Victims' Stories

The victims’ testimonies included in this Report are meant to be illustrative only and do not reflect all forms of trafficking that occur. These stories could take place anywhere in the world. They illustrate the many forms of trafficking and the wide variety of places in which they occur. Many of the victims’ names have been changed in this Report. Most uncaptioned photographs are not images of confirmed trafficking victims. Still, they illustrate the myriad forms of exploitation that comprise trafficking and the variety of situations in which trafficking victims are found.

United States

Mauri was only 16 years old when she was prostituted on the streets of Honolulu, Hawaii. For her, there was no escape; her pimp threatened to kill her family if she did not go out on the street night after night to make him money. If Mauri tried to use some of the money to buy food, she was severely beaten. Mauri finally escaped when she was picked up by law enforcement. She is now in a rehabilitation program and has reunited with her parents, but her road to recovery has been long and difficult. She suffers from terrible flashbacks and severe depression, and has even attempted suicide. Mauri says she was lucky to get out alive: “The longer you stay the less hope you have.”

El Salvador – Mexico

Liliana was unemployed and unable to find a job in El Salvador when she decided to leave El Salvador in search of work. A family friend promised to take Liliana to the United States, but instead took her to Mexico. When Liliana discovered that she had been tricked, she ran away and ended up in an area where other migrants like herself waited to go to back to El Salvador. One day a group of men invited her and the others to join their organization, the Zetas, a notorious drug cartel. They said they would give her work and feed her. When she joined them, she was forced into prostitution, tricked for the second time. Liliana was drugged the first day and woke up with a “Z” tattoo, branded for life. She was forced to ingest drugs and was never allowed to travel unaccompanied. After three months, her aunt in El Salvador paid for her freedom and she was freed. With Liliana’s help, her traffickers were brought to court but were acquitted. Liliana will not testify again.

Burma – Thailand

Kyi and Mya, both 16 years old, were promised work as domestic helpers in Thailand. With the help of five different local brokers, they traveled from Burma walking all day and night through a forest, crossing a river in a small boat, and spending a few nights in various homes along the way. Once they arrived, they were placed in a meat-processing factory and forced to work from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. Kyi and Maya complained to the factory manager of the hard work and long working hours, and told him this was not what they were told they would be doing in Thailand. The factory manager told the girls they owed him for their “traveling expenses” from Burma to Thailand and could not leave until it was paid off. He continued to subtract their “debt” from what little income they received. Eventually the girls were able to contact one of their relatives in Burma who then contacted an NGO; the organization arranged their safe removal from the factory. They are now in a Thai government shelter in Bangkok, receiving counseling while waiting for repatriation.

Uganda – Kenya

Latulo was desperate to find a job to pay for his university school tuition. While in town one day, Latulo met a man who said he needed people to work for him at a factory in Kenya. Hoping this job would help pay for his tuition, Latulo agreed to accompany the man to Kenya and met with him the very next day to travel. Other men and women also met them to travel to Kenya. Eventually they arrived at their final destination in Kenya at a huge house. The man, who had earlier been kind to them all, suddenly became rude and ordered them to give him their identification and phones. They were shown a video of a man who had been suffocated with a bag because he attempted to escape. They were all told that they would not be working at a factory, but rather would be working as sex slaves. Every room had a camera and they were recorded while they were forced to have sex with strangers. After a month and half of captivity, Latulo was allowed to accompany his captors into town. When they stopped to have lunch, he ran away. Law enforcement officials in Kenya opened an investigation and Latulo was able to return to Uganda and recieved medical attention.


Tola was seven years old when she was lured away from her parents by a couple who owned the field her family worked. While enslaved, she was forced to take care of cats and dogs for the couple’s pet grooming shop. For five years, Tola’s parents hoped to see her again, never knowing how she disappeared or where she might be. They never imagined that Tola was close, enduring torture and abuse. If Tola did not do her job properly, she was kicked, slapped, and beaten with a broom. Sometimes the couple locked her in a cage and poured boiling hot water over her. On one occasion, the traffickers cut off her ear lobe with a pair of scissors. One day, she climbed a concrete fence of the house while chasing a cat and realized she was free. A neighbor called the police and she was taken to a nearby shelter where her mother identified her. The couple was arrested and charged with various charges, including torture, detaining a person against their will, enslavement, and kidnapping. The couple posted bail and escaped. As for Tola, injuries on her arms affected her muscles; she can no longer move her left arm. For now, she is safe with her family and is beginning her mental, emotional, and physical journey to recovery.

Zambia – South Africa

Chewazi was offered a better life in South Africa working for an organization that ran a Boy Scouts group. Excited about the job, he left Zimbabwe for South Africa. Instead of receiving the job he was promised, he was forced to work every day on a farm for a piece of bread and some water. For six months, Chewazi was transported between farms in Zambia and South Africa, enduring physical and other abuses, dreaming of the day he would escape. When Chewazi and a friend finally did escape, they made their way to Cape Town; a security guard on the street found them and helped them to safety. Through the Department of Social Development, they were taken to an NGO, which helped provide support and services to them both. Chewazi suffers from post-traumatic stress, but decided to stay in South Africa, hopeful that he will still find that better life that led him away from home.

