Help is availble for victims of human trafficking in the United States
My ordeal as a trafficked victim
By Bukola Oriola
Slavery has been abolished many years ago, yet we have slavery going on everyday around the world. Human trafficking is the modern day slavery. Many become victims of human trafficking without even knowing. many fall victim as a result of fraud, force or coercion. And, anyone could fall a victim regardless of status, age, race or culture.
I was a victim of human trafficking without even knowing. I became a victim through fraud. My trafficker was my husband.
What is human trafficking? You might ask. Human trafficking is when a person is here in the United States as a result of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of being subjected to involuntary servitude, forced labor, debt bondage, slavery or commercial sex exploitation. Force includes physical abuse of the victim while fraud may be luring someone through false offers of employment or marriage. Coercion on the other hand means threat to the victim or her family, debt bondage and psychological abuse.
In my own case, I was deceived into a false marriage. He never documented our marriage here in the United States for it to be recognized by the United States government. I also worked while my husband took most part of the money leaving me with nothing to survive upon.
I came to the United States in 2005 to cover the United Nations General Assembly and 60th anniversary when my husband begged me to stay behind. Before then, we had been married culturally in Nigeria. He promised to change my status and document our marriage here in the United States. After much persuasion, I decided to stay not knowing that I agreed to an event that would almost cost my life. He had also involved family members, who encouraged me to stay because of his promise.
At first, everything was fine and we were living as a happy couple until I became pregnant. His attitude changed suddenly and he began to threaten me with the police and immigration, saying he would not document our marriage or file my papers if I say anything to anybody.
I suffered isolation for two years, maltreatment, economic slavery, mental torture, rape and worst of all, hunger in the land of plenty. I suffered through pregnancy to the extent that I could not eat whatever I craved as a pregnant woman. He only took me to register for prenatal at the clinic; he was not taking me to my appointments. The torture I endured was so much that I lost touch with myself. I could no longer recognize myself in the mirror.
Whenever I tried to tell a family member what was wrong he lied and rather than he being corrected, I would be blamed. He looked like a gentle person who would not even hurt a fly, but he was the cruelest person I have ever met in my life. He was such a manipulative person that when he lied about the whole incident to his cousin who had visited us with his wife from Germany; I almost hurt myself because I thought there was no way out but death. I became depressed and traumatized by the maltreatment meted on me by my husband.
I had lost my career. I could not return to Nigeria because there was no means to go back and I could not tell anybody what was wrong. I had to always pretend as if all was well when I was suffering and dying slowly.
I also had to give him sex whenever he wanted weather I wanted it or not. His friends would call to harass me that I was not giving my husband enough sex and that I was behaving like an American woman. It was humiliating that one of his friends had called at one point to ask how many times I had given my husband sex that week. I felt like a prisoner and a sex material in my matrimonial home. He had also stopped sleeping in the master’s bedroom. He only came to the room for sex and sometimes he hurt me to the extent that I bled because I was not ready or aroused.
It was sickening to me also to see my husband maltreat our innocent child. As a newborn, our son, Samuel suffered neglect and isolation by his father.
I resorted to hair braiding in the home when I could not go out but my husband took the money. Whenever I was paid with check he would say that it would clear within three to four days but when I ask for the money his response would be “you are living in free house in America, using free phone, watching free TV and using free internet, you are asking for your money.” That is where the conversation would end.
I continued to serve my husband as my slave master but I did not know that there was help out there. It became worse after I had our son. I delivered the baby through an emergency C-Section and was advised not to go up and down the stairs when I was discharged from the hospital but I had to go up and down the stairs because I would die of hunger on the bed. My husband would not even help me make cornmeal in order for me to have enough breast milk for our child.
My baby was not a month old when I started braiding hair. I would have our son on my back for up to 12 or 14 hours braiding hair while my husband would be in the house sleeping or watching TV. He never gave a hand to help with raising our child.
I had to beg some of my clients sometimes for help for food and even clothing for our son. During the 2007 summer, our son had bad heat rash because he was still wearing winter clothes in summer and I was not allowed to put on air-condition. A client had to take us to Walmart at 12am, because that was when she would be available to help to get clothes for our son.
I am sharing my story today to help other victims of human trafficking know that help is available. I have been helped through non-profit organizations like Civil Society, Alexandra House and other rescuers working tremendously to give freedom back to the oppressed.
For help please dial the following numbers:
Department of Health and Human Services (sponsored toll-free 24 hours National Hot line) 1888-373-7888
Department of Justice (sponsored toll-free 24 hour trafficking in persons and worker exploitation task force complaint line) 1-888-428-7581
Civil Society: 1-888-7-SAFE-24 or 188-772-3324 or 651-291-8810
Please, do not waste away in the hands of a perpetrator, call for help.