The Overlooked Areas where Modern Slavery Exists


There are many incredible organizations involved in the global fight against human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery. Recently I had the privilege of attending a presentation by Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project, titled, The Typology of Modern Slavery.’ Myles highlighted 25 different types of human trafficking based on the data collected from their hotline for our Southwest Florida community of service providers - and it was eye opening. It’s important as advocates to constantly be educating ourselves about the different realities of trafficking so we can be more effective at combating them.

Here are some of the often-overlooked areas where human trafficking can exist:

Domestic Work

According to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, there are approximately 2 million domestic workers in the United States. Domestic workers have reported that they are deceived about the nature of their contracts, experience isolation from the outside world and have had their passports or IDs taken away from them by employers. They are often employed as live-in housekeepers, nannies, cooks or personal assistants and can work 12–18 hours per day with little to no pay.

Traveling Sales Crews

Photo Credit:  Polaris

Photo Credit: Polaris

Potential victims can travel in groups to multiple cities selling a variety of items, including magazines, candy, cookies and cleaning products. Minor runaways from foster care, or particularly rough home situations can be especially vulnerable in these cases, with limited resources and opportunities to find earnings elsewhere. Traffickers use force, fraud and coercion tactics like misrepresentation of working conditions, high sales quotas and punishments for failing to meet them and denial of food and adequate sleeping conditions.

In Polaris’ July 2015 report Knocking at Your Door: Labor Trafficking on Traveling Sales Crews, Polaris reports:

Managers for abusive crews confiscate the majority of victims’ earnings, making victims dependent on them for transportation and housing. Abusive managers also use psychological manipulation, violence, sexual harassment or assault, and abandonment in unfamiliar cities to pressure victims into working harder and to intimidate those who wish to leave their situation.



While many would agree that pornography is harmful on its own merits, recently the link between pornography and sex trafficking has been explored in a number of articles including one from Fight the New Drug this past January. Within the article, an infographic released by the University of England is cited, which details the critical role that the Internet plays in sex trafficking. The article states,

The truth is, there is not a way for them to tell if what they (the customers) are watching was made illegally or if all parties are there willingly. And even if they’re there willingly, performing on camera, were they coerced or threatened into agreement? For this reason, clicking porn directly fuels the demand for sex traffickers to make money by selling video of their sex slaves to porn sites.

All too often traffickers coerce their victims into participating in pornographic photos and films which they then sell online. While it may be a natural assumption that women comprise the majority of the victims in this case, men, women and children are vulnerable to exploitation here. An interesting statistic that Myles shared in his presentation was that the rate of male victimization in pornography is four times the rate of other types of trafficking.


Construction is one of many types of labor trafficking, and exploits its victims in carpentry, masonry, painting, roofing and other various labor-intensive work. Individuals subjected to this type of exploitation typically come from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and the U.S. Workers can be undocumented but frequently are documented with H-2B visas, which allow for temporary or seasonal workers to hold non-agricultural jobs. Employers are able to falsely classify workers as independent contractors, which doesn’t allow them access to benefits. As with many other forms of labor trafficking, victims experience insufficient food and housing, and little to no pay for long days of labor.


With trafficking at carnivals, according to Polaris, “Workers are responsible for operating rides, games, and food stands, as well as for assembling and disassembling carnival equipment for movement between cities.” Victims are forced to work incredibly long hours, with little to no pay and stay in unsanitary trailers for months at a time. Both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals are exploited on the carnival circuit.

A special report released by Reuters details the work conditions of Mexican nationals transported over the border to work the U.S. carnival circuit. Conditions are deplorable, and many individuals are continually exploited with no opportunity to leave. Many of them receive weekly wages of less than $320 regardless of hours worked, (often over 12 hours per day), are housed in windowless trailers with six-foot long rooms, and are unable to voice concerns for fear of deportation.

It’s critical that we educate ourselves on all areas where human trafficking can exist so we can more readily report it and come up with creative solutions to the problems. If you suspect someone is being trafficked, you can report it to Polaris’ National Human Trafficking Hotline, 1-888-373-7888.


It is not too late to be a part of the impact!

Right now, thousands of people around the world are taking on the creative challenge of wearing a dress or tie in the month of December. The reason? To bring freedom to the 40+ million around the world still trapped in slavery. Your donation or participation in Dressember 2018 is part of a movement to end human trafficking for good.

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About the Author

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Stephanie Ramos (formerly Stephanie Elwell): Stephanie Ramos is a film school graduate who spent a year overseas in Tanzania as a missionary and has spent the last four years working in the nonprofit sector with at-risk kids and teens. She is passionate about minimalism, experiencing different cultures, cooking, writing and finding new ways to advocate in the fight against human trafficking. She lives with her husband Eddy in Naples, Florida and looks to the future with anticipation and excitement.