August 22, 2011; Source: Twin Cities Daily Planet | The United States still has slaves. They may not be working on plantations, but they are kept in the shadows: sex slaves and unpaid laborers, often lured by promise of the American Dream. These are the victims of human trafficking.

The Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 2,515 incidents of suspected human trafficking were investigated between January 2008 and June 2010. Forty-eight percent involved adult prostitutions and 40 percent involved the sexual exploitation of a child. About 14 percent involved labor trafficking.

The majority of the 527 confirmed human trafficking victims were female and most of the 488 confirmed suspects were male. Four out of five victims in confirmed sex trafficking cases were identified as U.S. citizens, while seven out of ten confirmed labor trafficking victims were undocumented immigrants. Sex trafficking victims were more likely to be white or black, compared to labor trafficking victims, who were more likely to be Hispanic or Asian.

Among the nonprofits that aid human trafficking victims is Civil Society in Minnesota. The organization provides a safe haven for victims where they are given immigration and legal assistance and access to health, language and transportation programs.

Linda Miller, Executive Director of Civil Society, says that they help victims from all over the world including individuals from Vietnam, Cambodia, China, India, Japan and Laos. 

One of the women the nonprofit has helped is “Elaine” (she declined to use her real name), a Japanese native who now lives in Minnesota. She said her nightmare began when she was recruited to work as a hostess in Japan by one of her older female friends.

“I trusted my friend and that’s how I got into the world of the sex industry. Not long after that, I was trafficked by a group of Japanese mafia and that’s when my life changed forever.”

She did manage to escape and leave Japan only to find herself prey to another human trafficker in the U.S. “I was soon re-victimized by a woman who promised to help me get my life back together. But she tried to traffick me once again. What hurt the most was that she was Asian and she told me she was a survivor as well,” intimated Elaine. 

Elaine eventually found her way to Civil Society whose staff has helped her immensely.

“I believe the staff believed in me more than I believed in myself. They treasure every person and you feel like you’re really cared for. They make you feel important.”

Civil Society empowers victims to speak out, so they can warn others. 

Elaine tells other victims, “Have courage, have hope. Please do it for your life, because life is a treasure. One victim of human trafficking can rescue another victim, who can then help rescue twenty more. We have survived this horrifying experience. We are heroes and heroines of the world.” – Erwin de Leon