Human trafficking is probably one of the biggest forms of modern slavery in the United States today. From runaways who are hoping to find some sort of relief but instead are met with life changing experiences to say the least, to women who are kidnapped and forced into prostitution, it’s something that is said to be on the rise but also being exposed like never before. Still, despite the Emancipation Proclamation being signed centuries ago, slavery in the form of forced labor and child labor are still going on in today’s America and have been for years.
The first thing that goes through many people’s minds is how is this still going on? Well, many of the stories listed below concern people from other countries who were tricked into coming to America with promises of a better life. Despite the country possibly being a laughing stock right now to other nations, it’s still seen as the Free World where the “American Dream” can come true. But what they discovered instead was a hoax that led to them being held against their will much longer than they anticipated. Sadly, a majority of the stories, if not all, also include adults, teenagers, and or children who are abused, whether it be physically and sexually, emotionally, verbally, or all of the above. Thankfully many organizations have started to take watch and take a stand. But it’ still important for stories to be told. So take a look at some of the most shocking stories of slavery that happened in modern America.
15. A California Dream Turned Bad
Shyima has not turned 30 yet but she has the shaky and unthinkable past of a modern day slave. She was locked up in a California home for three years and worked 20 hours day without receiving any type of compensation. Shyima’s days of being held captive started after her parents sold her into slavery to a businessman named Nassar Ibrahim. Eleven-years-old at the time, she was ordered to work for his family for ten years. He agreed to pay her parents, but not her. Shyima, who is a native from Egypt, entered into the country with a fake Visa and passport picture. Documentation said she was a student who would be back in Egypt in a month. But she didn’t live the life of the average American citizen as she was treated badly by Ibrahim and his family of seven. She wasn’t allowed to go to school and at the time she didn’t know how to read, write, or even speak English fluently
14. Tricked And Forced Into Work – The Journey To A Better Life?
A man named Christopher was hit with harsh realities after coming to the United States from the Philippines for what he was told would be a job opportunity. He actually signed a job offer for a resort located in the Appalachian Mountains. But he actually had to pay about $5,000 for the job. To make matters worse, there was no job when he actually got to this side of the states. What did happen is he was ordered to get on a bus and rode for three days (without money, food, or water). He arrived to his new destination and was forced to clean hotel rooms for anywhere between 15 and 18 hours every day. He was paid but the amount was much less than minimum wage. He was watched very closely and of course was threatened with deportation should he tell anyone what really happened to him. Throughout it all, his main concern is said to have been his family.
13. Losing Innocence At A Young Age
A woman from Chicago, Tina Frundt, has told her story of being a slave in today’s America as well. She was a foster child growing up but adopted at 12. One man in his 20s confronted her when she was going into a store in the Chicago area. He ended up becoming one of her closest friends as he picked her up for school and bought her nice things. But one day their seemingly innocent friendship turned sour when he instead sold her into slavery in Cleveland, Ohio. Interestingly enough, she said her captor was right when he told her that if she tells the police, she would get in trouble and no one would help her. She said when police finally did come, she was considered as the perp, not the one who needed help. Eventually, she was able to climb back up from rock bottom and start her own organization called Courtney’s House.
12. Held Captive By A Major Executive, Forced To Work Off Hospital Bill
A woman named Mary found herself being a modern day slave in Washington, D.C. Her employer was actually none other than a woman who was the vice president of a huge corporation. Neighbors started to notice that even though Mary nurtured her employer’s children, she didn’t leave the home very much. She once even told someone who tried to speak to her that her employer would be upset if she talked to anyone at all. Mary was able to sneak away and speak with a man, Bob, who a neighbor referred her to after noticing these things. It was revealed that Mary worked six days a week with no pay. She was often threatened that if she told anyone, she would be deported back to her home country in South America. At one point Mary had to go to the emergency room so her employer dropped her off. She was there for four days, and the woman offered Mary’s services to people in the neighborhood so she could pay off her bill. Federal officials ended up stepping in and taking Mary out of that situation.
