Ending Poverty and Slavery Together

This article comes from Richmond Justice Initiative in Richmond, Virginia. RJI's mission is to educate, equip and mobilize communities with the tools needed to be a force in the global movement to end human trafficking.

Because slavery is so often associated with extreme poverty, slavery prevention is an important part of our work at GHNI. RJI works to end slavery in the United States, while GHNI works toward the same goal in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. 


Abigail, a 22-year-old with a learning disability, found it hard to find employment. She lived under the care of her family, who struggled to make ends meet. There were services available to assist Abigail in finding a job, but her family had other plans. 

They realized that by having her beg for money, they could make more than if she had a minimum wage job. Her family dropped her off every morning and she posed as a homeless person on the side of the street. Daily and for hours on end, she begged, only to have to hand over all the money she made to her parents.

Jason was a senior in high school when his parents kicked him out of the house. With no family to turn to, Jason stayed with different friends every week, sleeping wherever he could. One night at a party, a woman approached Jason and told him she had an extra room he could stay in for free. Jason jumped at this offer and moved in the next day. After a few days, she told him that she needed his help to pay for things. She told him of a way that he could make a lot of money in one night. The woman arranged a date for him, told him to do whatever the person wanted, and to bring the money back to her afterwards. Feeling strongly that he owed her, Jason went on the date. It became part of his routine to go on dates and to bring the money back. He didn't enjoy what he was doing, but he felt he couldn't leave. 

Kim’s family needed funds for her siblings’ education. Even putting food on the table every day was a struggle. Her neighbor offered to put her in school and get her a job to help pay for her siblings’ education if she would move with him to Manila. At just 12 years old, she went with him, only to find herself trapped and her body being sold both online and in person. Her life became a living nightmare of abuse and exploitation.

These are stories of survival trafficking.

This version of modern-day slavery perpetuates the cycle of poverty for these individuals. Whether family or strangers, these traffickers manipulate the victim, making them feel trapped and unable to provide for themselves, and taking their resources from them.

Human trafficking encompasses both labor trafficking and sex trafficking. It can be defined as:

The trade of human beings through force, fraud, or coercion for the exploitation for labor, sexual purposes, or organs.

Both sex and labor trafficking keep victims in a cycle of poverty, and it happens in countries all over the world, including the United States. Wherever there are vulnerable individuals, traffickers are nearby. As the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the world, human trafficking is an issue we can’t afford to ignore.

But what if you’ve never seen human trafficking firsthand? How can you make a difference?
  • Know the "red flags" of a human trafficking situation and help victims if you run across one, or help protect yourself from a trafficking situation.
  • Reach vulnerable youth with prevention education, equipping them to identify human trafficking and know how to respond in a safe and effective way, while also learning about local resources.
  • Purchase ethically-sourced Fair Trade items, to give workers the compensation that they deserve for the work they do.

Remember Abigail, Jason, and Kim? All were rescued, and in the end, they were able to connect with resources to get the help they needed. But their lives were changed forever. The saddest part is that each of their situations was preventable.

— Emily at Richmond Justice Initiative