Philippines – Qatar

Dalisay signed a contract with an employment agency in the Philippines to work as a housemaid in Qatar for $400 a month, plus room and board. But when she arrived, her employer said he would pay her only $250 a month. She knew her family back in the Philippines depended on her earnings and felt she had no choice but to stay to help her family. She quickly realized that her low pay was not the only unexpected condition of her work situation. She was fed one meal a day, leftovers from the family’s lunch: “If no leftovers, I didn’t eat.” She worked seven days a week. When she was finished working in her employers’ house, she was forced to clean his mother-in-law’s house, and then his sister’s without any additional pay. After eight months, Dalisay tried to leave but her boss just laughed and said “You can’t quit.” As a domestic worker not covered under the labor law, Dalisay was subject only to the restrictive kafala, or sponsorship system, meaning that she could not resign without her employer’s permission, change jobs, leave the country, get a driver’s license, or open a checking account without the permission of her employer. She also learned that her employer could withdraw sponsorship at any time and send her back home, so she fled and joined 56 other women who sought shelter at the Philippines Overseas Labor Office.


Naveen was 14 years old when a placement agency found him a job as a domestic worker for a couple with two children. For the two years he served the family, Naveen was confined to the house, never allowed to leave. He was beaten regularly for trivial matters and, on several occasions, branded with hot tongs. Unable to endure his situation anymore, he ran away. Naveen is living in a children’s home and receiving counseling. The couple, meanwhile, have been charged and are out on bail awaiting a court date.

United States

For over 20 years, the owners and staff of a turkey-processing plant subjected 32 men with intellectual disabilities to severe verbal and physical abuse. The company housed the workers in a “bunkhouse” with inadequate heating, dirty mattresses, and a roof in such disrepair that buckets were put out to catch rainwater; the infestation of insects was so serious the men swatted cockroaches away as they ate. Although the men were as productive as other workers, the company paid them only $15 a week (41 cents an hour) for labor that legally should have been compensated at $11-12 an hour. The employers hit, kicked, and generally subjected the men to abuse, forcing some of the men to carry heavy weights as punishment and in at least one case handcuffed a man to a bed. Supervisors dismissed complaints of injuries or pain, denied the men recreation, cellphones, and health care. The U.S. government filed an abuse and discrimination case against the company for damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act. During the trial, the attorney representing the men said: “The evidence is these men were treated like property…these men are people. They are individuals.” A jury awarded the men a total of approximately $3,000,000, the largest jury verdict in the history of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

West Africa – Egypt

Sussan was only 10 when her father sold her to an Egyptian family to serve as a domestic worker. Despite her protests, Sussan accompanied the family back to Egypt. Once there, she was forced to work excessive hours, never received compensation, and her passport was confiscated. She was locked in the house where she was physically and emotionally abused daily. During her six years of enslavement, she was not allowed to speak to her family; when her relatives tried to reach her by phone, Sussan’s employer would hang up the phone. One day, she summoned the courage to escape. She was arrested shortly after her escape for immigration violations, but with the cooperation of an international NGO and Egyptian authorities, she was released from detention and recognized as a trafficking victim. While staying at a government shelter in Egypt, the international NGO arranged for Sussan’s return to her country in West Africa. Once there, UNICEF and the child protection police arranged for her to stay in a designated shelter for trafficking victims while her family was located. After three weeks, she was reunited with her family and given the chance to enroll in vocational training as part of her reintegration process. Sussan looks to brighter days now and hopes to open an Egyptian restaurant in her town.

Uzbekistan – Russia

Ayauly and Bibihul were among 12 migrants from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, including three children, who were held captive for 10 years in a supermarket after being promised employment in Russia. In Russia, they were beaten and forced to work without pay by the couple who owned the supermarket. Their passports were confiscated by their traffickers who said they needed the documents to officially register them as workers with authorities. The passports were never returned. Side by side with 10 others, Ayauly and Bibihul lifted heavy goods in and out of the shop every day. The couple used threats of violence, beatings, and sexual violence to demand subservience. Based on a tip from Ayauly’s mother, two Russian civic activists rescued Ayauly and Bibihul as well the other workers found at the supermarket. While a criminal investigation was opened it was closed shortly thereafter. Prosecutors claimed there was no evidence of a crime. Ayauly and Bibihul are now facing deportation for residing in Russia illegally.

Nigeria – France

Since her parents passed away, Ogochukwu had been struggling to care for her younger brothers. An acquaintance offered to take her abroad and find her a job. Ogochukwu was ecstatic; she accepted his offer, believing that she would now be able to help her family in Nigeria. Before setting off to Europe, she was taken to a juju priest to seal the deal with local magic. During the ceremony, she vowed she would obey her boss in Europe and pay back her travel expenses. The “spell” called for death if she failed to fulfill her oath. It was not too long before she realized that something was wrong, she had joined about 30 other women in an open-back truck headed toward the Sahara Desert. They finally reached their destination and were met by a “madam” in France who told her she owed travel expenses for her passage to Europe and would be forced to pay it back by selling her body. She worked the streets as many as 20 hours a day and was forced to pay for her own food and clothes as well as for rent. Despite the juju oath, she was encouraged by a man she befriended to go to the police. Once at the police station, she explained her situation. Her traffickers were arrested but so was she, for being in France illegally. Before her deportation, workers at the detention center gave her money out of good will for her safe return to Nigeria. She is now building her life again and says,“I am very much stronger than juju.”