A $32-billion-a-year industry, human trafficking is the world's fastest growing criminal enterprise, according to the U.S. State Department. All youths mentioned in this article are not show to protect their privacy.
An estimated 27
million people are victims of the crime, which involves being
to perform labor or commercial sex acts.
Victims are exploited in varying corners of the world, in
dictator-run countries and democracies, yet many facets of their
horrific experiences share familiar narratives.
At one point or another, vulnerable victims are often exploited by
someone they trust and are then stripped of their dignity and
subjected to horrors.
During Human Trafficking Awareness Month, activists and survivors
hope that by telling these stories, the world will get closer to
putting an end to the crime.
After racking up an exorbitant debt with a loan shark, Kieu’s
her 12-year-old for sex, CNN reported in 2013.
The desperate mom secured a "certificate of virginity"
from a doctor for her daughter and sold the girl to man who raped her
in a hotel for two days.
After the ordeal, Kieu was sold to brothels on three occasions and
finally escaped to a safe house after learning that her mom planned
to send her away for a six-month prostitution stint.
Cambodia is on the State
Department’s Tier 2 trafficking list, which means the country
has a "very significant" number of trafficking victims and
the government hasn’t provided proof that it’s beefing up its
efforts to combat the crime.
How to help: Daughters
of Cambodia provides sex trafficking victims with social and
psychological services and offers them job opportunities at one of
their eight fair-trade businesses.
Find out more about the
organization and how you can get involved here.
Tessa was sexually
abused by her dad for the first time when she was 7. Her
drug-addicted mom was too consumed with her own issues to get
involved, according to nonprofit Not For Sale, a group that supports
sex trafficking survivors.
When Tessa was a sophomore in high school, she met Jared, whom she
didn’t know was a pimp.
He showered her with gifts and dates, and often reminded her that
no one else could possibly love her because she was "damaged."
Jared soon convinced Tessa to sell her body for sex and would
attack her and deprive her of food if she did not meet her quota. He
kept all of the money she made and forced her to tattoo his name on
Tessa eventually escaped and found refuge with Not For Sale. Her
story is a reminder that sex trafficking is thriving in the United
States where an estimated 100,000
children are in the sex trade, according to ECPAT-USA, a
nonprofit that fights the sexual exploitation of children.
How to help: Not
For Sale, a San Francisco-based organization, provides
trafficking survivors and people in at-risk communities with shelter,
health care and legal services. After undergoing the initial recovery
phase, the group helps its clients find education and employment
Find out more about the organization and how you
can get involved here.