Modern-Day Slavery By the Numbers

How our lives intersect with slavery and how we can join the fight to end it.

One of the most appalling stretches of history saw 12 million people forced into slavery and carried across the ocean to be sold. We read their stories, watch movies about their lives and shudder at the thought that something so evil actually happened. The injustice is more than we can stomach, and somewhere along the way, we try to shake the weight of that truth by reassuring ourselves that, “times have changed.”

But not only have times not changed, the problem has grown.

20 to 30 Million

Experts estimate that there are anywhere from 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today.

Just sit with that for a minute.

In an age where the Internet serves as instant communication across borders and medical advancements explode past their limits, there are millions of slaves.

In an age where the Internet serves as instant communication across borders and medical advancements explode past their limits, there are millions of slaves.

In a world that embraces compelling, moving works of art across mediums, there are millions of slaves.

In a world that protests injustice and fights for human rights in the streets and online, there are more than twice the number of slaves than existed during the entire trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. And they are hidden.

You have likely heard of the millions trapped in the horrors of sex slavery, but perhaps you would be surprised to also learn than 78 percent of the 25 million are in labor slavery. There are 60,000 men, women and children enslaved in the U.S. alone.

Around the globe, factories, restaurants, farms, stores and brothels are filled with individuals being violently forced to work without pay. Robbed of their freedom to leave, their voice has been lost in the world’s inability to see and respond to their circumstances. Maybe we don’t see because we haven’t been told where to look, but on some level, perhaps we don’t see because we choose to look past, believing that it doesn’t affect us or we can’t change it.

$32 Billion

Business is booming for the slave trade. A report from the International Labour Organization estimated that slavery nets traffickers a jaw dropping $32 billion per year. If the products being produced by slaves were only sold to those knowingly and willingly involved in the industry, this number could not be possible. $32 billion is made because slavery is directly connected to each of our lives. The minerals used in the production of many of our everyday items, such as cars, phones, computers, clothes, coffee and chocolate, come from the hands of slaves.

And then there’s porn, which not only capitalizes on the selling of millions of women being held against their will, but increases the demand for a product traffickers are more than willing to meet and perpetuates the demoralizing idea that human beings can be sold.

The byproducts of slavery permeate our lives day in and day out, and while we can’t change everything over night, we can demand that the tide begin to roll in a new direction.

We are the free and the privileged. Our voice is strong, and we must choose to use it for those whose voice has been taken away from them.

February 25

When faced with the knowledge of slavery’s prevalence throughout our culture, many people experience one of two reactions. Either they become paralyzed trying to navigate around an issue that is too all encompassing to be avoided, or they throw up their hands in surrender because “it’s just too big." Neither solution works.

But Bryson Vogeltanz, Chief Steward of the END IT Movement, says, “You just have to do the next right thing. Whatever you do, don’t do nothing.”

END IT is a grass roots movement mobilizing freedom fighters that want to shine a light on slavery and see it brought to an end. The team behind END IT is devoted to telling the world about the millions of people trapped by human trafficking and raising up modern-day abolitionists that will lend their support to the movement’s 10 Coalition Partners. These are organizations already on the ground, fighting to bring justice to the world’s most vulnerable.

Today, END IT is inviting us to help them tell the world that slavery exists and that we won’t tolerate it.

This is one of those rare places where religion, ethnicity and political affiliation do not determine what side of the issue we land on. As Vegeltanz puts it, “Slavery is a human problem. As a human, you should care about this.”

4 Ways to Help

Join END IT and tell your world about the problem

“I can’t tell the whole world,” Vogeltanz explains, “but I can tell my world. And you can tell your world.”

Imagine the force we could generate if we each stood, regardless of background, and passionately told our world about the trafficked in our midst. Let this be the story circulating our newsfeeds. Let this be the message that goes viral. Tell everyone you know that slavery exists and that those forced into labor matter to you. Learn more at enditmovement.com.

