maid

After answering an ad she found where someone was looking for a housemaid Sri Lankan Beatrice Fernando soon found herself unable to leave. The job agent took away her passport and she was then sold to a wealthy woman who gave ger chore after chore. She was not fed and was unable to even use the telephone.

She was abused time and time again by the woman who now ‘owned’ her and managed to somehow survive a fall (her only way out of the home) from a balcony. She was able to escape from there as she woke up at the hospital and now works to help others who may be in a similar situation. While she knew she could lose her life from the fall alone, she knew it was her only way to get out of her situation at that moment, this should not be a reality for anyone to face.

10. Child Prostitute

A Reddit user (throwawaydndname) who decided to share her story wrote as follows in regards:

From the age of 3 to 12, I was a child prostitute and abused by my father. My father groomed me and sold me to his friends and clients. I lived a seemingly charmed life; I went to exclusive private schools, owned a horse, even went to charm school. But after school and on the weekends, when my mother thought I was at various activities or hanging out with my father; I was being sold to the highest bidder. After every “date” we would go over what I did wrong and if I wanted to see him again. Dates, videos, pictures, outfits, playtime, everything was monetized. It ended when he died of a hemorrhagic stroke while I was on a “date”. We were in another city, booked in a hotel, I spent the night with a client and came back to our room to find him in a puddle of his own piss. I smoked 6 cigarettes before I called 911.

11. Lured Into Thai Jungle Camp By Elderly Man

BBC has touched on the trafficking done in Bangladesh on many occasions but the story of eighteen-year-old Abdurrahim stands out big time. He was trying to find work in Dacca when an elderly man offered him a job that paid around six US dollars per day. He went with this man to Cox Bazar and was taken to a small house up in the hills. From there things got horrifying.

Abdurrahim was tied up, drugged, and woke up on a boat. He spent at least a week on this boat and was beaten during that time. The group he was now a part of unloaded on the Thai coast and was taken into a mangrove forest to work. They survived by eating leaves as they were given no food. These kinds of traffickers are especially brutal and will do anything they feel is necessary before selling off those they’re trafficking.

12. Forced To Face War At 12

Ishmael Beah was pulled into the Sierra Leone armed conflict back in 1993 at just 12 years old. He was given a gun, bullets, and drugs. He was told to question nothing and was forced to become a killer. While eventually rescued by UNICEF, the road to rehabilitation was a rocky one.

13. India’s Carpet Industry

Ravi Shanker Kumar was a victim of the carpet industry in India. He was bought by a loom owner from his parents and taken from his village against his will. He was forced to work in the loom and even when cut open and nipped was not allowed to stop. He was forced to continue weaving even with blood running down his fingers and if he stopped for even just a moment he was beaten. He was lucky enough to be picked up during a raid.

14. Forced Into The Garment Industry

Wanting to help better the lives of her three children Molina began taking sewing classes. She was targeted by a trafficker in the garment industry and told that if she came to the US and left behind her children and family she would be making enough money to send them something back each time she got paid and that she would be furnished with a place to live. While the idea seemed too good to be true, she took a leap of faith and went through with it.

As soon as she arrived she realized that she had made a mistake in going there and that her trafficker had been lying. Her trafficker told her that for coming into the US she now owed her three thousand dollars and that she had to work for her to pay her back. She was forced to sleep at the factory in a storage room and had to share a single mattress with someone else who was also a victim of trafficking.

She was able to get out of her situation with the help of a co-worker who had picked up on the fact that something did not seem right. This happened in Los Angeles and could be happening elsewhere as well. There is a lot more going on in this world than you might assume.

15. She Never Called The Police…

A girl by the name of April shared her story on the ICE website as well and it goes as follows:

“I was 15 at the time and was a runaway. ‘Tom’ wanted to be a pimp, so I would be in his room in his apartment and he would not let me go out for anything. He tried to intimidate me by threatening to beat me up if I tried to leave. I was scared of him so I wouldn’t leave. He would drop me off at a hotel while he went to work.

It lasted from March until June or July. Sometimes it would be every day, sometimes he would say, ‘not today, but tomorrow.’ Out of the week, maybe 4-5 times a week, I was with different men.

I just felt like that it was my fault and I deserved it and nobody would ever believe me or try to help me, so I just let them control how I thought about myself. They were always verbally abusive and putting you down and it got to the point that I actually started believing it. Just letting someone control your own freedom take over just what you do. I couldn’t leave the room. It was like ‘wow, I’m letting someone make me feel so scared.’

I never called the police because I felt it was my fault. I felt at the time like I had to stay. One day the FBI ended up coming to my house and contacted me because my name came up in their investigation.

You have to know your self-worth. It’s OK to ask for help. They don’t know they are a victim. They feel like it’s their fault. We are victims. You can have the worst past, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful future.”