12 Shocking Facts About Modern-Day Slavery

Did you know that slavery still exists? Read these facts to learn how prevalent human trafficking is all over the world.

Modern-day slavery. What one would hope to be an oxymoron proves to be a real and terrifying threat to our society. Unfortunately, this gross injustice is driven by human demand. Where there is a customer base, there is an opportunity for economic gain. Where there is a demand, there is someone willing to supply it. From sweat shops to brothels, enslavement has many faces. How do we address this concept of slavery in the 21st century? What is our role as global citizens in bringing to light this crime that is happening both in foreign countries and right under our noses?

Before answering these questions, it's important to know the facts about human trafficking. Here are some ideas to think about when addressing modern-day slavery and human trafficking:

  1. According to the United Nations, the definition of human trafficking is ‘the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of abuse of power or vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.’
  2. After the drug and weapons trade industries, human trafficking is the fastest growing illegal trade worldwide.
  3. Modern day slavery occurs in every country around the world without exception as places of origin, transit or destination.
  4. The trafficking of individuals is a profitable source of income for transnational criminal groups as it generates an average of $32 billion per year.
  5. The global average cost for a trafficked person is $90 USD.
  6. Currently an estimated 27 million men, women, and children are enslaved across the globe.
  7. Sexual exploitation accounts for 53% of all trafficking, while 40% represents forced labor.
  8. The average age of a human trafficking victim is 12 years old.
  9. The psychological, physical, and emotional effects of human trafficking are severe. Victims often experience both sexual and physical abuse, live in poor conditions, receive threats regarding their family members should they fail to follow orders, and are often thrown into dangerous work environments. (Source:  Hodge, David. "Assisting Victims of Human Trafficking: Strategies to Facilitate Identification, Exit from Trafficking, and the Restoration of Wellness." Social Work 59.2 (2014): 111-18. Print.)
  10. These individuals are often forced to work in places like brothels, massage parlors, sweatshops, nail salons, and local restaurants.
  11. Only 1-2% of victims are rescued.
  12. The process of former victims reintegrating back into society is one that poses many challenges. Survivors are known to experience high levels of anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hostility, substance abuse, suicide, and other forms of self-harm. (Source: Brunovskis, A., and R. Surtees. "Coming Home: Challenges in Family Reintegration for Trafficked Women." Qualitative Social Work 12.4 (2013): 454-472.)

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Free the Slaves: Stories of Hope

This video tells the story of a community who became empowered and resisted their forced labor with the help of the organization Free the Slaves.

Extra wide freedom

When it comes to conversations around human trafficking, there doesn't seem to be a lot of hope. But there are people and organizations working tirelessly to resist the forced and coerced labor of vulnerable persons. Even more, those people suffering from human trafficking are finding ways to become empowered and challenge the oppressive systems they are forced into. Watch the video below from Free the Slaves, an organization committed to making the world aware of widespread slavery and providing opportunities for people to free themselves from human trafficking. 

Let us go forward with awareness, with compassion, with hope.


What Freedom Looks Like from Free the Slaves on Vimeo.

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Take Action

Be Active: End Human Trafficking

How can you be active in addressing human trafficking? Find out below.

Here are ways you can help the effort to eradicate human trafficking:

  • Keep your eyes open – be on the lookout for potential victims in places of public transportation, in your local community, and even in your neighborhood. To learn more about warning signs, visit this site.
  • Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (open 24/7) to report any signs of trafficking in the United States at 1 (888) 373-7888, or text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733.
  • Here are a few organizations that you can either donate to or volunteer for:
    • A21 Campaign: Discover ways to donate, volunteer, or host an awareness event.
    • Polaris Project: Contact government leaders to address human trafficking and sex trafficking.
    • End It Movement: Grow in awareness and get involved with the movement to end modern-day slavery.

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