Develop a lifelong vision for justice

There is no instant fix for such a complex and far-reaching issue. Adopt a lifestyle that is aware, compassionate and active.

There is no instant fix for such a complex and far-reaching issue. Beyond the immediate push this week, adopt a lifestyle that is aware, compassionate and active. Educate yourself on what’s at stake and how you can change it, getting involved for the long haul rather than a one-time drive for support.

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Get behind the organizations on the ground

Learn how you can support END IT’s 10 Coalition Partners and other organizations fighting injustice. Are there local justice organizations in your city? Ask how you can help. These are the hands and feet of those doing the patient, labor-intensive work of changing systems, bringing legal aid, rescuing the abused and prosecuting their oppressors. Back their efforts with your time, energy, money and influence.

Do the next right thing

Use your voice as a consumer. Choose one item you will only buy from companies that can verify slavery was not used in their supply chain. Take an honest look at how your money fuels slavery and be willing to make changes where possible. Stop looking at porn and feeding an industry driven by human trafficking. Do the next right thing. Then follow it with the next right thing after that.

Let’s tell the world about those still in slavery. We have more resources at our disposal today than any previous time in history. Let’s funnel our gifts, energy and influence in the direction of freedom, backing the organizations devoted to justice and choosing to no longer passively participate in a darkness we are now aware of. As abolitionist William Wilberforce once said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

This article has been updated from a version originally published in 2014.

Top Comments

Connie Couric Lester

1

Connie Couric Lester replied to Matthew Joel Schwerin's comment

Unless you say don't buy from this company or that one because their products are made by slaves, there is nothing I can do. I don't know who uses slaves and I don't have anything to do with the porn industry. How about a list of companies to boycott.

Tagger

3

Tagger replied to Scott Johnson's comment

Thank you for pointing this out, Scott. I agree that slavery can tend to be regarded as a subject only concerning women and children. But if the statistics are correct, nearly half of the victims are men. I volunteered regularly at a ministry which sought to help male prostitutes. Many of the men had been groomed for that "profession" since childhood and knew nothing else. And this is in one of America's largest cities... Their "customers" were from the suburbs and knew exactly where to find them. I think this kind of thing happens much more than we realize, but it tends to happen in the early morning behind closed doors which is why we aren't aware. No matter what the percentage or type of slavery, if we are aware of it happening and have the ability to speak/act against it and we don't, we are basically slave holders ourselves.

15 Comments

Matthew Joel Schwerin

3

Matthew Joel Schwerin commented…

I'm not denying the truth in this, whatsoever, but some sources would be helpful to get a stronger vision. The 60,000 in America for example. Where are they and what are they doing? I detest pornography; what is the statistical basis for the millions of women being held against their will? Again, NOT denying truth here, I just think some more detail would help get people more fired up and equipped for justice.

Cara Joyner

29

Cara Joyner replied to Matthew Joel Schwerin's comment

Hi Matthew! Here is a helpful link for some of the statistics http://www.freetheslaves.net/document.doc?id=34 (it's tagged to the words "labor slavery" above)

In the US, there are a lot of people who were brought into the country with the promise of a job, but then found themselves in a situation where they aren't being paid and are abused and kept under the threat of more violence. I've heard true stories of this happening everywhere - private homes, popular restaurants, factories, farms, etc. It's a crazy, sad reality.

Don Love

1

Don Love replied to Cara Joyner's comment

Estimates indicate that there are around 100,000 children who are trafficked in the U.S. right now. Professor Bridgette Carr directs the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School and says 100k to 300k. I volunteer with The Defender Foundation (www.thedefenderfoundation.org), and TDF is out conducting rescues not only internationally, but right here in the U.S., using operatives who are ex law enforcement, military, and investigative of all levels. We use volunteers for rescues, investigations, and hotline contact teams (primarily female), as well as speakers and fundraisers. We have survivors of trafficking working with us, and relationships with shelters. There is no excuse for us as persons of faith to do nothing. There are plenty of opportunities to serve. If you want to join the fight for real, please check us out, or find a group that goes out into your community. Thanks for doing this article, and many blessings. Don Love, J.D., Director of Investigations.

