Raids that uncovered 70 suspected sex slaves focused on 20 brothels in eastern states, but they illustrated a long-ignored problem found in towns large and small, reports the Associated Press. “It’s a very overwhelming subject for a lot of people to recognize that there is slavery at this time in our country,” said Carole Angel of the Immigrant Women Program of the women’s rights advocacy group Legal Momentum. The concept of slavery in the 21st century is foreign to most people, said Jolene Smith of Free The Slaves, a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to ending slavery worldwide.
Forced labor also thrives in agricultural and domestic work, as well as in sweatshops or unregulated industries, said Laurel Fletcher, law professor at the University of California at Berkeley International Human Rights Law Clinic. Fletcher was one of several authors of a 2004 report on forced labor in the United States.