11. A Fashion Industry Slave
Flor Molina suffered modern slavery as she worked in the garment industry in Los Angeles. She was enslaved for about 40 days after her sewing teacher encouraged her to take a job in the United States. It turns out that a trafficker approached the instructor because she had access to lots of women, like Molina, who would be interested in what seemed like a great opportunity. Still, Molina was hit with the harsh reality of what her “opportunity” really meant when she arrived in Los Angeles. Her trafficker told her she owed her $3,000 and had to work it off to pay her back. She worked 18 hour days creating dresses that were sold for hundreds of dollars in department stores. Molina was also only given one meal a day. She escaped when her trafficker finally allowed her to go to church. She contacted authorities and found out they were already investigating her trafficker.
10. Sex Slave At 16
A woman who has been identified as just “B” experienced modern day slavery through being a victim of human trafficking. She was 16-years-old when she got into an ugly argument with her parents. She ended up contacting a guy who she had met on the Internet in hopes that he would be her confidant. What really happened is that he picked her up from her parents’ home in Sacramento and took her to his apartment that was in the Bay Area of California. He ended up holding her hostage and making her become a prostitute against her will. She asked in interviews to remain anonymous because her captor is still free. “I was watched like a hawk,” she recalls. “I knew I had a small window to get away. I want people to think about it, it could happen to anyone’s kid. There’s not a look, an age or a face to this.”
9. A Man Shares His Family’s Story
Alex Tizon once told the story of a slave he and his family had, Eudocia Tomas Pulido, also known as Lola. He noted in an essay (recently published in The Atlantic) that Lola was only 18 when his grandfather gifted his wife with Lola. Tizon pointed out that during the 56 years of living with his family, Lola never received any pay but rather got scolded from his parents. She didn’t even have a bed to sleep in as Tizon often saw her trying to get comfortable in a corner or against a pile of laundry. He said it was until he was about 11 that he realized what was going on right in his own home. Lola was subject to physical abuse including a time when Tizon punched her under her shoulder for not feeding their daughter, despite the child saying she wasn’t hungry at the time. After she passed away, Tizon made sure her ashes were laid to rest in a proper place.
8. The American Nightmare
Ima Matul bravely told her story as a former modern day slave. She was 17 years old when she worked as a housekeeper in Indonesia. Her employers said they had a cousin she could work for in Los Angeles, so she took the job. No sooner than she landed on American soil did the woman she was told she would be working for take her passport. Matul also never received the $150 a month she had been promised. They vowed they would give it to her when she returned back to Indonesia, where her captors were also from. Instead, Matul worked seven days a week and was even hospitalized after nearly being attacked with a salt shaker. She was threatened that if she told, police would arrest her. Eventually she was able to write a note that read, “Please help me,” and gave it to a nanny who worked at a home in the neighborhood.
7. A Florida School’s Secret
The Florida Industrial School for Boys has been accused of developing modern day slaves during its 111 years in operation. The school, which closed in 2011, was said to have more than 500 of its now former students beaten, victims of sexual abuse, and worked as modern day slaves to help yield crops and raise farm animals. They were also expected to cut wood. The boys, some as young as seven, were members of a child labor camp reportedly operated by Arthur G. Dozier. They were ordered to grow various crops from sweet potatoes and butter beans to string beans, okra, and turnips. They even nurtured the livestock that eventually went on sale. The boys probably had no idea they helped the agricultural portion of the school raise just under $11,0000 in one quarter. The men eventually received an apology from Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) for what they endured. Senate Resolution 1440 also brought attention to the matter.
6. A Survivor Tells Her Story – Beaten And Forced To Prostitute Herself
Shamere McKenzie was enticed by what is considered a modern day slave owner as she struggled to pay for school in the Manhattan area of New York City. She met a man who seemed charming but then convinced her to dance for strangers to make money. She was physically abused after she refused to take her actions further than dancing. The next morning she woke up in a puddle of urine after being punched in the face, kicked, and threatened that her family would die if she tried to leave. The trafficker apologized and vowed not to do it again — only to break his promise the next day when McKenzie tried to help another housemate from being abused. She was able to escape a month later and lived with a family member. But she stayed in contact with her trafficker, who she ended up going back to after he threatened her. She eventually escaped and served time for her crimes.