Connie Couric Lester

1

Connie Couric Lester replied to Matthew Joel Schwerin's comment

Unless you say don't buy from this company or that one because their products are made by slaves, there is nothing I can do. I don't know who uses slaves and I don't have anything to do with the porn industry. How about a list of companies to boycott.

Derek Spink

1

Derek Spink replied to Connie Couric Lester's comment

The anti-slavery organization Not For Sale publishes this report every year: http://www.free2work.org/ It rates various manufacturers/brands. Even tho Skechers were my most favourite shoes to wear, I no longer purchase them because they fail at ensuring fair-trade/work practices. Glad to see The Gap rates highly! :-)

Scott Johnson

2

Scott Johnson commented…

"And then there’s porn, which not only capitalizes on the selling of millions of women being held against their will, but increases the demand for a product traffickers are more than willing to meet and perpetuates the demoralizing idea that human beings can be sold."

you should modify that to say, "...men, women, and children being held against their will...."

I've talked to MANY men and teen boys who were held against their will, prostituted, and forced to make pornagraphy.

It's time to let the "women only" mentality of prostitution and sex slavery die like the lie it is.

Most recently I talked to a teen who went to a party.... someone drugged him.... when he woke up he was locked in a room and for MONTHS was tied up and repeatedly raped for "bondage" videos. Only his getting deathly sick saved his life, because he said they regularly talked of selling him to someone over seas. Instead they dumped him, near dead, at a hosptial.

Tagger

3

Tagger replied to Scott Johnson's comment

Thank you for pointing this out, Scott. I agree that slavery can tend to be regarded as a subject only concerning women and children. But if the statistics are correct, nearly half of the victims are men. I volunteered regularly at a ministry which sought to help male prostitutes. Many of the men had been groomed for that "profession" since childhood and knew nothing else. And this is in one of America's largest cities... Their "customers" were from the suburbs and knew exactly where to find them. I think this kind of thing happens much more than we realize, but it tends to happen in the early morning behind closed doors which is why we aren't aware. No matter what the percentage or type of slavery, if we are aware of it happening and have the ability to speak/act against it and we don't, we are basically slave holders ourselves.

Jacob Van Steenwyk

3

Jacob Van Steenwyk commented…

Maybe it makes me a bad person but isn't 27 million out of 7 billion around 0.37% of the population. Would we consider that percentage bad if it was the likelihood of dying from AIDs or the percentage of people who are illiterate? 60,000 out of 300 million people in the US. That ratio is 0.02%. I am not saying that this is correct or that we shouldn't do what we can, but now if a country in itself had a 10% slavery rate that is something tangible to work on.

Rod Martin Jr

18

Rod Martin Jr commented…

Compassion is good. Increasing awareness is also good.

But resist not evil. Never "fight" slavery, because by fighting it you then you become part of the problem and strengthen it. Turning the other cheek is the proper attitude. This does not mean we don't help.

We need to remain humble and confident (faithful). Shining a light on the crimes of others can be a potent force.

Humility and love are far more important, otherwise we remain slaves to this physical world.

Remember Joseph, the faithful slave in Pharaoh's Egypt.

Niki Hardy

2

Niki Hardy commented…

I'm staggered, overwhelmed and horrified by these numbers. The only thing I know to do, the only "next right thing" I am equipped to do RIGHT THIS MINUTE, is to stand against the enemy, get on my knees and pray. I know that sounds like Christian rhetoric without effective action, but we either believe prayer works or we don't. We can and must pray for this to end; for the millions enslaved, for their captors, for the traffickers and for God's light to shine into this darkness through END IT and other organizations and through men and women at home, on their knees.

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