KBOO Radio recently ran a two-part series about slavery in present-day America. Producer Linda Olson-Osterlund spoke first to Kevin Bales, co-author, with Ron Soodalter, of The Slave Next Door, and president of Free the Slaves. In the second part of the series, representatives from Oregon’s Human Trafficking Taskforce,
Catholic Charities, and Transitions Global discussed their efforts to meet
the needs of rescued slaves.
Between 40,000 and 50,000 people live in slavery in the US at any one time, says Bales, adding that this is a conservative estimate and does not include the unknown number of Americans forced, tricked, or coerced into into slavery every year. Slaveholders combine psychological and emotional manipulation with violence to form a
powerful bind of dependence, fear, and isolation that can be extremely
difficult to break. Even after rescue, it can take a long time for a former slave to arrive at a place of safety, justice,
and a true sense of freedom.
Bales has found that many victims of slavery in America share similar stories of seeking work or study opportunities, only to be forced into slavery in people’s homes, in fields
and factories, in brothels, or on the streets: “It’s about opportunity. It’s about people wanting to have better lives, whether they are Americans or people from other countries”, he says.
Because slavery is so difficult to detect and confirm, many slavery situations are only revealed by chance. Public awareness and education about the issue is vitally important, and Bales offers information on how to identify and fight slavery—what constitutes slavery, what to look for, what questions to ask, and how to help.