In 1996, a 14-year-old girl from Cameroon was brought into the United States under a fake name, using a fake passport with a promise that she would be able to go to school. In exchange for education, the girl was expected to do housekeeping tasks, but when she arrived at the Farmington Hills, home of Joseph and Evelyn Djoumessi, she never got to go to school.
Instead, she was kept as a slave-beaten, sexually assaulted, threatened and forced to work long hours taking care of the couple’s two children and doing chores.
For the next three years, the girl worked every day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for no compensation. Her housing consisted of a dilapidated, dark and sometimes flooded space in the Djoumessis’ basement. The couple did not allow her to use any of the working showers in the home, so she collected hot water from the basement sink into a bucket to clean herself, according to court documents.
Jane White, director for the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, says this is human trafficking, and it’s happening in every community across Michigan — including in Oakland County.
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery, the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry in the world and third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. It is a $32 billion global industry, with 17,500 foreign nationals trafficked into the U.S. every year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Force, fraud and coercion are the three main elements of trafficking, White said. She said that trafficking is often times looked at as just sex, but half of all cases are labor-related such as agricultural, massage parlors, nail salons, hair braiding salons and domestic servitude single enterprises — including nannies and maids.
“It’s what we call ‘under the surface’ crimes, it’s there, we see it, but we don’t recognize it often,” White said.
According to the U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report in 2006, there was an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people annually, mostly women and children, trafficked to the United States. In addition, 25 percent of cases involve children.
White said statistics on the crimes are difficult because they have typically been labeled as other things by the FBI, and also because victims do not report it.
Situations like the one in Farmington Hills are common, and yet 80 percent of Michigan police officers are not trained in dealing with human trafficking, White said.
Culled from Oakland Press