These 10 Memoirs Share Their Experience of Human Trafficking

These voices must be heard, so allow yourself to read these powerful memoirs written by women who faced the terrors of human trafficking.

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Real people share their stories. To fully grasp what human trafficking truly is, you must know the real stories behind what people faced. All of these memoirs come from true stories– stemming from within family homes, and international enslavement. Read and share these works to spread the word about the harsh reality of human-trafficking. Even though you don’t see or hear about it every day, it does not make it unimportant.

Trigger Warning: The mention of the triggering acts of rape/sexual assault/domestic violence may be triggering for some readers. Please exercise personal care when reading.

1. Beautiful Justice by Brooke Axtell

Beautiful Justice by Brooke Axtell-- WOMAN SHOWING HALF HER FACE

Our first book is about a story of healing and seeking justice. Brooke Axtell would know firsthand, and as a result, she has become an author that fights against sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. 

Axtell was only seven years old when her nanny forced her into sex trafficking. Today, she fights for women around the world who face similar horrors. Beautiful Justice shares her trauma while showing how she was able to heal, move on, and reclaim her power. Axtell also shares life experiences and advice to women, relying on her past and her awareness of public policy, pinning how the world and our government actively work against women experiencing different types of violence. 

2. What They Couldn’t Take by Adira James

What they couldn't take a little girl by a light lit room

There’s this common misconception that human trafficking only happens for mid to late teenagers and that the abusers are mere strangers. A lot of these stories fight against this stigma. It can and does happen in a home to children by their own family.  

Adira James shares her story through vivid flashbacks and trauma that can never really go away. She was abused by her parents, extended family members, and eventually sold to men by her parents. James was able to survive her childhood through perseverance, dissociating, her childlike imagination, and escaping to the outside world whenever it was convenient. Her purpose of What they Couldn’t Take is to share the possibility of hope in utter darkness. Her techniques include writing, moving meditation, therapeutic practices, and artistic expression. She also makes sure you are equipped to see the signs of sex trafficking that is done in plain sight to children.

James provides her story, and her advice to the children and women stuck in human trafficking as a way to convey that she and other women are not afraid of speaking out against human trafficking.

3. Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd

Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd different types of women

Rachel Lloyd is an anti-trafficking advocate and the founder of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS). In her memoir, Girls Like Us, she shares her entry and escape from the commercial sex industry and how she was able to create GEMS where she assists other girls to escape “the life.” She shares the abuse that was inflicted whilst showing how she was able to combat this “lifestyle.” There can be redemption in all of this, and Lloyd thoroughly shows this in her writing. 

4. Hidden Girl by Shyima Hall (with Lisa Wysocky)

Hidden Girl by Shyima Hall-- girl looking out a window

Shyima Hall was a victim of human trafficking by her parents at the age of eight. The family she was sold to moved from Egypt to Orange County, California where the nightmare continued. She served the family eighteen hours a day, seven days a week for many years. At the age of twelve, she was rescued by a neighbor who reported the abuse. However, Hall had a journey of self-healing, because of the turmoil that was in place of her mind, body, and soul.

Presently, she speaks regularly to fight against human trafficking, and with Hidden Girl, she has been able to spread the word.

5. The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores

The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores-- black silhouette with the sun in the background

Theresa Flores shares her recovery process in her memoir The Slave Across the Street. Flores focuses on the aftermath of the physical, mental, and emotional abuse that she faced. She opens up about what her life looked like at age fifteen being forced into sex trafficking. Her faith was tested in these dark times, yet her spiritual journey kept her afloat. The most important aspect of the recovery process from enslavement is to keep hope.

6. Out of the Shadows by Timea Nagy (with Shannon Moroney)

Out of the shadows by time e Nagy bluegray background

At twenty years old, Timea Nagy was subjected to international human trafficking. What seemed like a legitimate job recruitment center became a nightmare in the making. In hopes to provide money for her family back home in Budapest, Hungary, she ventured to Canada to become a babysitter. Instead, she was lured into a world of trouble. 

When she arrived in Toronto, she was forced into sex work in the biggest nightclubs in Toronto. She was starved, controlled, and manipulated into believing that this was her fault. Her enforcers told her the only way to be freed was to pay her “debts.”

Nagy does not hold back in this long journey of horror. Now how did she make it out sane and secure? You got to read it for yourself. 

 7. I Cried to Dream Again by Sara Kruzan (with Cori Thomas)

 I Cried to Dream Again by Sara Kruzan rainbowesque colors

Sara Kruzan is a survivor of child abuse and sex trafficking. She puts everything on the table in this disturbing, yet groundbreaking memoir of her overcoming her enslavement. Kruzan was able to avenge herself by killing her abuser, yet she was faced with imprisonment without parole. Now, everything has changed. Sara is now an advocate for the rights of incarcerated women and children that are faced with similar situations. Kruzan is behind Sara’s Law, a bill currently under review in the House of Representatives to protect children from facing life sentences if they were to defend themselves from their abuser. 

At eleven years old, she met her abuser, GG, and at the age of forty-five, she can share her story of terror and her fight against the system.

8. A Cry of The Heart by Debra Rush (with Penelope Childers)

A Cry of The Heart by Debra Rush black white gray with two little girls in the background with Debra rush in the front

Debra Rush was able to escape her sex-trafficking life, yet her trauma followed her. With PTSD following her every step, she gets help from a reluctant mentor who helps her with the healing process. Rush did something not many can do. She was able to forgive the ones that betrayed her trust, and through that process, she was able to heal, find peace and real love.

9. I Am Not Your Slave by Tupa Tjipombo (with Chris Lockhart)

I Am Not Your Slave by Tupa Tjipombo black woman black and white photo with her palm facing us over her face-- memoirs

Human Trafficking is worldwide, and Tupa is an example of it. She was abducted from southwestern Africa and was moved through a human networking system that spanned across the entire African continent. As she is transported from place to place she encountered gangs, witchdoctors, mysterious middlemen from China, corrupted cops, Arab smugglers, and high-ranking United Nations officials. She also met other victims. Her want for freedom kept her going, and in her memoir, she displays what modern-day slavery looks like. 

10. Enslaved edited by Jesse Sage and Libra Kasten

Enslaved edited by Jesse Sage and Libra Kasten--lock

If you read Enslaved, you will read a plethora of stories from people around the world. Seven former slaves (and one slaveholder) share their accounts and how slavery continues its torturous hold on the world. You get up and personal with these victims turned survivors. 

Human trafficking is still prevalent to this day, and sadly not enough is done about it. But reading up on these personal stories, educating yourself, and spreading the word will only do good. Please, do your part, and help the fight against human trafficking, sex trafficking, and modern-day slavery. 

For more insightful memoir recommendations, click here.

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance with anything similar to the books listed above please contact: 

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Click here to get help with human trafficking

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