When you hear about modern-day slavery, you probably picture some third-world brutality occurring in Africa or Southeast Asia (and if you just muttered something about your unpaid office internship, go ahead and slap yourself right now). When you hear about sex trafficking, you imagine a gang of Eastern European thugs kidnapping women and getting chased down by Liam Neeson.
But, incredibly, human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar industry in the United States today. Statistically, Liam Neeson is more likely to sell his own daughter into slavery than have her stolen by some mysteriously brown Parisians. Cracked wanted to know how the hell this was possible, so we sat down with "Jane," a former sex slave, and asked her about her life.
NOTE: We don't have a policy of putting trigger warnings on articles, but if there exists anywhere on Earth an article that needs such a warning, here it fucking is. In fact, if this doesn't disturb you, there is a good chance you are a crazy person.
Sex Slavery Is a Thriving American Industry
I was 4 or 5 years old when it started.
We'll just kick this off with some kittens as an inoculation for the coming sad.
If you're expecting my "sold into child slavery" story to begin with guys in ski masks bursting into my bedroom and snatching me up in the night, the actual story is worse, in a way. One night, my stepdad just pulled me out of bed and said, "Come here, uncle needs to see you." There were zero uncles downstairs. But there were several creepy, creepy men who passed me around from lap to lap and paid him for the privilege. If you're asking yourself where my mother was, well, she was right there, watching.
My stepdad and mother would have people over all hours of the night, drinking and smoking crack. Sort of like family game night, as directed by Darren Aronofsky. She was in on the decision to do what they did (and if you want to give yourself nightmares, try to imagine the conversation that led them to broach the subject). When I was that age, it didn't go beyond "sit on uncle's lap." I'd do as I was told and they'd call me a good girl and that was that -- I obviously had no idea what was going on. Then I got a few years older, and they started sending me off on "private sessions." Yes, that means exactly what you think it means. Let's not kid ourselves.
Why is it that "uncle" is somehow the creepiest type of relative to be?
The next question that's flashing through your mind is probably, "Why didn't you tell someone?"
I did -- I was just 6 years old when I (accidentally) mentioned something about my "uncles" to a teacher -- I just said something like: "My uncle's came over and we had fun," because those were the words my mom always used. If you think at this point a SWAT team raced to my house and busted everyone, you and I live in different worlds. What happened instead was the teacher called my mom, and she talked her way out of it somehow. When I got home, she beat me up, I think to block out her entire Terrible Person Bingo card.
Grand prize? A copy of Mein Kampf signed by Josef Stalin.
What a crazy, unusual situation, right? If you saw it in a scripted movie, you'd think the writer should go see a therapist. But here's the truth: human trafficking (forcing someone into labor or sex acts against their will) is worth between $9.5 billion and $32 billion worldwide-- to pick a random comparison, $9.5 billion is four times what the entire Burger King chain takes in. Recent stats found 83 percent of sex trafficking incidents in the U.S. involved victims that were U.S. citizens, and nearly half of those were minors -- just like I was. It's estimated that right now 300,000 kids are in this situation or are at risk. Just this June, the FBI freed 168 kids who'd been sold into sex slavery across 106 American cities. Since 2008, at least 4,000 kids have been freed from similar operations. Six years. So, yeah, my story is as isolated an incident as the existence of Walmart stores.