Victims' Stories

The victims’ testimonies included in this report are meant to be representative only and do not include all forms of existing trafficking. Any of these stories could take place anywhere in the world. They illustrate the many forms of trafficking and the wide variety of places in which trafficking occurs. Many of the victims’ names have been changed in this report. Most uncaptioned photographs are not images of confirmed trafficking victims, but they show the myriad forms of exploitation that define trafficking and the variety of cultures in which trafficking victims are found.

In 1991, a 6-year-old boy was working parttime as a house boy for a fisheries officer. The officer was reassigned to a different region and promised the boy an education if he accompanied him. But instead of being enrolled in school, the boy was forced to tend cattle and serve as the homestead’s security guard. The officer changed the boy’s name to Charles and over time, the boy forgot his native language. Charles, now 26, still works for the fisheries officer but has never received payment and relies on the officer for everything. When Charles requested a piece of land to build a house so he could marry, the man instead forced him to work as a fisherman and turn over the profits. With the help of a local anti-trafficking committee, Charles moved into a rented room in a nearby town but continues to be abused by his trafficker. Charles does not know who or where his family is.

Albania-Western Europe
Anna’s trafficker kept her in submission through physical abuse – beating her, raping her, and slicing her with knives. He abducted her from Albania and took her to a Western European country, where she was forced into prostitution for about five months. He then took her to a second Western European country, where she told border authorities she was traveling on a falsified passport in hopes of getting help. The police sent her to a refugee camp where two Albanian social workers released her back to her trafficker. During more than four years of subsequent forced prostitution in the second destination, Anna was made to undergo four abortions. When her trafficker was deported to Albania, five years after her initial abduction, Anna went to police with information about the trafficking ring. Two days later, she too was deported to Albania, where the trafficker continued his threats and abuse. Anna pursued prosecution of her trafficker in Albania, but he remains free. She has been denied residency and assistance from several Western European countries, including the ones in which she was exploited. She was able to resettle in the United States where she is continuing her rehabilitation and studying to become a nurse.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo
By 18, Christophe had been abducted by the Congolese army three times and forced to transport their supplies from region to region. Christophe and other abducted civilians, sometimes as many as 100, were forced to walk for days carrying boxes of ammunition, jerry cans of whiskey, cases of beer, and other baggage. Primary school children, some as young as 8, were forced to carry the soldiers’ children on their backs. If they got tired or walked slowly, they were beaten or whipped. They were given no food and ate only whatever they could find in the villages they passed through.

Cindy was a poor girl in rural China when a neighbor and her husband offered to give her work at a restaurant their friends opened in Africa. Cindy dropped out of school and went with the couple to Ghana, only to fall victim to a Chinese sex trafficking ring. She was taken to live in a brothel with other Chinese women, and her passport and return tickets were confiscated. Her traffickers forced her to engage in commercial sex and beat her when she refused. They made her peruse casinos to attract white men. The traffickers took Cindy’s money, telling her she had to repay them for her travel and accommodation costs. A Ghanaian investigative journalist exposed the ring, and the traffickers were prosecuted in a Ghanaian court. With NGO assistance, Cindy and the other women returned to China and are trying to rebuild their lives.

Ethiopia-United Arab Emirates
Mary left her home in East Africa determined to earn money for her family. But from her second day of work as a maid in a private house in the United Arab Emirates, she was beaten daily. “If she didn’t beat me in the day, she would beat me at night,” Mary says of her employer. The beatings continued for two years. Once, Mary’s employer threw boiling water on her and continued to beat her after she collapsed in pain. She was denied medical attention. Her clothing stuck to her wounds. Her employer ordered Mary to have sex with another maid on video. When Mary refused, the woman put a hot iron on her neck and threatened her with more beatings. After two years, a doctor noted wounds, scars, and blisters all over Mary’s body.

At 17, Khansee left his village in southern Laos to find work in a border town. He had very little education, could barely read or write, and was supporting his mother and grandmother. Another young man told Khansee he could earn $170 a month working at a garment factory in Thailand. Khansee trusted him because he was a fellow Lao, but he never made it to the garment factory. They crossed the river at night and boarded a van that took them to the coast of Thailand. When Khansee stepped out of the van, he was immediately led onto a fishing trawler under the watchful eyes of men armed with guns. For two years, Khansee worked day and night, heaving nets of fish without a rest or break. He ate and slept little on a crowded deck with 40 other men. He was beaten on a regular basis. Once, Khansee watched his traffickers beat a fellow worker until the man was unconscious. After two years of forced servitude, Khansee managed to escape when the boat was docked. He ran for days through the jungle, until he reached the home of a woman who took him in, fed him, and gave him money for a taxi to the Lao Embassy in Bangkok. With NGO and embassy assistance, Khansee made it back to his village alive.

Neah was promised a job as a waitress in Germany but found herself forced to work in a Nigerian brothel instead. After some time, she was sold to another brothel in Togo. There, Neah and other women lived in a confined environment. They were allowed to go out only if a customer took them out. They lived and worked in a guarded complex, enclosed by high walls and were accompanied by guards whenever they went to a shop. They used the little money they were given to pay for their monthly provisions. In both Nigeria and Togo, Neah was indentured to her employers and never had enough money to buy a ticket home. Neah decided to go to Cyprus to find a better-paying brothel. After six months, she earned enough money to pay her debts and buy a ticket home.

