Hidden in Plain Sight: America's Slaves of the New Millennium

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Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco has conducted over 2,000 qualitative interviews with human traffickers and victims, making her one of the few researchers with a background to qualify as an expert on human trafficking in criminal and civil court. Her new book, Hidden in Plain Sight, aims to shed a light on the reality of human trafficking in our world and provide resources to prevent the spread of trafficking. Hidden in Plain Sight releases today and we strongly believe that this is an essential resource for anyone eager to spread awareness and take action. Below is our review of Hidden in Plain Sight. Read to the end for a chance to win a copy of your own!


"…if you don't see it, you're not looking." (page xii)

We have said it before and we will say it again: Slavery exists in America. It is happening in almost every community in the country, and, more often than not, in ways that we wouldn't expect or recognize. Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco exposes in her new book, Hidden in Plain Sight, with gut-wrenching detail, the reality of modern-slavery that perpetuates inside American society with little consequence from our justice system. Mehlman-Orozco identifies several different avenues of modern-slavery in the U.S. including sex trafficking, mail order brides, child and adult sex tourism, forced labor, and domestic slaves. Opening our eyes to these realities is the key to ending it altogether. Opening our eyes is hard, it hurts, sometimes it makes us feel ashamed, sometimes it makes us angry, but in the end, it is necessary if our country truly wants to be the leader of the Free World.

"This isn't the movie Taken. Liam Neeson isn't going to show up in a black Audi and Versace suit to rescue his innocent victim daughter from gun-wielding Albanian mobsters." (page 1)

The brilliance behind this book rests in how Mehlman-Orozco manages to give light to the complexities that surround modern-slavery in America. Due to misinformation often portrayed throughout the media when it comes to modern-slavery, many people throughout the U.S. perceive it as a kidnapping phenomenon rather than the systematic exploitation that it has become. Even advocates are susceptible to misinterpretation of the characteristics of modern-slavery in America; they can sometimes pinpoint certain kinds of slavery or victims without acknowledging others, even if they are more prevalent. Hidden in Plain Sight gives readers—whether they just learned of modern-slavery or have been advocating for several years—new perspectives from traffickers, commercial sex purchasers, and victims about what modern-slavery looks like.

"Awareness is only the first step to combating trafficking in persons. We must provide greater accountability for the criminalization of offenders and longevity in service provision for survivors." (page 168)

The hard truth is that while many citizens may not be aware of modern-slavery, our justice systems are. However, traffickers, commercial sex purchasers, and other criminals involved with modern-slavery are rarely prosecuted and if they are - their sentences rarely reflect the severity of their crimes. If we, as Americans, want to create sustainable campaigns and solutions that will truly end modern-slavery, we must shine a light on what our justice systems are doing and demand greater accountability. Mehlman-Orozco exposes the shortcomings in the American justice systems throughout Hidden in Plain Sight with several anecdotes of police investigations that either failed to prosecute trafficking ring leaders - instead prosecuting accomplices with little say in the crimes committed - or failed to prosecute anyone altogether. Especially when it comes to sex-trafficking, people have the tendency to simply look the other way and pretend like it isn’t happening, which allows traffickers (commonly referred to as “pimps”) further opportunity to exploit and abuse their victims. Hidden in Plain Sight makes it clear that this practice is not okay, and gives readers the tools to be effective advocates within our justice systems so that these realities will become history once and for all.

It’s not just easy for me to leave because I was kept. You know, 12 hours a day, at the same place, over and over again, it was terrible. It was the nastiest place I ever been. I felt miserable every single day. When I was going to shower, I was hating myself. I was even thinking about suicide many times because I didn’t have a choice to get out.” (page 96)

We now have no excuses. Mehlman-Orozco has expertly proven any rebuttal against standing up for victims of modern-slavery wrong. They did not choose. They did not ask for it. It wasn’t an opportunity for them to rise above their situation. And it isn’t something that we have no control over.

After reading Hidden in Plain Sight, readers will not only understand the urgency of this situation but the importance of providing sustainable solutions and resources for victims of modern-slavery, so that the endless cycle of exploitation can be stopped. This book makes it clear that we can change what is happening in plain sight all around us if we only have the courage to look.

The question then remains, will you?

About Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco


"Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco is an accomplished survey methodologist, research scientist, and quantitative & qualitative consultant on issues related to human trafficking. Her work is published in books, peer-reviewed journals, magazines, and news outlets. She has served as a peer reviewer for human trafficking publications and taught human trafficking material at the #1 ranked criminology school in the country, University of Maryland College Park."

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About the Author

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Beth Woods is a lover of all things outdoors, animals, and random dance parties in the car. She lives in College Station, Texas where she is studying international relations and French at Texas A&M University and hopes to continue advocating against slavery for her career someday.