“Because domestic work is carried out largely behind closed doors, these [workers] are particularly vulnerable to hazardous and exploitative conditions and are often subject to sexual harassment, and mental and physical abuse.”
– Secretary of State John F. Kerry
Each year, this Report takes an unflinching view at human trafficking around the world. What governments are doing, and what they are failing to do. And, each year, as a group we select the photographs that accompany the Report. Through these images, readers have had to confront the reality of the sex trade, the plight of manual laborers, the often hidden abuse of domestic workers, and the historical legacy of slavery. None of it is pleasant, but it must be confronted.
The testimony of their bodies. Bearing witness to the torture that they withstood, alone and behind closed doors. The amputated fingers of Nour Miyati in the 2006 Report. The X-ray of the nails driven into the hands, legs, and forehead of a Sri Lankan maid in 2011. The burns of Siti Hara in the 2010 Report. Of Shewaye (suffered at the hands of the Qadafi family) in 2012. And, this year, the unnamed 12 year-old in Thailand, seen only from the back, as police and reporters gaze on her naked and burned body.
We know that these images provoke. They demand that we confront what happens in secret. They make us contemplate why someone would torture the very person who they trust to raise their child or clean their home. To understand why experienced anti-trafficking investigators can recognize at a glance the distinctive scars from the point of an iron, a wire hanger, or a pot of boiling water. To wonder whether we did enough to find and help them. To ask the hard questions about whether we are condoning, contributing, accepting. These images horrify and anger and compel. And they hopefully trigger action.
But these are just snapshots of people at one terrible stage in their lives.
There are other images in this Report as well. Of survivors. Insisting on their rights; insisting on the lives for which they had hoped. Standing with Presidents and Congresswomen. Marching and advocating. Demanding rights for domestic workers in the International Labor Organization and other fora. Helping others who have been through the fire.
Survivors such as the members of the survivors’ caucus pictured on the facing page are proof that when people come out from behind those closed doors they are powerful and capable. That when there are governments who recognize them, NGOs who support them, and change in the societies that tolerate these abuses, survivors’ voices can be heard not just in courtrooms and police stations, but in the halls of Congress and parliaments.
You have seen the images. You have read their accounts and the country narratives. In the words of trafficking survivor Tina Frundt, now executive director of a service provider, “Now that you have the knowledge, what will you do with it?”
“I feel like I am powerful in the sense that I can be a role model to others. They will see that, despite what happened to me, because of my hard work and perseverance, I have now succeeded in life.”
– “Julita”, Survivor of Domestic Servitude
The staff of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons is:
Maria Alejandra Acevedo
Special thanks to Lamya S. El-Shacke and the graphic services team at Global Publishing Solutions.