Shamere McKenzie was 21 and trying to find a way to pay her student tuition fees when she met her trafficker. He seemed like a nice guy, and promised she could make money dancing.
Instead he forced her into sex slavery. For 18 months she was sold for sex, beaten, raped, trafficked to five different states and tortured if she failed to meet her $1,500 a night quota.
Her story does not fit the traditional image of slavery. Shamere was not forcibly shackled and shipped from her home.
But, like millions enslaved today, she was exploited, forced to work against her will and treated as if she was someone’s property.
She had been a promising student at a New York university when she met the man who appeared sweet and intelligent, but who forced her into prostitution.
When she was disobedient, she was badly beaten. When she thought of running away, she feared she or her family would be killed.
When she refused to drive other women across state lines, she had a gun placed in her mouth. When it failed to go off, she was beaten with it.
In the end, Shamere fled and was rescued by a stranger and so began an even more remarkable chapter in her life. One in which she became a survivor, leader and advocate for the enslaved.
Today, she is a consultant, mentor and speaker on the subject of modern slavery, and the CEO of Sun Gate Foundation, a charity helping human trafficking survivors into education.