The crime of human trafficking, told through the eyes of victims.

These are survivor-informed lived experiences, composite narratives of real-life situations and events.


People who are or were exploited by a trafficker.


Based on information received from experts who have lived experience with human trafficking.


Came to America to pursue a promising opportunity.

An account of an organized labor trafficking ring in the restaurant industry.

I did everything right, everything legally.

I got my work visa and a job through an online recruiter. I had worked in restaurants before, and I knew I could make good money in the States and send some back to my parents in Mexico, to help support my little brother and sister.

I was driven with 14 others from Mexico into Texas and then to Colorado. I live in employee housing with several others and we’re taken back and forth to work. We’re always watched.

I’ve been here for months and haven’t been paid—none of us have. When I asked about pay they said I owed for housing. Then, I was threatened. They made it clear that they could hurt my family in Mexico.

Traffickers often create an illusion of debt in order to never have to pay the employee for their labor. This is a system called “debt bondage”.

Traffickers threaten victims or their family members as a form of coercion to keep them in their trafficked situation.

Now, I’m forced to work in different restaurants, in different cities. I don’t even know where I am. I am not allowed to talk to anyone. I wash dishes in the back and have no contact with anyone who could help and I don’t know who is safe to talk to anyway.

Isolation is a tactic traffickers use to keep victims cut off from resources so they can’t get help.

My family back home must be worried about me. I haven’t been able to call them or send any money. I am ashamed that I can’t help them, and that I am the one who needs help. I am even more of a burden to them now, and they were depending on me.

People experiencing human trafficking often feel shame about being in their situation and blame themselves. Even though it is not their fault, they may not want to speak up or reach out for help.

My visa is expired now and I’m afraid I will be deported. I don’t want to be sent home. I feel like I failed my family. All I want is a decent job that pays, so I can help them.

Now, the trafficker is in total control of Antonio. He can’t work anywhere else. If he’s deported, he will lose the opportunity to have a good paying job to help his family.