Thursday, December 9, 2010

NYT: A Woman. A Prostitute. A Slave.

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times -- Americans tend to associate “modern slavery” with illiterate girls in India or Cambodia. Yet there I was the other day, interviewing a college graduate who says she spent three years terrorized by pimps in a brothel in Midtown Manhattan.

Those who think that commercial sex in this country is invariably voluntary — and especially men who pay for sex — should listen to her story. The men buying her services all mistakenly assumed that she was working of her own volition, she says.

Yumi Li (a nickname) grew up in a Korean area of northeastern China. After university, she became an accountant, but, restless and ambitious, she yearned to go abroad.

So she accepted an offer from a female jobs agent to be smuggled to New York and take up a job using her accounting skills and paying $5,000 a month. Yumi’s relatives had to sign documents pledging their homes as collateral if she did not pay back the $50,000 smugglers’ fee from her earnings.

Yumi set off for America with a fake South Korean passport. On arrival in New York, however, Yumi was ordered to work in a brothel.

“When they first mentioned prostitution, I thought I would go crazy,” Yumi told me. “I was thinking, ‘how can this happen to someone like me who is college-educated?’ ” Her voice trailed off, and she added: “I wanted to die.”

She says that the four men who ran the smuggling operation — all Chinese or South Koreans — took her into their office on 36th Street in Midtown Manhattan. They beat her with their fists (but did not hit her in the face, for that might damage her commercial value), gang-raped her and videotaped her naked in humiliating poses. For extra intimidation, they held a gun to her head...

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT NYTimes.com

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