How Can You Be a Slave and Not Know It?


by Sarah Symons March 15, 2018

Many people who are being enslaved and grossly exploited do not recognize the fact that they are enslaved, or know that the way they are being treated is illegal.

How can you be living in slavery and not know it?!

  • You have  no access to information about your legal rights.  You may be illiterate or have low literacy.  You may live in a place where the group you belong to (women, minorities, a certain tribe or caste) is deliberately kept down by more powerful people
  • You believe that you are morally compelled to work without pay in a dirty, dangerous or degrading situation because of a debt, or because someone you love (a parent, husband or boyfriend) said you had to 
  • You believe the trafficker who told you that someday you will be paid, someday you will be free, someday you can return to your family

And the most common reason for the women and girls we work with:

  • Nobody wants to feel like a victim.  This is a powerful psychological phenomenon.  Once a person realizes that there is no escape possible, he or she will often accept, or take responsibility for, or seem to embrace or make the best of an unbearable situation, rather than feel like a helpless victim.

So the first steps in helping people build long-term, empowered freedom are to educate them about their rights and the laws, help them gain literacy and education, and provide solid economic alternatives so they will never again be vulnerable due to extreme poverty. 

As we work to dismantle trafficking networks and help survivors rebuild their lives, we must also address the underlying forces that push so many into bondage. We must develop economies that create legitimate jobs, build a global sense of justice that says no child should ever be exploited, and empower our daughters and sons with the same chances to pursue their dreams. This month, I call on every nation, every community, and every individual to fight human trafficking wherever it exists. Let us declare as one that slavery has no place in our world, and let us finally restore to all people the most basic rights of freedom, dignity, and justice.”                            Barack Obama, 2013




Sarah Symons
Sarah Symons

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