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Books, websites and media for understanding human trafficking

I got a nice comment asking if I could share some literature on human trafficking, which I’m very happy to do! I think one of the first thing I had to wrap my head around going into this research is that slavery is an economic crime rather than crimes of cruelty and malice. It is difficult to understand because one of the first questions you want to ask is ‘what kind of person could do this to another human being?’ Sure, there are sadists out there but for the most part taking advantage of people in desperate situations is an act by equally desperate people with their own sets of problems and priorities. It is a systemic problem created by inequality among people.

This TED video is a good introduction about what we know about slavery today. In this moving yet pragmatic talk, Kevin Bales explains the business of modern slavery, a multibillion-dollar economy that underpins some of the worst industries on earth. He shares stats and personal stories from his on-the-ground research – and names the price of freeing every slave on earth right now. He is co-founder of the organization Free the Slaves.

I’m more creative than academic and I learn best through hearing people’s stories. These three books were my viewpoints into various aspects of global human trafficking. They are emotionally draining but easy to read and beautifully written.

SomalyMam GirlsLikeUs

Somaly Mam from Cambodia was sold into slavery by her family at age 9. She was sold to a brothel at age 12 and describes the life of a teenage sex slave in heartbreaking detail. Her story has a happy ending when she managed to escape that life through marrying a French man, before returning to the brothels of Cambodia to free other girls. Learn more about this extraordinary woman at her foundation’s website

Rachel Lloyd was an ordinary British girl until she found herself enslaved by traffickers in Germany selling her into forced prostitution. Her story is similar to Somaly’s but takes place in a more familiar setting for Westerners. Lloyd, too, managed to escape and now she runs GEMS in New York city providing refuge and rescue to US domestic and international trafficking victims. If you want to learn about sex trafficking in the US and its root causes, this is the book for you.

SlaveNextDoorThis book is written by Kevin Bales from the TED talk above. He has written over 10 books on modern day slavery but this is the one I have personally read. It features several stories of freed slaves from all over the world. The little boys being held capture on tiny piers far out at sea was especially shocking. The traffickers leave them there for days without food and shelter so they can catch fish. I recommend taking a look at Amazon for his other titles since there are many to choose from that covers different aspects of human trafficking.

Another good resource is Polaris Project. They run the national human trafficking hotline in the US and have logged over 1 million calls. is an interactive site where you can learn about, and calculate, how many slaves around the world is working for you right now.

I hope that was helpful. If you have any questions I will be happy to try and answer them below!

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