HomeAid Orange County

​Slavery Exists in Orange County

by Gigi Tsontos, LCSW MPA, Executive Director, Women’s Transitional Living Center, Inc.

November 26, 2017

“She stood before me, her right jawbone out of place, her left eye swollen shut with that color of bruising that shows after a few days, her arm in a sling and physical pain from the broken ribs she sustained when her pimp pushed her into oncoming traffic because she didn’t make her cash that night.”

I awoke. Yet, as I came to consciousness I remembered this was a dream that encompassed three or four of the survivors I had met in the last two years who left their abusers, who, we later learned, were their pimps. Each story was unique. Each story was hers and each one started before the age of 18 as a homeless youth in need of support. To heighten matters, yesterday I read the intake of a young migrant worker who entered our services after he escaped an employer who “kept” him. He was a slave, a sexual toy, and his morale was crushed.

If asked what keeps me up at night, it’s that on December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States and today, over 150 years later, slavery is outlawed in every country in the world; however, it persists in the form of adult and child forced labor, sex trafficking, bonded labor, migrant debt labor, and involuntary servitude.

Recent history denotes Orange County’s story of modern day slavery. In 2006, an Irvine couple admitted to keeping a 12 year old as a servant. With thousands of tourists visiting Anaheim annually, the sex trade is rampant: in 2013, a pimp could make $7,000 a week with five girls walking the street and, in August 2014, the Orange County Register ran Oree’s story of escaping sex trafficking after being forced into it by a pimp at the age of 11.

Last year alone, the Orange County Human Trafficking Task force reported assisting 145 men, women, and children who had been enslaved. (OCHTTF Report, 2015)

Homeless and runaway youth, immigrants documented and otherwise, and those with no affordable place to live, minimal support systems, lack of resources, all find themselves in servitude. To end homelessness, Orange County must take a stand against slavery. In 2012, we voted as a state to enact proposition 35 to hold slave holders accountable. It’s not enough. We need to ensure there are places for young people and families to receive supportive services, create and maintain housing that is affordable for all who live in our community, and utilize resources toward a healthy, viable economy with no slavery.

To eradicate modern day slavery, we as a community need to demand change, punish the criminals who enslave others, provide funding to house and service people in need, and to create a no violence tolerance community. Join Women’s Transitional Living Center, Inc., HomeAid, and the Orange County community to build the community in which the 13th amendment is upheld.


Do you think that slavery does not apply to you? Check your footprint at www.slaveryfootprint.org and what you discover will surprise you.


HomeAid has been ending homelessness with WTLC since 1993, through the preservation of a home with 45 beds for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. The WTLC programs are also recipients of the HomeAid Essentials campaign and HomeAid’s Community Outreach activities.