Tracing the Journey of a Human Sex Trafficking Survivor

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Human trafficking or sex slavery may conjure up images of young children in third world countries, or something that only happens in seedy red light districts, but sex slavery survivor Shandra Woworuntu says sex trafficking is happening all around us. Sometimes it’s even happening right in our own neighborhoods.

In this month’s edition of Asian American Life, Woworuntu recalls her horrific journey to the United States and how she wound up as a trafficking victim. In 1998 she lost her job as a financial analyst in her homeland of Indonesia. She paid a recruiter $3000 to find her a job in the United States. Shortly thereafter, she received a job offer from a hotel in Chicago, making $5000 a month as a waitress. She took the job with the plan to return back home after a few months to raise her young daughter, who she would leave behind with her mother.


She arrived at John F. Kennedy airport where she says she was met by a man named Johnny Wong, who had a copy of her passport and her papers. Johnny said it was too late to fly to Chicago, and she had to spend the night in New York. So Woworuntu got into his car and they drove to Flushing Queens where they met another man.

“I saw from the car window, he handed Johnny a big envelope of money and Johnny counted the money. I realized it was business but I didn’t know it. Then the man got in the car, and took me to another place in Queens, and then a third place, I don’t know where, and they pulled a gun on me and told me to get inside the house. He yelled ‘mamasan, new girl.’ I knew I was in the situation because I knew a mamasan was someone in a brothel.”

Read more here.