Rathana was born to a very poor family in Cambodia. When Rathana was 11 years old, her mother sold her to a woman in a neighboring province who sold ice in a small shop. Rathana worked for this woman and her husband for several months. She was beaten almost every day and the shop owner never gave her much to eat. One day a man came to the shop and bought Rathana from the ice seller. He then took her to a far-away province. When they arrived at his home he showed Rathana a pornographic movie and then forced her to act out the movie by raping her. The man kept Rathana for more than eight months, raping her sometimes two or three times a day. One day the man got sick and went to a hospital. He brought Rathana with him and raped her in the hospital bathroom. Another patient reported what was happening to the police. Rathana was rescued from this man and sent to live in a shelter for trafficking survivors.

Kenya-Saudi Arabia
Salima was recruited in Kenya to work as a maid in Saudi Arabia. She was promised enough money to support herself and her two children. But when she arrived in Jeddah, she was forced to work 22 hours a day, cleaning 16 rooms daily for several months. She was never let out of the house and was given food only when her employers had leftovers. When there were no leftovers, Salima turned to dog food for sustenance. She suffered verbal and sexual abuse from her employers and their children. One day while Salima was hanging clothes on the line, her employer pushed her out the window, telling her, “You are better off dead.” Salima plunged into a swimming pool three floors down and was rescued by police. After a week in the hospital, she was deported. She returned to Kenya with broken legs and hands.

Eastern Europe-United States
Katya, a student athlete in an Eastern European capital city, dreamed of learning English and visiting the United States. Her opportunity came in the form of a student visa program, through which international students can work temporarily in the United States. But when she got to America, rather than being taken to a job at a beach resort, the people who met her put her on a bus to Detroit, Michigan. They took her passport away, and forced her and her friends to dance in strip clubs for the traffickers’ profit. They controlled the girls’ movement and travel, kept keys to the girls’ apartment, and listened in on phone calls the girls made to their parents. After a year of enslavement, Katya and her friend were able to reach federal authorities with the help of a patron of the strip club in whom they had confided. Due to their bravery, six other victims were identified and rescued. Katya now has immigration status under the U.S. trafficking law. She works in a health club and hopes to finish her degree in kinesiology. The traffickers are in federal prison.

Cristina flew from Bucharest to Lisbon where a friend’s boyfriend promised her a job serving drinks in a café. But instead she was taken to a town in southern Portugal and forced into street prostitution. Cristina was expected to give her traffickers 200-500 euros a day. Her traffickers verbally and physically abused her, one time breaking several of her teeth. They took her passport and forced her to use heroine and methadone. A Romanian friend helped Cristina escape and contacted Portuguese law enforcement officials, who took her to the government’s trafficking shelter after taking her statements. Her resilient spirit prevailed. With the shelter’s assistance, she relocated to London, where she is currently living and working.

Jamaica-United States
A recruiter in Jamaica promised Sheldon a visa through the U.S. federal H-2B seasonal worker program. The processing fee was hefty, but the prospect of working in America seemed worth it. Sheldon arrived in Kansas City eager to work, but he ended up at the mercy of human traffickers. Along with other workers from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines, Sheldon cleaned rooms at some of the best-known hotels in Kansas City. The traffickers kept Sheldon in debt, constantly charging him fees for uniforms, transportation, and rent in overcrowded apartments. Often, his paychecks would show negative earnings. When Sheldon refused to work, the traffickers threatened to cancel his immigration status, and which would render him illegal in an instant. In May 2009, a federal grand jury indicted the leaders of this trafficking ring – including eight nationals of Uzbekistan – on charges related to forced labor in 14 states.

United States
Harriet ran away from home when she was 11 years old and moved in with a 32-year-old man who sexually and physically abused her and convinced her to become a prostitute. In the next two years, Harriet became addicted to drugs and contracted numerous sexually transmitted diseases. The police arrested Harriet when she was 13 and charged her with committing prostitution. They made no efforts to find her pimp. Harriet was placed on probation for 18 months in the custody of juvenile probation officials. Her lawyers have appealed the decision, arguing that since she could not legally consent to sex, she cannot face prostitution-related charges.

Darya divorced her husband and left her village in rural Kazakhstan to look for a job in the capital city, Astana. But when she arrived, her brother-in-law took her documents and sold her to a pimp. After two years of forced prostitution, Darya escaped and was found by police during an anti-trafficking operation. She was 20 weeks pregnant when she arrived at a shelter for trafficking victims. Darya is being trained as a manicurist at the shelter and will leave once she finds a job and an apartment.

Vipul was born into extreme poverty in a village in Bihar, the poorest state in India. His mother was desperate to keep him and his five brothers from starving, so she accepted $15 as an advance from a local trafficker, who promised more money once 9-year-old Vipul started working many miles away in a carpet factory. The loom owner treated Vipul like any other low-value industrial tool. He forced Vipul and the other slaves to work for 19 hours a day, never allowed them to leave the loom, and beat them savagely when they made a mistake in the intricate designs of the rugs, which were sold in Western markets. The work itself tore into Vipul’s small hands, and when he cried in pain, the owner stuck Vipul’s finger in boiling oil to cauterize the wound and then told him to keep working. After five years, local police, with the help of NGO activists, freed Vipul and nine other emaciated boys.