There are over 40 million slaves in the world today, bringing slaveholders and traffickers about $150 billion annually. With high profits and low risk, the buying and selling of human beings has become the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world, surpassing even arms and drug trafficking. Kenya is a nexus of trafficking in East Africa, as young Kenyans and an influx of young people from neighboring countries compete for work opportunities. It makes for easy pickings for human traffickers, who use the promise of good jobs to draw their victims into a host of terrifying situations.
The women in the HIDDEN series were victims of forced labor, forced marriage, and sex trafficking. They were lured by promises of education; sold outright by family members and forced into domestic servitude or prostitution, or sent away by family to marry a stranger. Some of the women were exploited by someone they already knew, such as a relative, a neighbor, or a friend. Unfortunately, most victims don’t even understand what’s happening until it’s far too late. Stuck in a web of secrecy and lies, they struggle to figure out how to escape.
The long-term consequences of human trafficking can be severe. A trafficking experience impacts every areas of a survivor’s life. Unlike most other violent crimes, trafficking usually involves prolonged and repeated trauma. Every stage of the trafficking process can involve physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, including but not limited to violence, torture, the forced use of substances, and manipulation. This, of course, results in serious psychological effects during and after a trafficking experience. Many survivors are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, memory loss, anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, and other severe forms of mental trauma.