5. A Brother And Sister’s Journey – Kidnapped While Fleeing
Javier and Yessenia’s parents thought they were doing what was best for them when they sent them from El Salvador to the United States after raising the teenagers in gang infested neighborhoods. But when the two children were just approaching the United States, they were kidnapped and held. Their parents couldn’t pay the ransom, so the kidnappers sold them into slavery in Houston. Yessenia was forced to sell her body before border officials stepped in and rescued them. A social worker directed to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and they were able to start a new high school in a better environment. Javier and his sister’s story is said to be just one of countless other children who are intercepted when fleeing to the United States in what they think can offer a better life for them opposed to what’s happening in their home countries. Thankfully they were rescued just in time.
4. A Woman Finds Hope After Suffering
Kassandra made headlines after she told her story of being a victim of modern day slavery. She was kidnapped at just 16 years old and was subject to slavery as well as physical abuse in California. From being tied up, burned with hot water and cigarettes, to simply being tortured and sexually abused, Kassandra experienced it all, and maybe even more in her days as a teenager and a modern slave. When she was finally able to escape, she had to serve time and was accused of being a teenage runaway. Thankfully she was able to find help with an organization, SafeHouse, in her area and even testified against her captor who kept her so long. He ended up being convicted. “I’m a lot stronger. I don’t look at myself as a victim anymore; I look at myself as a survivor because that is what I am,” she said of her experience. “I live my life everyday by this motto: I am who I am today, not because of what has happened to me, but in spite of it.”
3. From Dreams To Despair – Forced To Work Without Pay
A woman named Mary from Mexico has a similar story after she was persuaded to go to the United States for what she was told would be a much better job opportunity. Mary was 17 years old at the time and the man who said he would take care of her ended up abusing her. Mary had to work at a factory that packaged vegetables. She was taken to and from work every day and was forbidden from going anywhere by herself. Just like many others in her situation, she didn’t receive pay for her work. But what she did get was drugs that she ended up getting addicted to. The man who once encouraged her threatened that if she told she would be deported or caught by immigration authorities who he said would ultimately harm her. Thankfully, Mary and her son were able to escape. She is now being provided with a place to stay, food, and clothes to wear. Despite her experience, she hopes to stay in the United States.
2. A Victim Shares Her Truth – Kept In Line Through Abuse
Annika Mack has come a long way and is now a member of the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children Action Team as well as a public speaker. But her past as a slave and victim of human trafficking is what she uses as her platform. She ran away from home at 16 after being subject to sexual abuse. About a year later she was getting ready to go to yet another state when a younger girl approached her about partying together. Just hours after that she was kidnapped, physically abused to say the least( pistol whipped, water boarded, forced to play Russian Roulette) and subject to domestic servitude. “My trafficker was a gorilla pimp, which means he used extreme amounts of violence and fear to keep me scared to leave,” she said. Thankfully his tactics didn’t work and she was able to escape. Mack was treated in the hospital and received 12 surgical procedures.
1. A Journey For An Education Gone Wrong
Natalia came to the United States after being told of an opportunity that would help her receive an education. She was definitely drawn by this supposed opportunity as she was having difficulty paying for her children to go to school in Ghana. Instead, what she received when she came to the United States was sexual abuse and being forced to clean, cook, and raise three children without being paid. Her work days stretched out as far as 18 hours on a regular basis, and unlike what she was told, she couldn’t even enroll in school. She was actually forbidden from going outside and using the phone. She was often physically abused to the point where she decided to had to escape. She ran away to a neighbor’s home and called police. From there she was taken to a local hospital and received necessary treatment. She has now started volunteering at an animal shelter and started taking classes to become a nurse.